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The Future Of Work: How Jobs Change in the Next Decade

Gartner research analysts recently convened to discuss the changing nature of work and table some predictions for the coming decade. Their consensus view was that chaotic, distributed and ad-hoc teams of people, along with blurred organizational boundaries, would become the norm for most modes of work.

The group identified the ten key changes that they see shaping the world of work during the next decade:

  1. “De-routinization” of work. “Non-routine” activities that cannot be automated, such as innovation, leadership and sales, will dominate employment: By 2015, 40 percent or more of an organization’s work will be “non-routine,” up from 25 percent in 2010.
  2. Work swarms. Rather than traditional teams of people familiar with each other, ad-hoc groups or “work swarms,” with no previous experience of working with each other, will become a commonplace team structure. Gartner’s “work swarms” concept sounds similar to the Noded philosophy, which describes how groups of individuals, often but not necessarily geographically distant, come together to form temporary or recurring project teams.
  3. Weak links. Weak links are the cues people can pick up from people who know the people they have to work with. Exploiting our own networks will help us to develop the ties that are required for participating in wider “work swarm” opportunities.
  4. Working with the collective. Being able to influence the complex ecosystem of suppliers, partners, clients and customers will increasingly become a core competence.
  5. Work sketch-ups. Informality will define most “non-routine” work activities; the process models for these activities will be simple “sketch-ups,” created on the fly.
  6. Spontaneous work. Seeking new opportunities and creating projects around them is likely to be an opportunistic, rather than strategic, activity.
  7. Simulation and experimentation. The culture of Google’s (s goog) “perpetual beta” is likely to spread to other industries, with rapid prototyping taking place in very public environments.
  8. Pattern sensitivity. Extrapolating from history and experience will become less reliable; the ability to detect and parse patterns and trends in society will provide better insights.
  9. Hyperconnected. With formal and informal work diffused across organizational boundaries,  the support mechanisms for workers (healthcare, HR, IT) will need to evolve to support fuzzier, ad-hoc relationships between people and departments.
  10. My place. The boundaries between home and work life are already blurred. Balancing almost 24/7 availability against burning out will become a critical skill.

Editor’s note: We’ll be exploring how technology is shaping the modern workforce at our Net:Work conference, coming to San Francisco on December 9th. It’ll be interesting to see whether our speakers agree with Gartner’s analysts.

Do you think Gartner’s views are obvious, fanciful or accurate predictions for the coming decade?

Image courtesy Flickr user totalAldo

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6 Responses to “The Future Of Work: How Jobs Change in the Next Decade”

  1. For certain industries, yes this type of less structured collaborative “workplace” will become popular, but for many service industries, the traditional structure will remain, albeit tech will still assist in opening up freedoms. As an example, I work in the financial industry and we have more flexibility to work from home now, and with global markets our hours can be shifted a bit, but there certainly is no way we would be able to allow, from an organizational, compliance (this is very important), and efficiency standpoint, the concepts of perpetual beta, swarms and weak links. It’s just not possible from a security standpoint to allow people’s friends to freelance in and out of projects that involve high levels of security, high precision compliance and auditability (is that real word lol).

    Now, reread that and remember I’m not poo-pooing the idea, I’m just saying that for many industries, this is not a 2015 concept. For others, heck yes. We just have to remember that our own jobs and industries do not exist in a vaccuum. My own job has rapidly opened up off-site work, which was unheard of for my specialty even 2 years ago.

    • I think Jackowick is totally on point here. Not only for some industries, but for some select business activities in all industries, crowd-sourcing and swarms will not be viable options. But I like the point made that we have to be aware of the existence of these options. And, people should remember, crowd-sourcing and swarms don’t have to be formal relationships. How many times have you posed a question that would help you with work to your LinkedIn network, or Facebook friends?

  2. I am both intriqued and concerned about the rapid growth of crowdsourced employment. claims they now have over 1.4 million people earning a livelihood through project gained through their site. Moreover, they are growing rapidly. At the same time in the USA we watch unemployment figure stay high and flat. Is this a permanent shift? Outsourced project seem appropriate for tasks that can be well defined which can reduce costs. But how will this impact the need for people to adopt role and collaborate in overlapping roles that require a shared context?

  3. I do agree with most of the concepts put forward in the Gartner article. I especially think that work swarms, spontaneous work, and my place trends. Most professionals I know already use networking to create informal swarms to get their tasks done, tapping into their networks, friendworks and even “N degrees” of separation relationships to get work done. Also, there is no time for analysis paralysis. Important tasks need to be addressed as they emerge, quickly and efficiently – in beta style with tweaks later IF needed. Therefore it is even more important that business tap into all the technology they can to keep this organized, moving and ubiquitously accessible. Apps like “Things” to keep task lists up to date in real-time wherever you are, or my own company’s ABUKAI Expenses that lets your mobile phone fill in your expense reports after you just take a picture of a receipt are the necessary wave of the immediate future.

    I am very interested in hearing what others have to say about this new, real-time, totally ubiquitous, totally networked work paradigm.