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LBS Predicting the Future of Work

LBS Predicting the Future of Work

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Published by Kim Spinder
Work is universal. But, how, why, where and when we work has never been so open to individual interpretation. The certainties of the past have been replaced by ambiguity, questions and the steady hum of technology. Now, in a groundbreaking research project covering 21 global companies and more than 200 executives, Lynda Gratton is making sense of the future of work.
In this exclusive article she provides a preview of the real world of 21st century work.
Work is universal. But, how, why, where and when we work has never been so open to individual interpretation. The certainties of the past have been replaced by ambiguity, questions and the steady hum of technology. Now, in a groundbreaking research project covering 21 global companies and more than 200 executives, Lynda Gratton is making sense of the future of work.
In this exclusive article she provides a preview of the real world of 21st century work.

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Published by: Kim Spinder on Nov 02, 2010
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05/16/2012

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PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE: GRATTON
Work is universal. But, how, why,where and when we work hasnever been so open to individual interpretation. The certainties of the past have been replaced by ambiguity,questions and the steady hum of technology. Now, in a groundbreaking research project covering 21 global companies and more than 200 executives,
Lynda Gratton
ismaking sense of the future of work.In this exclusive article she providesa preview of the real world of 21st century work.
You may be a Baby Boomer in your50s with Gen Y children just joiningthe workorce; an alumnus o abusiness school, a 40-year-old Gen X preparing or 30 more years o work,with young Gen Z children; or anMBA student thinking about the yearso work ahead o you.Whatever your age, one o the mostcrucial questions you ace is how the
FORCESSHAPINGTHE FUTUREOF WORK
uture o work will develop and theimpact on you and the organisationso which you are a member. I youare now aged 30, you can expect towork or the next 40 years — thatmeans in 2050 you will be a membero the workorce. I you are 50, youcan expect to be actively employed oranother 20 years — that’s 2030. I youhave young children, they could beworking until 2070.Work is, and always has been, oneo the most dening aspects o ourlives. It is where we meet our riends,excite ourselves and eel at our mostcreative and innovative. It can also bewhere we can eel our most rustrated,exasperated and taken or granted.Work matters — to us as individuals,to our amily and riends and alsoto the communities and societies inwhich we live.Many o the ways o working thatwe have taken or granted or 20years are disappearing — workingrom nine-to-ve, aligning with onlyone company, spending time with
lynda grattoninvestigates:
tHe FUtUreoF WorK 
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   P   H   O   T   O  :   L   C   G   R   I   F   F   I   T   H   s
17Q3 – 2010
BUSINESS STRATEGY REVIEW ThE fUTURE of WoRk 
 
amily, taking weekends o, workingwith people we have known wellin oces we go to every day. Andwhat’s coming in its place is muchless knowable and less understandable — almost too ragile to grasp.
Facing the future
Over the last two years, my missionhas been to understand how work and organisations will evolve. WhatI wanted was not rm predictions,since I know these are notoriouslyunreliable, but rather a point o view,a basic idea o what the hard acts o the uture are, and a way o thinkingabout the uture that has internalcohesion. I wanted to discover,with as much ne-grained detail aspossible, how the uture o work islikely to evolve.Why it is so important now, toat least attempt to paint a realisticpicture o the uture, is that we canno longer imagine the uture simplyby extrapolating rom the past. Thepast six generations have experiencedthe most rapid and proound changemankind has experienced in its 5,000years o recorded history. I the worldeconomy continues to grow at thesame pace as the last hal-century,then by the time my children are theage I am now — in 2050 — the worldwill be seven times richer than it istoday, world population could be over9 billion and average wealth will alsohave increased dramatically.We live at a time when the schismwith the past is o the same magnitudeas that last seen in the late 18thcentury. A schism o such magnitudethat work — what we do, where wedo it, how we work and with whom — will change, possibly unrecognisably inour lietime. In the late 18th century,the drivers o this change were thedevelopment o coal and steam power.This time around it is not the resulto a single orce, but rather the subtlecombination o ve orces that willundamentally transorm much o whatwe take or granted about work: theneeds o a low-carbon economy, rapidadvances in technology, increasingglobalisation, proound changesin longevity and demography andproound societal changes.It is not just our day-to-dayworking conditions and habits that willchange dramatically. What will alsochange is our working consciousness,just as the industrial age changedthe working consciousness o our predecessors. The industrialrevolution introduced a mass marketor goods and with it a rewiring o thehuman brain towards an increasingdesire or consumption and theacquisition o wealth and property.The question we ace now is howthe working consciousness o currentand uture employees will be urthertransormed in the age o technologyand globalisation we are entering.What is inevitable is that, oryounger people like my two sons,work will change dramatically — andthose o us already in the workorcewill be employed in ways we canhardly imagine.
The wise crowd
To better understand the uture o work, rom October 2009 to May2010 I led a research consortium o 21 companies and over 200 executivesrom around the world. The majorbusiness sectors were represented bya wide array o rms, including Absa(the South Arican bank), Nokia,Nomura, Tata Consulting Services(TCS), Shell, Thomson Reuters,Novartis and Novo Nordisk, SAP,BT and Singapore’s Ministry o Manpower, as well as two not-or-prot organisations, Save the Childrenand World Vision. My colleagues,Dr Julia Goges-Cooke and AndreasVoigt, also took part.The consortium communitymet initially in November 2009 atLondon Business School where welooked closely at the hard acts o theuture, then took the conversationinto their own companies. We wereable to work together virtually in anelaborate shared portal and also todiscuss the emerging ideas in monthlywebinars — and later in a series o workshops in Europe and Asia. At thesame time, I tested out some o myinitial thoughts by writing a weeklyblog (www.lyndagrattonutureowork)on which a wider communitycommented. It was these ideas,insights and anxieties that becamestitched into storyline narratives andbrought depth to our conversations.What excited the community wasnding answers to three questions:
n
How will external orces shape theway my company and its peopledevelop over the coming decades?
n
How best can we prepare or thesedevelopments to ‘uture proo’the company?
n
What can we learn rom othersabout where to ocus our attentionand resources, what will betough, and what will be morestraightorward?
Working it out
How will these ve orces aect theway we work in 2025, and whatdoes this mean or the choices andactions we should be taking now?My research and conversations aboutthe uture o work have led me tounderstand that the uture will beless about general skills and moreabout in-depth mastery; less aboutworking as a competitive, isolatedindividual and more about workingcollaboratively in a joined world; andless about ocusing solely on a standardo living and more on the qualityo experiences. Here are the ways Ibelieve these three shits will play outin our lives and the lives o others.
The shift to mastery
I believethat in the uture the means by whichindividual value is created will shitrom having generalist ability to havingspecialist ability and achieving serialmastery. Why? Because i you remaina generalist, there are thousands,perhaps even millions, o people whocan do the same work as you do — yet aster, cheaper and perhaps even
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