The Future of Work Isn't Working
Work The Future! (WTF!) vs. The Future of Work (FOW):
Are you going to design the future or is it going to design you? Your choice.
This is a long, important story made short and succinct. The way we have looked towards the future the past 150 years is woefully inadequate in the emerging post-industrial global political economy—what is happening to us all, right here and now. It has been a reactive mode of behavior.
That old story is gone. A new story is being born, which will require a proactive stance toward the future for individuals, businesses, and governments. We see it as a shift from the old “Future of (fill in the blank)” to a “Work The Future! Today” (WTF!) standpoint.
What do Charles Handy, Charlie Grantham, Tom Malone, and Jacob Morgan have in common. They all wrote a book titled “The Future of Work”. Seems like every ten years or so someone feels the need to re-hash this topic.
Each had its unique focus. Handy on the evolution of large organizational forms. Grantham on the integration of IT/HR/Real Estate processes. Malone on the maturity of information systems. And most recently, Morgan on the need for organizations to adapt themselves to their employees. Each had a kernel of truth and was highly relevant at the time of publication. However, they all were reflections of what we call the OLD Story.
OLD Story to NEW Story
Humankind finds itself at a fundamental evolutionary change point. We stand at the edge of a chasm of social change greater than what we have seen in agricultural, industrial, and technology revolutions. We are entering a chasm of chaos, complexity, and confusion. What used to anchor us and keep us grounded is fading. Trust in our social institutions is at an all-time low and anxiety at an all-time high. All the ‘rules’ about status, power, and politics no longer hold for most people. The chart below shows the flow of the mega-shift that we are all experiencing in different forms:
New Symbols of Meaning
This is deeper than a mere shift in economic systems, or political philosophies. It is deeply symbolic which gets expressed in our stories. In Jungian terms, we are in the midst of moving from a dominant ‘male’ image of a stern controlling father to one more ‘female’ that emphasizes nurturance. We can also see the resistance of the Old Story to change. But the seeds of change have been sown and are starting to sprout all over—shift happens. In our contemporary American culture, we see it symbolically as a change from John Wayne to Ophrah Winfrey:
Below is a chart showing the shift in key words and themes that emerge from these Old and New stories:
The Old Life Story was about coercive power, focus on the primacy of oneself, and your social role was given to you or ascribed. Fear and ego dominated everything.
The New Life Story is and will be about shared collaboration, focus on the "Us" of interconnected humanity, and your social role develops from interaction with other beings. Love and generosity influence all interactions.
Our logic says that if the ‘story’, or prevailing meme, of your life situation changes then the way you live in that world and view the future, needs to change. If not, the psychologists call it cognitive dissonance. Or, in everyday parlance: alienation, anxiety, and dissatisfaction.
So, Why Make This Shift in Perspective?
So, why make the shift from the Old Story and “The Future of Work” to the New Story and “Work the Future”? We see three reasons.
First, is to minimize the risks you take by investing time, money, and energy in planning for the future. We all make mistakes and plan for the wrong scenarios. You will need structured methods to investigate different courses of action, develop contingencies, and have in place a system to recognize and act upon a wide range of ‘weak signals’ such as demographic migrations or government regulatory changes.
Second, we think shifting your perspective, your worldview, helps you get a grounded perspective. You move from being totally reactive to events around you to a stance where you are in control. With that sense of control comes a heightened sense of well-being and relaxation. Being in the moment reduces your tendency to act from an almost totally reptilian motivation to a calm, reasoned, and thought out stance.
Lastly, our suggested viewpoint and action platform gives you greater resilience to change because you will have consciously constructed a wider range of interconnections with others and resources. Your search time for answers will decrease; the breath of your knowledge will increase; you have a stronger trust bond with others, and you will have your own finely tuned ‘future radar screen’.
The Old Story + The Future of Work
The future happens to you. The Future of Work is where futurists work. But that kind of work—and that future—isn’t working now and never has because all we ever have is the right here and now. This approach always tried to predict tomorrow based on the pattern of what happened yesterday that led to today.
Most people don’t mind changing their ways; they just don’t like to be changed.
It happens to you. You go to work every day, come home at night, get up, and do it all over again. There is great satisfaction in that because it’s constant, you don’t have to plan, anticipate or change. Most people don’t mind changing their ways; they just don’t like to be changed. And if you let the future happen to you, you are being changed—often without your permission.
And the effect is that you become psychologically disengaged. Fully 51% of US employees were not engaged with their jobs in 2016. 51%! That certainly tells us that the Old Story and its attendant ‘Future of Work’ approach isn’t working.
To sum, you get run over by the future. The best you can do is play defense without knowing the playbook.
The New Story = Work The Future! Today
This shift implies that you spend significant time DESIGNING and CREATING your future. The key to the shift is taking charge of your future. You start with here’s where I am; here’s where I want to go; now how do I get there? You become the captain of your ship of life, and discover your guiding North Star. In short, you make it happen. You move into the future. You write your playbook.
Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk
Embracing the New Story and Working The Future! Today—the art of the possible, practiced well in advance—will change your work life. No more living by the mantra “fake it till you make it,” which is pure delusion. And you will need to find balance across your ‘doing’ actions; your emotional states, the ‘being’ part, and become much more proactive. If you want to Work The Future! Today, we are here as guides.
Whitney and Charlie have just finished their book “Work The Future! Today: Bringing shared purpose to life”, which will be published later this month. In the meanwhile, please visit us on Twitter @workfuturetoday.
The key to the shift is taking charge of your future—control over chaos.