Posted by on Mar 22, 2014 in Future of Work | No Comments

In painting a picture of the ideal future of work, I developed this sort of ‘gods eye’ view on what the ecosystem should look like in an open, connected and transparent society. One in which people’s interests are understood and aligned with each others, regardless of where they sit within the ecosystem, as they are all oriented around the ideal of creating shared value. They all enjoy the value and benefit from their particular contributions. There is a sense of mutual respect and a fair amount of reciprocity inherent in it.

Future of Work, Aligned Ecosystem

But work as we have known it through the industrial and postindustrial era is changing drastically, and the system itself is seemingly failing. The most talented employees have seemingly been fleeing large corporations for decades to either serve as an independent consultant or to create their own business. Often times selling the same services, though less of them, back to their prior employer at a higher price.

With the advent of the internet, global job mobility is enabling people to continuously advance and be rewarded according to their true abilities and in many cases, such as my own, advance as a result of their connections with others. According to a widely debated Gallup study, employee engagement is hovering around record lows at a time when the next work force, the Millennials, are desperately seeking a deeper purpose and meaning to their work. Even Generation X and the boomers are caught in this perfect storm of needing greater purpose in life and their work while needing to earn enough to make the payments on the “American Dream” they bought on credit long ago.

Working inside most big companies isn’t working. Thankfully, many people, including the people responsible for the people working inside big companies have realized this. We’ve seen the beginnings of the BYOD revolution that is also now leading to a BYOS (Bring Your Own Saas) revolution. We see more companies trusting their employees to do the jobs they were hired to do and striving to educate and empower them to perform at higher levels. But broadly speaking, the interests of employees and managers and customers and shareholders are not aligned. I contend that this misalignment is the root of the problem with work and careers, and I am not alone.

One of John Hagel‘s key insights from the big shift was how the measure of personal performance that determined employee rewards was not aligned with the operational goals or the financial goals of the company. One place where this is clearly seen is in rewarding employees for reducing amount of time to resolve issues in their support center without taking into consideration the satisfaction of and relationship with the customer.

There is a long laundry list of things broken with work from meetings, to information hoarding, to people taking credit for other’s work, to a lack of diversity, to penny pinching, and worst of all, stupid systems and processes that were not designed or ever implemented by people who had direct experience with the problems they purportedly were designed to solve. What I see as the common challenge in all of these areas however is the conflict it creates between people who end up feeling as if they are on opposite sides of the table, or worse, in a battle with each other needing to act in an adversarial instead of collaborative manner. In other words, they are not aligned with each other. They do not share a common purpose, they do not have a sense of shared fate nor do they see the interdependency of their respective roles.

The model presented in the above graphic is a holistic view on how I believe we should look at the various actors in an organization’s ecosystem, within the context of the roles they each play and their need for alignment with each other. Of course it is a bit more complicated than this, but the path to greatest profit, professional development and personal happiness lies in finding harmony across this ecosystem. As detailed in the book Speed of Trust, the greatest efficiency of process comes when people trust each other. In the words of Thomas Vanderwal, this means a combination of social comfort, feeling that someone can do a job and social confidence, knowing that someone has done a certain job previously. As detailed in the book Built on Trust, this happens most consistently in organizational cultures where people keep their commitments and get to closure on every issue.

Join Chris Heuer, Ayelet Baron, Rawn Shah, Susan Scrupski, Jenn Selke and other leading voices on this important topic at the round table on The Future of Work and Careers next week in Austin on Sunday afternoon March 9th from 2-4pm. Together we will explore this topic even more deeply, along with several other aspects of what is broken and what we want our future to look like.

If you are interested in sponsoring this round table or others as part of the series, please email

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