The Future of Work

Chris Ventura
15 December, 2016

You can’t design a modern educational model without giving equal thought to the employment environment that it is equipping people for.

The Paper Plane team spent many office hours and offsite days contemplating the future of work and what that might mean for this product. Some of the more fascinating resources, that influenced our design, is the work done by visionaries such as Frederick Laloux, author of Reinventing organisations and Brian Robertson behind the Holocracy organisational model.

The general theme from a lot of the resources we immersed ourselves in, spoke to an evolutionary force of constant change and forward momentum inherit in all things in nature – human beings included. The rule follows a cycle from fusion to differentiation, whereby tensions arise through the differentiation process. Think of an adolescent rebelling against the family  as they move through to adult hood. The original fusion of the family matrix gives way to their individualisation, so the young adult is able to walk their new own path in life. Similarly in relationships, tensions may arise  between partners to highlight areas of development and maturation for the couple. This process is the evolutionary force in effect as old behaviours and ways of being can no longer be sustained and new ways of life are being called to come forward and stand in their place.

Throughout history, the world has constantly had an intermingling of tensions as old paradigms make way for new paradigms.  No matter what side of the political or social spectrum you sit on, we perhaps can all agree that the past 12 months has seen a particularly strong evolutionary force in effect as many long held beliefs of normal give way to new realities.

Ok, but what does all this have to do with the future of work?

Well, we just so happen to be moving through an unprecedented period of change in the global workplace. Technology has accelerated the evolutionary force in the workplace. By challenging incumbents to step forward and away from old paradigms of working and into newer more sustainable and effective working models. Those that fail to change have not survived the disruptive process that comes with such a rapid change. While new businesses flourish under new approaches to employee engagement and customer service. Traditional education is right in the middle of this disruptive process and Paper Plane is just one carrier vessel of this change in effect. The whole premise for Paper Plane’s radically different model, could only exist in an environment where tensions are felt to a degree where a team of people are motivated to come together and focus 2 years of their time on earth to find a new way forward.

Only 20% of employees in the US and Australia are engaged with their work

So with that said, let’s shift our attention to what is happening in corporate workplaces all over the world. We don’t have to look far to see the signs of the global tensions, rising in incumbent organisations. Numbers as low as 20% of employees in the US and Australia are engaged with their work, the remainder not engaged or rebelliously dis-engaged – just like our adolescents in an earlier analogy. The costs of poor engagement according to a Gallup study in the US alone is in the vicinity of $450 billion to $550 billion annually. While the UN estimates that the cost to end world hunger is $30 billion per year. Let that sink in for a moment.

It is fair to say that at one point in time, our hierarchical corporate models of organising people for work on a mass scale was absolutely effective in moving civilisation through an industrial age of rapid growth and abundance. Unfortunately this has not been an evenly spread global phenomena and only a small percentage countries and classes have reaped the majority of the benefit. Even in these generally affluent markets, many businesses that once enjoyed their leading positions for 30-40 years, now no longer exist. Disruption has spread across markets and many of these new businesses are beginning to take this blank canvas opportunity to model their internal structures and people organisation, in a new way. A way that understands the limitations of old ways of working, where less than a quarter of employees felt happy to go to work or fulfilled with their outcomes by the end of the day.

We encourage all our students to courageously do what they love in a pragmatic way.

The future of work, just like the future of education understands that to engage  and fulfil human beings, they need to be treated as whole human beings. Not a job title with a defined set of responsibilities but creative creatures capable of far more than even they would immediately admit to. We need to prepare human beings to access all of their meaning making systems, our brilliant minds, our caring hearts and our deep intuitions. The last 100 years of industrialised education has focused on brilliant minds alone and this has stripped the very essence of where our creativity comes from –  our hearts. With such a focus on improving knowledge and retention of information, we have lost our ability to take courageous action. We have resigned to the same role for 10+ years because it is safe and pays the bills and we die a little bit inside each day we make that decision. We need to learn to trust our guts again and to follow our hearts with practical and appropriate well thought out steps. Our wisest decisions come from all 3 of our brains working together in coherence and the future of education needs to help us re-access those capabilities. We encourage all our students to courageously do what they love in a pragmatic way.

Organisations of the future will move away from hierarchical models of people management.

Instead they will place more trust in their people to work in collaborative teams with the power to make decisions in various areas of responsibility.  Bureaucracy and office politics will unravel further as we learn to have courageous conversations with each other and empathise with each others points of view. Large organisations lose their ability to move quickly because they are not designed with the flow of life in mind.

They are designed to be safe and structured, with processes that remove accountability. It is truly an egoic framework, lacking trust in the people around us. When trust is placed as the pivotal principle of operating, employees become free to be creative and roll with the punches, so to speak. They actively seek out tensions in the organisation and anyone with the conviction to do so, can choose to relieve that tension. Safe with the understanding that all those around them, trust them to do it with their best of intentions at heart.

The amazing story in all of this is that there are organisations out there that have adopted this philosophy and had exponential success after doing so (see Patagonia, Buurtzorg, FAVI). It simply takes billions of humans a little bit more time than we’d like for a once radical concept to become the status quo. At Paper Plane we are preparing people for a world where all employees feel empowered and engaged. Equipped with the emotional, intuitive and rational intelligence to become beacons of light in a world going through transition. This is the heroes journey we’ve all been waiting for.

Chris Ventura
15 December, 2016
Chris Ventura
15 December, 2016