Future Of Work Same As The Past?

Gartner has issued its vision of how work will be done 10 years from now thanks to hyper-connectedness, but it may not be new, or entirely practical.
Gartner has issued its vision of how work will be done 10 years from now thanks to hyper-connectedness, but it may not be new, or entirely practical.The visionaries at Gartner have been at it again, and have issued their conception of what work will be like ten years from now. There will be less routine work (computers will handle that stuff.) Thanks to hyper-connectedness, problems will be swarmed by ad hoc groups recruited from an informal collective rather than from the duly hired ranks of the organization's payroll.

Maybe. But that's not how a hierarchical or corporate organization works. That's how a tribe tracks, kills, butchers, and preserves the meat of a wooly mammoth. The group has unreservedly bought into the basic mission (acquire food to survive) and specialists will emerge during each step of the operation. The participants depend on each other because they have to, and because they know they can from past experience. And they're hyper-connected, too-they can see and talk to each other constantly.

But their cohesiveness is based on the task, and on their relationship with each other. That's fine, but such bonds could undercut corporate authority, and I don't think that the people writing the checks are going to be comfortable with that. Organizations spend money, and the process and purpose of an expenditure must be transparent to an auditor. That the expenditure seemed like a good idea at the time among the members of the informal collective may not carry much weight. Plus, with our mammoth hunters, exactly who does what and how is decided at the last minute according to circumstances, meaning that processes are not defined. But what if something goes wrong and there's a lawsuit?

Meanwhile, what if a rival hunting party shows up? Important policy decisions must be made immediately, by a predetermined person whose decisions must be immediately accepted. In other words, even for our mammoth hunters, a task-oriented collective is not enough-there must be a rigid hierarchy somewhere.

Gartner also says that there will be further blurring between work and personal time, as the hyper-connected collective spreads across time zones. Judging from the time stamps on some of the e-mails I get, apparently that process is already well underway.

But on the other hand, I don't think that mammoth hunters got home by 5 every day, either.

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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
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