The future of work

You can’t design a modern educational model without giving equal thought to the employment environment that it is equipping people for.

The Harness Projects team spent many hours contemplating the future of work and what this might mean for our product. Some of the more fascinating resources that influenced our design, is the work done by visionaries such as Frederick Laloux, author of Reinventing organisations and Brian Robertson; behind the Holocracy organisation model.

Fusion to differentiation

The general theme from a lot of the resources we consumed, spoke to an evolutionary force of constant change and forward momentum inherit in all things in nature, human beings included. The rule follows a cycle of fusion to differentiation, whereby tensions arise through the differentiation process. Here are some examples of this force in effect;

  • Adolescence rebelling through to adult hood as the fusion of the family matrix gives way to individualisation – so the young adult is able to walk their new individual path in life.
  • Household spats that arise in relationships as tensions between partners highlight areas of development and maturation for the couple. We’ve all had moments in life where sometimes we seem to be running into obstacle after obstacle with no clear way forward. This process is the evolutionary force in effect as old behaviours and ways of being can no longer be sustained and new ways of life are being called to come forward and stand in their place.

The world has constantly had an intermingling of tensions as old paradigms make way for new paradigms. Today, we are perhaps in one of the more significant historical moments as global challenges across a range of spectrum’s, political, social and environmental face all of us.

Ok, but what does all this have to do with the future of work?

Well, we just so happen to be moving through an unprecedented period of change in the global workplace. Technology has accelerated the evolutionary force moving through companies, challenging incumbents to step forward and away from old paradigms of working and into newer more sustainable and effective working models. Those that fail to differentiate, will not survive the disruptive process that comes with such a rapid change. Traditional education is right in the middle of this disruptive process and Harness Projects is just one carrier vessel of this change in effect.  The whole premise for Harness (better equipping individuals for a future of work) could only exist in an environment where the tensions present are so distinct, they provide opportunities for new visions for how we work and learn to come to life.

So with that said, let’s shift our attention to what is happening in corporate workplaces all over the world. We don’t have to look far to see the signs of the global tensions arising in incumbent organisations. Numbers as low as 20% of employees in the US and Australia are engaged with their work, the remainder not engaged or rebelliously dis-engaged – just like our adolescents in an earlier analogy.  The costs of poor engagement according to a Gallup study in the US alone is in the vicinity of $450 billion to $550 billion annually. While the UN estimates that the cost to end world hunger is $30 billion per year.  Let that sink in for a moment.

Coming back to our future

It is fair to say that at one point in time, hierarchical corporate models of organising people for work on a mass scale was absolutely effective in moving civilisation through an industrial age of rapid growth and abundance (that era in itself was a differentiating process to the one before it). However, as that process has matured, new tensions have risen to the surface. One of those tensions, is the imbalance in the spread of societal benefits that such an industrial era has brought to the world – a widening inequality gap.

These tensions have been felt from the family level, all the way to the highest levels of government around the world as the evolutionary force takes effect.  New ways of working and an increasing importance of what contribution work has to the society around it, has been granted more stage room.

The future of work seems to be moving in a direction that looks to address these tensions by better engaging employees to be purposeful in their work. To bring their whole humanness into the workplace and share that with teams of other human beings. To work in a way that values uniqueness over job title sameness. To decentralise rather than institutionalise and remind itself the value of core human skills to enable these things to happen. People who collaborate, communicate effectively, have empathy for one another and the resilience to weather drastic changes are the differentiation this evolutionary force is calling into being.

We’re being asked to come back to our future, our community roots and relational skills and fuse this with the new technical skills we have learnt through an industrial age. To shape our worlds so we can collectively take the next step forward on this squiggly line of life.