Computing Tips: The Future of Work

You have no idea how you’d get any work done on business trips if you didn’t have a laptop. You can’t remember quite how you lived without your BlackBerry. Your cell phone might as well be surgically attached to your ear, it’s so crucial to your job. Then there’s the Internet. It’s hard to conceive of getting through the day without Google (GOOG )—or, if you’re under 40, text messaging or even joining Facebook to stay in touch with your extended network of colleagues. In just a decade or less, technology sure has done a number on the way you work, hasn’t it?

It’s an emerging dynamic variously dubbed mass collaboration, peer production, or crowdsourcing. Whatever the name, collective efforts are exploding online—from the volunteer-written reference site Wikipedia to Google’s search engine. They are producing incredible value, even though they aren’t traditionally considered “work.” Says Thomas W. Malone, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management and author of the 2004 book The Future of Work: “Google and Wikipedia are just scratching the surface of whole new kinds of economic organisms.”

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The Future of Work: Technology on the March, Business Week, 20 Aug 07.

The Future of Work: How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style, and Your Life Renowned organizational theorist Thomas W. Malone, codirector of MIT’s landmark initiative “Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century,” argues that a convergence of technological and economic factors—particularly the rapidly falling cost of communication—is enabling a change in business organizations as profound as the shift to democracy in governments. For the first time in history, says Malone, it will be possible to have the best of both worlds—the economic and scale efficiencies of large organizations, and the human benefits of small ones: freedom, motivation, and flexibility.

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