How many of are you happy? asked MIT's Tom Malone as he opened his talk about his recent, thought-provoking book, The Future of Work: How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style and Your Life. While almost everyone raised their hand, he suggested that this is not the norm, and added that "values and happiness" will become be major determinants of where, how, why work is done in the coming decades.
Other great points included:
We are in the early stages of an increase in human freedom in business, that may be as important to businesses that democracy was for political organizations." He based his assertion on the fact that Low communication costs make it possible to drive change based on human values. Two examples he highlighted this view were the emergence of wikipedia, an open content encyclopedia where anyone can change anything any time and the explosion of Ebay which has over 41 million active buyers/sellers across the globe.
Further exploring his thesis he described how societies have developed over history from bands that were decentralized and unconnected, to kingdoms that were centralized but unconnected in between, to democracies which are relatively decentralized and connected. Building on this he explained how businesses in the 20th Century evolved from small, local businesses (1900) to large centralized corporations (1950) to empowered, outsourced, networked organizations most recently.
Projecting forward he suggested that business organizations where independent decisions are valued will create higher motivation, more creativity, and greater responsiveness. Sounds a bit like the Parecon thesis for business.
From the inside cover of his book: "Imagine organizations in which bosses give employees enormous freedom to decide what to do. Imagine electing your own bosses and voting directly on important company decsions. Imagine organizations in which most workers aren't employees at all, but electronically connected freelancers living wherever they want to. And imagine that all this freedom in business lets people get more of whatever they want in life -- money, interesting work, the chance to help others, or more time with their families."
I had a chance to speak with Tom about our emerging neurosociety and its relevance to his thinking around the future of work, and his response was exactly what I have posited, "This sounds very real, a lot more real than the current hype surrounding nanotechnologies impact on the future of business, politics and culture." It was as if he had read my piece Is It a Nano or a Neuro Wave?
Update: See Dave Pollards post Centralize/Decentralize for some intelligent commentary on Tom's book.