A New Landscape of Work

HM_LOGOHere is this month’s piece on the changing world of work from furniture maker Herman Miller, a company for which Peter Drucker long consulted and that continues to exemplify his principles of innovation and effectiveness.

In businesses around the world, the workforce is changing. The expectations of workers are changing. How work gets done is changing. The tools of work are changing. The work itself is changing. In totality, these changes represent a new landscape of work.

In this rapidly evolving landscape of work, the context of our work—demographics, geopolitics, culture, tools and technology—has disrupted the familiar nature of work. We see the following points as crucial to understanding where work is going.

The new landscape of work is inherently global—innovation and economic strength are distributed across it. Any person can connect with any other person, information, idea or even machine. Vast social networks enable people to rally together around shared interests, goals and values.

Work has become increasingly physical and digital at the same time. Mountains of data capture, drive and enrich our experience of a parallel virtual world. User interfaces are continuously evolving from unintuitive and arduous to gestural and natural. We can speak to our pocket-scaled supercomputers as though they were personal assistants—and they respond in kind.

Modern science enables a deeper understanding of human beings, while sequential, routinized tasks are now automated by hardware and software. Our information networks have become powerful and pervasive, as technology engenders the ultimate connectivity.

In this landscape, the preconceived notion that organizations create and individuals consume no longer holds, and the means of creation and production are increasingly democratized. This leads to a new dynamic between individuals and organizations—with a priority on establishing a shared sense of purpose.

The lifecycle of ideas, products and whole businesses has accelerated from decades to years, and from minutes to milliseconds.

With powerful tools and technologies increasingly available to individuals, and information and communication networks made seamlessly accessible, work can now happen anywhere and at any time. The office’s longstanding monopoly on work is broken. Offices today not only compete with other workplaces, but with the world writ large, for our attention and investment.

Image courtesy of Herman Miller
Image courtesy of Herman Miller

The speed and power of these changes seems overwhelming and has left many individuals and organizations out of sync. Their methods of managing people and work no longer empower and motivate. Their tools and technology are not optimized for the work at hand. Their places of work are—if not literally, then figuratively—from another era.

“If you want something new,” Peter Drucker once said, “you have to stop doing something old.” In next month’s post, we’ll discuss the fundamental shift in the way successful organizations are approaching office design, in response to this new landscape of work.

—Greg Parsons, Vice President, New Landscape of Work,
and Sam Grawe, Editorial Director