Thomas W. Malone: The Future of Work

as a result of his mit professorship and a five-year research initiative ‘inventing the organizations of the 21st century’ thomas w. malone wrote the future of work.

“we are, it seems, at the verge of a new world of work, in which many organizations will no longer have a center at all – or, more precisely, in which they’ll have almost as many ‘centers’ as they have people.”

why? because, according to thomas, new information technology like the internet will relentlessly reduce communication cost. and with no, or very low, cost everybody will be able to communicate with everybody else, so why need centers as we know them?

“maybe there is some deep tie between the unusually decentralized nature of the internet and its amazing growth, flexibility, and innovativeness.

what if we could somehow harness this kind of energy for other kinds of business purposes? just think how much intelligence, energy, and creativity we might unleash!”

“for the first time in history, technologies allow us to gain the economic benefits of large organizations, like economies of scale and knowledge, without giving up the human benefits of small ones, like freedom, creativity, motivation, and flexibility.”

“and the increasing importance of knowledge work makes motivation, creativity, and flexibility more important than ever.” … “we will need to know how to imagine new possibilities, how to artfully combine the benefits of centralization with those of decentralization, and how to think differently about management.”

“when people are making their own decisions, for instance, rather than just following orders, they often work harder and show more dedication and more creativity.”

“let’s decentralize decision making whereever possible, but … we must balance decentralized decision making with central strategy and common customer focus.”

what are the success’s prerogatives?

1) you have to know what you really want!

2) you need to have values!

3) you have to have trust!

re 1) “without some sense of what you want, you can’t make sensible choices in the first place. and if you don’t think carefully about what really matters to you, it’s very easy to become confused and distracted by things that don’t really matter much.”

re 2) “if you want to create a business that truly inspires loyalty and commitment from your employees, customers, and others, you need to appeal to more of their human values than just the economic ones.

if you really want to take advantage of a decentralized organization’s ability to harness people’s deep motivation and creativity, you nee to appeal to what truly matters to those people.”

re 3) “we need to shift our thinking from command-and-control to coordinate-and-cultivate. … when you coordinate, you organize work so that good things happen, whether you are in control or not. … coordination focuses on the activities that need to be accomplished and the relationships among them.” … “to cultivate something successfully – whether it’s your farm, your garden, your child, or your organization – you need to understand and respect its natural tendencies at the same time that you try to shape it in ways you value.”
as it seems, again, everything starts with yourself, you have to know what you really want. you have to have values. you have to be kind of a role model for your environment.

and you must be able to let go. you must trust. you must delegate. you must empower people. you. now.

… or accept that the people at the top have to do the thinking and changing for you.