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The Future of Work

Can we predict the future of work accurately or is it here now?

Predictive science has become problematic in modern times. If that were’nt so, most economists would have predicted the impending economic meltdown before 2008, and the predictions of many futurists about most of us enjoying a life of leisure with without work because of technology would have come to pass.

A Time Magazine special on work offered this prediction: “Ten years ago, Facebook didn't exist. Ten years before that, we didn't have the Web. So who knows what jobs will be born a decade from now? Though unemployment is at a 25‑year high, work will eventually return. But it won't look the same. No one is going to pay you just to show up. We will see a more flexible, more freelance, more collaborative and far less secure work world. It will be run by a generation with new values — and women will increasingly be at the controls.”

Futurists don’t give up though. A recent effort in this direction is a report, The Future of Work, by U.S. consulting firm, PSFK Labs.  Among the most interesting of the reports conclusions and predictions about the future of work are the following:

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  • On demand staffing: The skills and availability of employees and freelance contractors will be matched by an algorithm against the company’s changing needs. This implies the disappearance of a large permanent workforce;
  • Collision collusion: Physical, mobile and web workspaces will be designed to ensure critical interaction among colleagues, vendors, partners and customers.
  • Improvised workplace: With a flick of the switch, furniture and software will adapt to the changing needs of the organization. This will include pop-up or temporary workplaces.
  • Living Knowledge: Information will flow across and up-and-down the organization constantly; instantly accessible by anyone who wants it. Networked knowledge and social workflow are the keys here.
  • Constant Learning: Employee empowered education will help them own the direction of the company. This includes are lot more learning by doing and employees as equal stakeholders to shareholders. This may help to revolutionize formal education institutions as well.

Ariel Schwartz, writing in the blog, Co-Exist, describes PSFK vision well:  “PSFK imagines that learning initiatives for young entrepreneurs, such as Enstitute, will become the norm. In this model, college students are matched up with startups, where they learn all the programs used by the company, take relevant Skillshare classes, and work on projects, and sit in on panels. Virtual learning libraries, where entrepreneurial experts can leave advice in written and video form, will also proliferate (we’re seeing hints of this now with the growing online education industry). At the same time, skills marketplaces--social tools that allow employers to quickly get a handle on applicants’ skills will become popular. Mozilla’s Open Badges project, for example, lets people display their skills via badges on social media profiles.”

Many of ideas and concepts presented in the report already exist, and are not well publicized. The report presents a thought-provoking look at work in the future well worth reading.

To obtain a copy of the report go to: www.psfk.com/futureofwork.

Ray Williams is the author of Breaking Bad Habits and The Leadership Edge.

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