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Thoughts on the Future of Work
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Introducing a New Era: Work From Anywhere

As we move toward “the light at the end of the tunnel” called COVID-19, it feels appropriate to start to reflect on what we’ve already learned and what we still don’t have the answers to. Disasters are always teaching events. Some lessons come fast, some slowly and other lessons appear after a significant passage of time (i.e., in hindsight).

Furthermore, if we are lucky, disasters also accelerate the way we live (AKA our insights) and innovation (i.e., the creation of something new that helps make life better) and these insights and innovations help us evolve as people, groups, tribes, communities, companies, and countries. I think we are coming out of a transformative event that will absolutely change the way we live and work and I believe it will, over the long run, accelerate the percent of the world that is doing Work (i.e., work they genuinely love doing).

Some background

Whenever I’m trying to understand change, I study it through three lenses: Insights, Tools, and Disciplines (ITD’s). IMO, transformative events, over the long run, almost always enhance the ITD’s that we leverage to make life better.

In terms of how we evolve as a species, I believe there are moments in history where either a disaster or, more often than not, a particular innovation causes a massive and swift change. I think these transformative “events” can primarily be attributed to either a new material insight (how we look at and or understand things) or a new tool (how we do things). Either way, they always include a new discipline; otherwise, we wouldn’t take advantage of the tool and/or insight and, as such, there is by definition no transformative event.

If we take a look at history, tool-based transformations (TBT’s) tend to take place relatively swiftly. Examples of TBT's include the printing press (1430’s), the steam engine (1712), the cotton gin (1793), the assembly line (1913), the transistor (mid-twentieth century), and the internet (1983). I think of these as mostly transformative in terms of how we leverage a new tool to make life better. I suspect there are a host of reasons why TBT’s tend to move so much more quickly because the cost/benefit of their impact is objectively measurable and, as a consequence, resources and money flow swiftly toward them.

Insight-based transformations (IBT’s), on the other hand, tend to move much more slowly for a host of reasons, not the least of which are cultural and/or political (typically attributable to vested and conflicting interests).

Two of the most notable transformative insights are, IMO, Democracy and Human Rights. These two highly aligned ideas started to come into being way back in Athens in the Fifth Century BCE. They were subsequently all but extinguished for well over a thousand years until the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. It then takes us hundreds of years before the ideas were further advanced by the English (1642-1651), American (1765-1783), and French (1789-1799) revolutions. The good news is things now start to speed up with the Women's Suffrage movements (1840-1920), the Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s, and the Sexual Rights movements still underway today.

That said, the world obviously doesn’t evolve as one for a host of reasons, not the least of which is the broad recognition of, and respect for, the Rights of others (i.e., we cannot demand that people respect our Rights if we don’t respect theirs). Consequently, here we are, thousands of years after the core idea of democracy was introduced and we humans have still yet to take full advantage of these two core insights that, IMO, make life better for all.

Right or wrong, I’m an optimist. Furthermore, I deeply believe, over the long run, we evolve for the better. I could write a whole book on this, and hopefully, one day will, but for now, I submit that life is much better for the average person today than it has ever been. And I deeply believe that collectively, once again, over the longer run, we humans and our communities, will continue to evolve into becoming better and better versions of the best versions of ourselves.

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