Established industries transform into service and network economies. The new culture of work creates value in increasingly digital modes.
Corporate work will be governed by new conditions. While fixed job types and regulated employment wane, flexible forms of team and project work rise. Mobile net-working is an essential part of the new forms of labor. This has implications for corporate leadership, business models, products, communication, and talent as well as innovation management. As the boundaries of space and time blur, work environments grow more complex.
Merging Human and Machine
Digital developments certainly fuel this trend, but artificial intelligence itself will not determine the new world of computers, software and algorithms. Rather, human knowledge and creativity drive success. The challenge of the future is to forge symbiotic collaborations between humans and machines.
Increasingly, start-ups and their digital business models put pressure on big corporations and entire business branches. The protagonists of the sharing economy, such as Airbnb and Uber, illustrate how sharing resources generates new value and business.
Network and Platform Economy
What becomes clear is the overall direction into which business moves in the 21st century. Companies are no longer closed, hierarchical systems but develop into open networks and platforms. These emerging eco(nomy)systems cater to the needs of their clients in extremely agile ways. Accordingly, the new networks require from their workers a higher degree of autonomy. Workers are selected for their process expertise. They deliver according to the network’s specific needs.
As established structures break open, organizations evolve into dynamic entities that shift shape and size depending on given tasks and market positions. Staff and employment structures are reshuffled due to the new ways in which services are provided. Core staff members contribute alongside temporary hires, outsourced company parts, agencies, and consultants who are deeply involved in selected projects. Through internet platforms, companies increasingly hire freelancers who execute entire projects that require specific qualifications.
Even competitors become cooperators (“coopetition”) as rival companies form strategic alliances to succeed in the network economy.
Companies now deliberately send their research and development departments to participate in open-innovation and open-science initiatives. Previously, they had been tightly protected from public access.
The new figure of the “prosumer”, a hybrid between consumer and producer, appears in the market place. Prosumers take part(s) in product development and marketing through such channels as crowdsourcing, crowd investing and social media.
Aligning Life and Work
The new normal is mobile labor. Digital connections, cloud solutions and innovative workplace tools enable modes of execution that are detached from specific opening hours or office locations. It becomes increasingly selectable when and where work is done. Home office models and mobile work technologies thus redefine the limits between work and personal life. This affects many aspects, ranging from the time-span of work processes to IT security.
One of the great future challenges, both for employers and employees, is to align life and work in prudent ways.
The topics here presented dealt with future and innovation. They were developed in cooperation with the Zukunftsinstitut, which, as one of the most influential think tanks in European trend research, continuously investigates the changes taking place in business and society.