modern-city-for-tech-startupThe future of work is one of those topics that seems to have reached it’s time.  We’re seeing a number of things coming together that have prompted no end of discussions around what this future should look like and how organizations can best provide the kind of environment people want to work in.

From a technology angle there have been any number of developments to support fresh approaches to work, be they the improvements in teleconferencing, enterprise social networks or the menagerie of cloud computing tools.

There have also been a number of social factors, centering of course around the demands and expectations of the Millennial generation as they have hit the workforce en masse.

It’s a fascinating topic, and I had the pleasure of chatting with Shane Mitchell, formerly of Cisco, and something of an expert on the smarter ways of working that are beginning to find their way into the workplace.  Shane is also due to talk at the upcoming SmartWorking Summit on the 11th April.

He emphasised the difficulty proving the ‘success’ of many of these things, because it’s not always easy to visualise what success looks like.  The demands of each organization are as unique as they are of each individual employee.  He spoke about the importance of organizations continuing their shift away from the Taylorist style model that has dominated organizational life for a century, and towards the kind of organization espoused by the social business movement..

On the topic of what might drive some of this transformation, it was interesting to hear Shane talk about the importance of the Millennial generation in forcing through a change in workplace behaviour.  Whilst he was at pains to point out that attitude is not dependent upon age.

The challenge of course, as with many of these kind of shifts, is to ‘cross the chasm’, and start attracting people and organizations for whom this is very far from the norm.  Just as with MOOCs, Shane doesn’t see the ‘old’ model vanishing entirely, not at all, but rather that ways of working will begin to gradually shift to see different approaches used when most suitable.

Arguably the most wide reaching part of this of course is at a societal levels, with changing work patterns influencing where we live and work, and of course therefore where our organizations locate themselves.  There is an interesting contrast with major infrastructure projects such as High Speed 2 seemingly looking to draw people into cities at a time when technology increasingly makes location less of a factor.

Gazing into the future is always fraught with difficulty, but what does seem inevitable is that change will continue, and the work environment will continue to adapt to the changing technological and social environment.  It’s a process that Shane summed up quite nicely in the conclusion of a paper published whilst at Cisco into smarter working last year.

Society’s ability to grasp the Smart Work and Learning concept will be a key factor in enabling individuals, organizations, and communities to compete effectively and achieve operational excellence. Similarly, a community’s ability to define and implement effective strategies for infrastructures, spatial environments, and regulatory frameworks will prove increasingly imperative.

For those ensconced in the social business movement, perhaps none of this will be all that new to you, but the key will be encouraging those for whom this is not the norm to sit up and take notice.  It should be fascinating to see Shane and others riff on this topic at the SmartWorking event.  Book your place at the Summit here.