We Are The Future of Work: Book Review

“There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them.” – French politician Alexandre Ledru-Rollin

Just finished “The Future of Work – How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style, and your Life,” by Thomas W. Malone of MIT. Recommended by one of my fellow Govloopers. Amazing book for anyone looking at leadership/management consulting, social media and Government 2.0. The above quote is pulled from Chapter 10, “Cultivating People.” Memorize the core themes, analyses and citations from this book, and you’ve got just about all the knowledge you need to talk a solid transformation game. I plan to re-read it to pull out key concepts.

Most valuable, Malone points to the MIT Process Handbook Project, a collaborative effort that, as described on its Web page, provides – free – an “extensive online knowledge base including entries for over 5,000 business activities and a set of software tools for managing this knowledge.”

The book was published in 2004, and as I finished it in the spa this afternoon, the one nagging thought was that its brief and late acknowledgment of the challenges of monetizing a knowledge economy is still a problem nearly five years later. Then I came in and, over dinner,  read Ellen McGirt’sRevolution in San Jose – a hard-core Republican turns Cisco into a socialist enterprise – one with $26 billion in cash,” in the latest issue of Fast Company. And here were Malone’s tenets in practice, in one of the most successful companies of the Internet age. Cisco is embracing the knowledge economy with both arms, because it makes the infrastructure to support it. And the company is evangelizing the future of work by democratizing and unleashing it’s own workforce, with, according to McGirt and Cisco execs, incredible increases in productivity.

Malone points to seminar participants estimating that only 30-40 percent of employee potential is tapped in their traditional workplaces. His chapter structure always ends with a choice that boils down to, “Do you want to give up command-and-control and embrace collaborative work?” Cisco CEO John Chambers is saying yes. It’s 2.0. What do you choose?

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