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Passion and the Future of Work

By Ross Dawson

A little while ago, I spoke in the keynote session of the Richmond Financial Industry Forum in Interlaken, Switzerland.

I spoke on Passion and the Future of Work. Below are some distilled thoughts from my keynote presentation.

The future of work is perhaps the most important lens to understand the future of business, society, and indeed humanity.

Over the next decade and more we can expect the global landscape of work to change to an extraordinary degree.

There are two primary driving forces that are transforming work.

In a connected world, almost all work can be done anywhere.

And the exponential growth of processing power is enabling computers to outperform humans for an ever-increasing scope of work.

At the same time we have long been designing organizations in a way that dehumanizes work. As we design workflow around increasingly precisely defined jobs and roles, this has often taken out the scope for uniquely human characteristics such as imagination and ingenuity.

Today we must focus on the work and activities at which humans can express their unique capabilities and excel far beyond machines. (Read more on the dehumanization and humanization of work.)

What we are passionate about is very likely what we are best at, what enables us to express ourselves and our capabilties to the fullest. We can be sure that passion will be at the heart of the future of work.

For most of us there are two domains to have a real impact on the future of work: ourselves as individuals, and the organizations in which we are leaders or employees.

For individuals, real passion always comes from beyond ourselves, in being inspired by or having a positive impact on others, whether it be our family, or humanity, or even beyond.

Organizations must understand the reality of an increasingly fluid global talent economy.

One useful definition of talent is those who have complete choice in what they do and who they work for. These talented people are those who will drive the success of the organizations they work for.

Money alone will certainly not attract the most talented. They look for far more, including the ability to develop their capabilities, to work with equally talented peers, to enjoy their work environment, to have flexibility and choice, and to achieve worthwhile things that have a broad impact.

There will be a rapidly increasing gap between companies that truly offer these possibilities and can thus attract the most talented, and the rest.

One of the massive emerging opportunities for organizations is to tap the full breadth of capabilities of their employees. Everyone is multi-dimensional in their skills, of which usually only a part is expressed in a job.

Internal crowdsourcing is about tapping the ‘crowds’ inside companies, by drawing on their insights, experience, and creativity that may not be used within their formal job description. This not only gives the organization access to more capabilities, it also allows staff the ability to draw on more of who they are and their fullest potential.

Climbing mountains is a powerful metaphor for our lives. Early in our lives we can see the opportunity to rise from the valleys, to go up and engage with the extraordinary beauty around us. Yet after we have spent much of our life climbing a mountain, we may realize it is the wrong mountain.

We all have aspirations. It is important that we ensure those aspirations are true to ourselves, express who we are rather than what society or our parents tell us is important. Those ‘true aspirations’, when we find them, will always engender passion.

That passion, and nothing else, will drive us to create a future of work that we want for ourselves and for our children.

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