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The workplace of the future

business Updated: Jan 23, 2008 23:53 IST
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Gartner Inc predicts that within five years, 60 per cent of CEOs will make their CIOs responsible for using information as a revenue generating asset and 40 per cent will also make their CIOs responsible for business model innovation. That means change in the IT department, in the mindset of the organisation and in the mindset in the workplace.

The tech-savvy IT guy moves out of the sidelines of the back office systems support and plays the business game hand-in-hand with the other partners in the business. Indeed, a revolution within the organisation. There’s another revolution happening too: a growing accessibility of the tools available at everybody's fingertips to collaborate, create value, and compete, thus liberating people to participate in innovation and wealth creation within every sector of the economy.

This new mode of innovation and value creation is called “peer production” or “peering”. One very popular example is Wikipedia – a collaboratively created encyclopedia, owned by no one and authored by tens of thousands of enthusiasts. The other example is Procter & Gamble that, with its army of 7,500 researchers, has realised that this is no longer enough to sustain its lead. Rather than hire more researchers, P&G is now sourcing 50 per cent of its new product and service ideas from outside the company, through the internet.

These changes, among others, are ushering us toward a world where knowledge, power, and productive capability will be more dispersed than at any time in our history – a world where value creation will be fast, fluid, and persistently disruptive. This vast amount of knowledge needs to be harnessed and collaborated across cultural and geographical boundaries. Those who fail to grasp this will find themselves ever more isolated – cut off from the networks that are sharing, adapting and updating to create value.

In the years to come, this new mode of peer production will displace traditional corporation hierarchies as the key engine of wealth creation in the economy. In the last 20 years of globalisation, many countries have seen economic liberalisation, notably China and India. We have also witnessed the first stage of the worldwide information technology revolution. The next 20 years of globalisation will help sustain world economic growth, raise global living standards, and substantially deepen global interdependence.

Global alliances, human capital marketplaces, and peer production communities will provide access to new markets, ideas, and technologies. People and intellectual assets will need to be managed across cultures, disciplines, and international and organisational boundaries. Winning companies will need to know the world, including its markets, technologies, and people.

To do all this, it makes sense to not only think globally, but to act globally as well. The new global platform for collaboration opens up myriad new possibilities for individuals to act globally. The possibilities for education, work, and entrepreneurship are boundless; one just needs the skills, motivation and capacity for lifelong learning, and a basic income level to get connected. For individuals and small businesses, this is an exciting new era of participation in production and adding value to large-scale economic systems in ways that were previously impossible.

Whenever such a shift occurs, there are always realignments of competitive advantage and new measures of success and value. Counter communication is bound to happen with jeopardising effects. We must be cautious, but the dictum is there in black and white: we must collaborate across borders, cultures, disciplines, increasingly with masses of people at one time, or perish.

Considering this, it is not really a workplace that we are looking for. We are looking for a medium to communicate, and share ideas at a mutually convenient time that will benefit all the parties involved. I doubt if you can term that as 'work'. But since there is a financial implication involved, I suppose some would like to label it with that word.

The writer is Senior Manager, Tata Steel

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