Defining the Future of Work at The Work Hackers Summit

By | October 23, 2013

Given the feedback and interest on the “Social Business is Dead” article I published last week on Brian Solis‘ blog, it’s clear something needs to be done to create a simpler vision and identify better language for describing the future we all seek. In my experience, it seems that this will be best accomplished together, in real time, in the same room.

It is time for us to convene all the tribes who are working to bring about a better future of work. Whether the motivation and interest is from technology, humanity, organizational models, competitive advantage, social responsibility or profit, I invite you to join me in a conversation about how we can all “hack work” and help others to do the same. To come together to make a bigger impact on the world then we can each do alone.

While I want to get feedback and broader community support on this gathering, I think it best to put a stake in the ground today. I propose that we organize the Work Hackers Summit on Tuesday February 4 and Wednesday February 5, 2014 in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are many details to be determined, including venue, topics, speakers, sponsors and more, but I am confident we can have a great event together and put it together in around 90 days.

i’ve always liked the format of the Internet Identity Workshop that Phil, Doc and Kaliya have put together – some alignment through presentations; some large group discussions; and some collaboration on matters of common interest. This means a day of presentations and a day-long unconference run in traditional open space style. So that is what I think we should do too.

I’m excited to say that I have already lined up two of my friends, colleagues and advisors who have been spearheading a part of this movement towards a better future for over a decade. Bill Jensen, author of Hacking Work, Simplicity and Disrupt! Think Epic. Be Epic, will be one of our keynote speakers. We will also have the wisdom and uncommon sense of Ayelet Baron, a well regarded speaker and author who previously served as the VP Strategy, Innovation & Transformation at Cisco, Canada. But that is just the beginning. I want to also put out a call for speakers. If you are interested, please complete this form with your speaker proposal or if you don’t want to speak but have a topic you think we should cover, please post it in the comments below. If you want to be on the event organizing committee, I could really use some help there too, so email me directly via if you are interested in helping put the event together or interested in sponsoring.

Why Work Hackers?

Especially since hosting a work hackers salon in my house with the help of Tom Foolery, I have been thinking of this as a peer driven, bottoms up movement, as I saw with Social Media Club previously. In this case, by connecting business thinking to the white hat hacker ethos of taking things apart and remixing it to suit our own needs, I hope to inspire more knowledge workers to unlock their true potential and embrace the spirit of George Bernard Shaw’s “unreasonable man”, to make the world fit to our needs instead of adapting to the broken systems and artificial constraints imprisoning our potential inside large organizations today. Over the long term, this isn’t an attempt to brand the movement and its focus as much as it is to encompass one aspect of it – the role of the individual. To that end, I hope this site and the Summit and anything else that happens underneath it supports champions of change, aligned around their noble pursuit to rethink organizations and invent the future of work we seek. For the betterment of all.

To be specific, I am hoping to make this event serve as an intersection of common ideas for those interested in Social Business, The Future of Work, Enterprise 2.0, Responsive Organizations, the Work Revolution, Postdigital Enterprises, Agile Business or any other futuristic view of the world, and the organizations that support its markets. There are probably a few other movements and memes I’m forgetting, so let us, and them know – help us connect the dots!

There are a lot of things that need to be accomplished to bring about a better future of work. Some would argue that getting rid of the organization and the notion of work altogether is the only solution. I for one do not subscribe to this scorched earth view, as there needs to be a period of transition before the world they envision is possible – and that could talk a decade or more. No, we need to understand how to take the best aspects of structured organizational models and merge them together with the more holistic ones based on self management.

Even in the thread in the Social Business Community on Google+ Jon Husband spoke of the need to change what the markets measure. A need for a long term view that we have both been thinking about for over a decade, perhaps longer. What the market values has changed more slowly then we would like, but it has changed, with green companies and those who stand for something finding a true competitive advantage in the market.

So one thing I think we need to talk about is what a market in balance looks like – one that values the quantitative aspects of financial success as well as the qualitative measures of social impact. It’s actually kind of ironic, that business in a sense needs to be more like a “social enterprise” in the way that Dr. Yunus meant it perhaps more then advocates realized when seizing upon the Social Business moniker.

Within a connected, balanced and prosperous market, what we need most is to paint a clear picture of what success looks like. What is our exemplar organization doing differently? How is it governed? How is it organized? How does it measure value created beyond simple profit? What are the mindsets, perspectives and attitudes that create the highest value distinctions when looking at a unique situation. How does these core principles vary in different industries, levels of maturity and organizational cultures? Of course, we have been doing this part for a while. But it would seem that our individual desire as thought leaders, change agents and personal brands to differentiate ourselves in the market for ideas has created more noise then symphony, confusing decision makers even further.

This is perhaps one of the greatest reasons why we need to come together for this conversation – to find a more common way of demonstrating the value and method of growth in a connected, sustainable and human centric market. As I imagine us discussing this matter together next February at the Work Hackers Summit, I hear Bill Jensen reminding me again that it’s about simplicity and clarity of communications. Not SAT words that even the most intelligent have difficulty understanding, but plain truths that are more universally understood. This is in large part why I care about our language enough to engage in debate about it, I see its undeniable power to connect the widest possible swath of humanity or to create confusion and dischord. This is particularly true of our need to connect this shared vision of a better future of work with the leadership of large, overly complex organizations, and worthy of our common endeavour. So I think we also need to talk about how we can best speak the language of business and share what has worked in the past to discover the language that will bring greater success, and progress, in 2014.

In closing, I am going back to my beginning. To Howard Rheingold and his great book, Virtual Community which got me started down this path. Or to be more precise, going back to Howard’s sig file and mantra that is, in part, why I do these sorts of things - what it is -> is up to you!

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