We crafted the Future of Work Consortium to help people across the world think more deeply and accurately about the future. The combination of Future Proofed Cases, Thought Pieces plus the portal and webinars have together created a fertile ground for conversation and reflection across the 200 people who are engaged.
As we near the end of 2010, I’m reflecting on what the insights from this year can tell us about the next two decades of work.
For me this year has seen ever more confirmation that a joined- up world (over five billion in the coming decade) will have magic properties as it brings opportunities to people born in those regions who, even a decade ago, would have very little hope. The programs to give computers to Rwanda’s children, to digitalize the world’s books and knowledge, and to innovate around the cost of mobile phones and connections all bode well for the future.
I’m particularly interested in how this magic of a joined-up world will impact on one of the world’s most pressing problem – climate change.
When we asked the executives in our consortium to talk about energy conservation and issues of carbon reduction, most saw it as a crucial factor for 2025. However, they also acknowledged that right now there is insufficient action taking place at the corporate level, in part because it is difficult to know what path to take.
However, what is interesting is that in the magic of a joined-up world, the most crucial developments in carbon reduction are more likely to come from the bottom-up, rather than top-down institutional or governmental edicts. Change will come as a result of individual team members taking action about their carbon usage, and as individual business units monitor and take action. In the past, these individual pilots and small discrete experiments often languished, unknown beyond their immediate circle. However, now with the magic of a joined-up world, processes like Open Innovation and the impact of hyper-connectivity will be that it is possible for these pilots and experiments to be shared, and for communities across the world to take a closer look at the outcomes and rapidly disseminate their findings.
We discovered pilots in many companies designed to reduce one of the major creators of carbon – the commute to work and overseas travel. For example, at BT, many thousands of people are now working from home, and the business is also creating town ‘hubs’ in which local workers can meet without making the long commute into a major city. Technological connectivity is also becoming part of daily work. We heard from the executives at Cisco, how rapid developments in video conferencing are enabling them to build full wall videos to connect one team with another. We also saw how webinar developments are making the connectivity between virtual teams ever more efficient. It's clear that these new ways of working will over time reduce the carbon footprint of those that adopt them.
What is so exciting about the future is that we don’t have to wait for moribund governments or bureaucratic corporations to make the first move. When it comes to issues as large, complex and global as carbon use, it will be the connectivity between thousands of pilots and experiments that will make the greatest impact.
So as we look to the future, it’s the magic of a joined-up world that can give us hope. See you again in 2011!