Culture Chat

And other musings on humanizing the workplace
ICYMI: The Future Of Work Manifesto

ICYMI: The Future Of Work Manifesto

June 27, 2016
Maddie Grant

The future of work starts right here, right now.

Our manifesto is about the future of work in a post-Cluetrain world; an emerging ideology of business where people are at the center of a complex eco-system, as opposed to being boxed into a mechanical one.

If markets are conversations, then the people doing the talking, listening, and sharing are the most important "assets" we have. The groundswell exists, and it's powerful—we are a part of this groundswell, and we can make the future of work happen, right now, in many ways. 

Let’s talk about the things that human beings bring to the work environment. Let’s start mapping the Workplace Genome, the true DNA at the core of why work is a valuable human endeavor.

Let’s leverage our human attributes and make people, and all of their whole selves, the fuel that makes organizations and businesses grow and flourish. Let’s unleash our power as networked individuals. Let’s make Dilbert cartoons and The Office something we can enjoy as relics of a past industrial, mechanical age. Let’s stop work from sucking. Let’s empower ourselves, and each other, to make our lives, and thereby our societies, better.

Some truths we hold to be self-evident:

  • Work matters. We want work to suck less—for everyone, not just the few lucky ones.
  • The distinction between “work” and “life” is artificial and a barrier to leveraging both the power of the individual and that of the organization.
  • Work is the expending of effort for the creation of value. If there’s no effort, but it’s still considered work, it should be automated; if there’s no value, the work is pointless and wasteful.
  • Work is the process of creating something for the purpose of human flourishing. Let’s get rid of what doesn’t do that. Work has meaning for every individual. Work involves identity.
  • Work involves a sense of belonging. Work has meaning for the networks each individual is connected to. Work has meaning for the local community and for the global community. Work involves social responsibility.


I. Human beings are not an “asset” — they are the heart that pumps blood through our organizations.

  • We need to bring our whole true selves to work. Human-ness has value for the organization.
  • Our best work is at the intersection of what we like doing, what we’re good at doing, and what we get paid for. Our goal is for those three things to blend more. Flow has value for the organization.
  • Work is about learning. Learning is never complete and we have a responsibility, as individuals, to ensure that we are always learning. We also have a responsibility as organizations to provide resources and environments for learning. This is not a choice, it’s an imperative. Learning has value for the organization.
  • Work involves collaboration with others. Work doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Collaboration—both internal and external—has value for the organization.
  • We have a need to communicate and share what we do and how we each do it differently. We work better in the open.Transparency has value for the organization.
  • We are able to do more than one thing. Our individual skills, whatever they are, have value and that value is marketable.
  • The formula for marketability is the same for everyone but the weight of each component is different and may change over time. Agility, defined as the capability to evolve with our networks, has value for the organization.
  • We are connected, and we bring networks with us to work. Our connectedness has value for the organization.
  • We will feel a sense of belonging and purpose if we’re involved in the direction and purpose of the system. Ownership has value for the organization.
  • We build relationships. Relationships—and the human emotions involved in nurturing them—have value for the organization.
  • We need to give as well as receive constructive feedback. Truth has value for the organization.
  • We will trust our employers if our employers trust us. Trust has value for the organization.
  • We have intuition as well as intellect. Intuition has value for the organization.
  • We all aspire to love what we do. To love where we work and who we work with. Love has value for the organization.

II. Organizations that flourish are ecosystems that support, value and nurture their human employees.

The blurring of boundaries between the “I” (individual human beings) and the “we” (organizations and systems) creates value that is both shallow and deep.

  • Markets are conversations, and organizations can harness conversations in order to create value.
  • The pace of change is accelerating. The only way an organization will keep up is through its people, who have a natural ability to pay attention.
  • Individuals represent nodes and networks. Organizations need to recognize the value of building relationships with networks.
  • Proximity is no longer a prerequisite for relationships and networks. Let’s make the technologies that enable virtual communication invisible and ubiquitous, so we can just get on with it.
  • Organizations need to better understand individual talent, and how to communicate the requirements for needs-based work.
  • Individual talent means individual customization, which means an exponentially longer tail of marketable and monetizable skills.
  • Individual talent means hyperlocal talent; invisible technology means that hyperlocal talent has global reach.
  • Individuals have a wealth of so-called “soft” attributes that provide organizational value and are therefore marketable and monetizable. Let’s start paying for skills like the ability to:
    • build relationships
    • act as a bridge
    • distill information
    • focus deeply
    • debate
    • influence
    • facilitate
    • see the bigger picture
    • tell a story
    • manage complexity
    • draw meaning
    • write persuasively
    • manage group dynamics
    • solve open-ended problems
  • Strategic transparency is the only way to achieve trust; trust is the only way to maximize the value of the people in a system.
  • Trust provides structure and predictability in a much more powerful way than hierarchies and organizational charts do.
  • Strategic transparency enables clarity over control, also known as scalable simplicity—the capacity for all parts of the system to work towards the common goal of the system.
  • Decentralized leadership requires less middle management, but more middle level thinking.
    • The role of management is to be the “keeper of the story”, to make sure there is transparency flowing from top echelon to front line.
    • The role of management is to facilitate difficult conversations and manage conflict.
    • The role of management is to facilitate the finding of solutions, not to dictate them.
    • The role of management is to be the “connector,” to match people with the right skills and abilities to projects where those skills are most needed.
    • The role of management is to be the “bridger,” to protect and ensure inclusion—to ensure that different voices and perspectives are heard and involved in the work of the organization at all levels.
    • The role of management is to eradicate the fallacy of “best practices”—to ensure there is constant learning and agility in business processes.
    • The role of management is to be the “spacemaker,” to ensure learning can happen on a continuous basis by providing containers where experimentation is encouraged.
    • The role of management is to remove hurdles to engagement.
    • The role of management is to release the flow of information and data and to get it to the right people at the right time. The new workplace is data-driven, but information is not wisdom. It’s the human analysis of the data that drives value.
    • Data is the start of experimentation and learning, not the end.
    • The role of management is to hire talent that is agile enough to shift and flow based on market need.
    • The role of management is to get out of the way.
  • Leadership is the system’s capacity to shape its future. Leadership comes out of the group and participates at every level of the system.
  • The new human workplace has a responsibility for the sustainability of all the resources it uses, including human beings. The new human workplace therefore has a responsibility for social good.

III. We can upgrade work.

If you think of work like an operating system, then the system most organizations are currently running is fundamentally the same one we’ve been running since the early 1900s. It’s been updated over the decades, obviously, but the kernel of this operating system hasn’t really changed: it’s engineering--using math and abstract thinking to design systems and manipulate objects in an environment in order to create value. That got us where we are, but it won’t get us where we are going. This Manifesto—and our mission—is about creating an entirely new operating system for organizations. It’s about upgrading work. It’s a new system that still values the power of engineering, but now confidently and boldly puts human beings and community at the kernel of the OS. Not because that gives us the warm and fuzzies, but because it works. Because it’s powerful. Because it unlocks tremendous potential that we’ve been sitting on for a century. We didn’t create the Workplace Genome project because we thought the world needed another organizational assessment. We created the Workplace Genome project because work needs an upgrade, and this is the first step. We built the concepts of humanness and community into the model specifically because that is where we are headed

That is the future of work. Let’s go.

This manifesto is a work in progress and originated from several days that Maddie, Charlie and Jamie spent in Omaha in November 2011 discussing the future of work with luminaries Joe GerstandtJason LauritsenJanyne Peek EmsickJen BenzEric WinegardnerJames PapianoStuart ChittendenMike Wagner, and David Ballard. We welcome any comments and feedback, which can be posted at the original location of the Manifesto, on Medium.


(photo credit)


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