A few thoughts on the future of work
Where’s mine!

Unlike George Jetson, I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to fly our car to the office, push a red button, and then relax until it’s quitting time (barring our blustering boss pushing HIS button to yell at us). Work will still be work. How we get it done . . . that might be a lot cooler.

Just for fun — and to take a short break from “real work” — Hanns Kohler-Kruner of Gartner @ed me on Twitter about a research effort Gartner is pursuing. Focused on the future of work, Gartner is inviting anyone to contribute a short essay about what work will be like in the, you guessed it, future. Link to the survey is here.

Two things first off. One, half of everything everyone writes will be collectively wrong — I’m still waiting on my flying car. Two, we should be clear that we’re focused on office/knowledge work. While technology will of course affect tracking, assigning, etc. other work; digging a ditch is still digging a ditch.

The future of work will be reliant upon effective creation and maintenance and then distribution of content/information/documents/data (pick a word). The companies that take this firehose of information and point it in the right direction will be the ones that win. I’m going to assume that we’ll get the maintenance and storage of content mostly right going forward, otherwise, we should all buy stock in storage companies now. I think a few things:
1. I think we’ll get to a heads up display for work, which will make the “office” even more portable than now. To interface with this HUD, we’ll have some combination of input from eye tracking or direct “jacking” into brain waves.
2. I think from a marketing standpoint; companies will be able to slice and dice a huge amount of data from customer interactions to pinpoint and deliver targeted ads/offers (whatever you want to call them) to consumers at point of sale/point of looking in the aisle (if you have your mobile device/embedded chip turned on); geographically or online.
3. I think Facebook and/or Google will be less about “the Web” and more about delivering that customer data to advertisers.
4. I think we’ll stop worrying about the bullshit divide between work and personal and finally acknowledge that because the office is so portable, office hours really don’t mean much beyond some basic, core ability to be able to meet with your team at a mutually convenient time. There will be times when 9 to 5 is needed. Other times, the ability to be untethered to a cubicle but still connected will unleash a huge wave of productivity — and maybe even decrease the amount of time we all spend in rush hour (a productivity saving all by itself).
5. Despite 1 and 4, the value of face-to-face, real-time meetings (virtually or IRL) will continue to be a powerful way to collaborate.
6. Paper — or at least some sort of digital paper — will continue to be with us. People like to write stuff down.
7. Cultural issues will hold productivity back more than technology. Dilbert’s Pointy-Haired Boss will still be with us and not all companies will be able to be truly creative as C-level continues to focus on productivity measures that just don’t matter.

And, as Gregg Easterbrook says in his brilliant Tuesday Morning Quarterback column: All predictions wrong or your money back.

Image from The Model Roundup (if you ever wanted a model of The Jetson’s flying car, there you go). 

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