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The Future Worker and The Future Workplace

Posted by on January 10, 2013

As I mentioned in a previous article on The Manager of Today, many of our educational institutions and businesses have been modeled after the military where everyone needs to think the same way, dress the same, get access to the same information, and do what they are told, just like everyone else. This model is quickly crumbling and as Clay Shirky aptly pointed out, “social” is changing communication or work, it’s changing everything. One of the things I find particularly interesting when looking at the workplace is the terminology we use to describe work and things related to it. Many of the terms, concepts, and ideas we used to create our companies are archaic.  Here are a few:

Work, The activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something. Synonyms include: drudgery, struggle, daily grind

Company, A chartered commercial organization or medieval trade guild. Synonyms include: club, crew, gang.

Manager, Someone who controls all or part of a company. Synonyms include: slavedriver, boss, zookeeper.

Employee, A person working for another person or business for pay. Synonyms include: cog, servant, slave.

The synonyms are all real.  Now, when you look at the terms we used to build our companies it’s no wonder that it is so hard for many organizations to change their corporate culture.  These terms aren’t old, they are archaic.  This isn’t about changing the definitions in the dictionary this is about changing what these things mean at your workplace.  Is an employee someone who just works at your company for pay?  Is work just the daily grind?

Organizations looking to evolve the way the way they work and make a suitable environment for the “future worker” need to seriously reconsider what these thing mean.  I encourage every organization to go through some of the terms and concepts that we take for granted and redefine them for their future workplace, then, put them in a public place for all to see.  If you want to start change you need to start with changing what these things mean to your employees and managers.  Let’s change the way we think, starting with the very basics.

It’s time to evolve and make way for the future worker and the future workplace.

  • I completely agree with your points Jacob!

    The problem is that seems to require a whole culture change, which is very difficult in large organisations. So what do you think the best way of changing that is? It’s one thing to put a sheet on a wall and to have a meeting, and quite another for change to happen. No?

    • Hi Alex,

      Sorry for taking so long to reply to this. The issue of culture is certainly a big topic to address. I think culture and technology go hand in hand in many cases technology can help change culture. I cover many of those topics in the book as well.

  • Excellent points Jacob! I really like the idea of focusing on these terms and rethinking the very concepts of work. Social may be changing everything, as Clay Shirky pointed out, but if we focus just on social collaboration we’ll lose sight of the big picture. Social is the Trojan Horse that’s going to help evolve work from the inside out (or outside in too, come to think of it), but we need to also look at the things you point out in this post in order to help it along.