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It’s become a thing …!  David D’Souza – that character with a sharp wit, a Simpsons avatar on Twitter (@dds180) and a cheeky way of being, has created these 50 questions and now that’s become a thing.

Have you thought about the D’Souza 50 on the future?

Anyway, this isn’t a DDS love-in, it’s a serious attempt at answering 50 pretty tough, topical and tantalising questions about my obsession: the future of work.

Before I start, I do find myself in an interesting situation about the future of work.  On top of the very excellent sounding CIPD / Jericho Chambers event I couldn’t attend the other day under the hashtag #workischanging, we heard some interesting and challenging insight about the future of work.  A big tent apparently.  And some good tweet-able hors d’oeuvres of insight from Lynda Gratton, Peter Cheese and others.

Because you see, this future of work stuff is catching on.  In fact, I find myself sometimes in this bizarre situation of trying to out-future others.  I don’t do it because I want to be known as the number 1 futurologist.  I do it because I guess we all catch up with each other.  And I want to find new stuff to share.  So I am relevant, stretching and worth listening to.  So I out-future because I want to be more helpful to people.  It’s not like I roll my eyes at those who have just started quoting “machine learning” in their presentations. And I don’t VUCA-ise anything, I promise.  I DO though use the disruptive word and that makes me unpopular with some.  I use it sparingly and actually, I still find disruptive innovation a fascinating concept even though it’s now more hip to knock it’s teeth out and add it to Room 101 with employee engagement and the aforesaid VUCA.  Overuse and ignore disruptive innovation at your peril I say.

Anyway, I might try and out-future folks here but if I do it’s nothing more than stretching the frame and giving us a good old mind-tease.  Here goes for my attempts at D’Souza’s 50.

1.       What roles can’t be automated?

Like others I fail to see any role that won’t have some factor of automation in it.  We’re already seeing art created by randomised or programmed algorithms, so who are we to judge that a piece of art created by a connected series of devices isn’t valid?  “Just because we can etc” (Jeff Goldblum Jurassic Park quote) springs to mind.  Anyway,  I bang a drum on the return of craft. I think we can create making capacity so that we can counter the automation of lots of stuff with the time to be the crafter of one-offs.  Everything CAN be automated but not everything will need to be or desired by us to.

2.       What roles shouldn’t be automated?

See above.  Human touches are important.  I am not sure I’d want a robot teacher.  The danger of downtime or unexpected “update patched now needs to reboot” cannot be ignored when we’re reliant on automated tech, but equally it could be just nature’s way of teaching us lessons.  We should start from the “what’s best for the planet / humanity / individual choice” and work back from there.

3.       Financial markets, left to their own devices, aren’t good at accommodating a greater social purpose – do we need to take more of an interventionist stance to ensure greater societal benefit?

Yes I believe in a form of conscious capitalism (see Raj Sissodia’s work; Umair Haque’s New Capitalist Manifesto and more) and a system that doesn’t create hoarding-based inequality of wealth distribution.

The financial market – or invisible hand – is not a real thing.  It’s a system created by, and manipulated by, people.   I suspect, that as data collection and analysis increases and we can more deeply mine that data, and it would help us understand what we can truly create/mean by value.  This is where the blockchain could free us. So in this area, it’s worth knowing about the blockchain and crypto currencies.  Free from human interpretation and manipulation and regulated by unhackable algorithm, we may see a true and proper value assessment made on companies and linked to bonds which means we can properly evaluate “worth” in a fiscal sense.

4.       At what point do we stop running out of corporate scandals? How can we get more proactive at asking difficult questions of organisations as employees and consumers?

Ignoring the fact that this is 2 questions (so therefore it’s more like 51 questions), we may never run out of corporate scandals.  Some people just end up getting into situations where they use less than legal, ethical or moral ways to keep their business in an advantageous position.  People.  Organisations don’t do bad things, people do. Someone, somehow, puts pressure on others to do less then ethical things.  One way to counter this is with more transparency and inclusivity.  Trade secrets are competitive advantage.  Unethical practices hide behind corporate “in confidence” mentality.  So more openness about decision making and including people who act as internal ethical barometers will help guide people away from unjust actions (even if they have unjust thoughts).

5.       Does an organisation with a social purpose have an advantage or a limitation?

I think ALL organisations should exist for some social purpose.  If you make toys, you’re helping children make the most of childhood and learn and discover and use their imagination.  You’re not there just to make a ton of money from products.  Increasingly I hope we value social purpose way over profiteering.  Until we incentivise social purpose then we’re going to struggle.  As consumers, we should buy with a conscience wherever we can.  We need more information about ethical supply; environmental impact; charitable giving; tax compliance; pay differentiation and more.  Social purpose SHOULD be an advantage and we may see the openness of information create a competitive advantage.  See Justin Dillon’s work on Made In A Free World for more on how we can use information to inform our choices.

6.       What work might be most impacted by changes in international border policy or digitisation making borders redundant?

BIG question.  Digitisation does negate some border policies and previously held constructs based on sovereignty-based trade agreements and location-based natural asset utilisation.  Increasingly (and if you read Chris Anderson’s Makers this will chime) we can source products and materials and assemble whatever we want using our own digital infrastructure.  We can build/commission one-offs and not just mass produced everything.  Intermediaries (suppliers and component manufacturers) can help us and be unnecessary in equal measure.  With more making capacity (3D and 4D printers being one area) we could have a range of different choices as consumers which will reshape some of what we have long believed will be things people do.  We stopped sending so many letters (and instead sent emails) whilst then buying more through parcels so the postal delivery service shifted.  We’ll see even more of this in the coming 5-10 years.

7.       Who is accountable for my wellbeing?

We all are but especially you.  Digital support will be provided to help you manage your well being.

8.       If my employer is responsible for making sure I’m not under undue stress – then am I responsible for managing my diet to ensure I’m delivering peak performance?

Both of these things are interrelated and your physical and mental fitness are intertwined.  So yes.  People may adjust their diet +/- depending on stress but also boredom.  Convenience and habit.  Information and mythology.  It’s a dialogue between people in the responsible position of looking after your welfare in return for your labour; and you giving your best and expecting fair support in order to do so.

9.       Can you automate creativity – and if so will we still only feel something is creative if it is produced by a human?

No.  You can mechanise and automate the product of creativity.  You can reframe creativity to be machine-based random or interpretively created something but the essence of the word is spontaneous, elegant, mind-bending creativity that comes from being a sentient being.  You can automate discovery (research etc) that might lead to creativity but creativity itself – the untold genius of vision or artistic prose that comes from humans should – and I believe will – have MORE value in a more digitally enveloped future.

10.   How do we balance the concepts of diversity with the drive for cultural fit?

Cultural fit is the wrong phrase for me.  Cultural enrichment feels better to me.  “Let’s employ people who enrich our culture.”  There, it’s that easy. (!)

In my view, diversity and culture are part of the same DNA strands in the world of work.  You can create a better diversity of people in your organisation which WILL impact on the culture.  You can have a culture that attracts a more diverse range of people.  Even if it may not SEEM like you have a diverse workforce, you do.  You may seem to have a culture of a hard-nosed sales and macho achievement culture but you will have secret empathisers, rule benders, inclusiveness believers and kind givers.  There’s ALWAYS the espoused and externalised culture and then there’s the deeper shadow culture.  The secret is to have a less long shadow and more in the light and open.

I think you create balance when the two strands are SO intertwined you don’t see a difference – when you accept your openness might lead to challenge yet know your openness brings the most passionate and diverse thinking people to your positions.

11.   Is the Gen X,Y,Z & millennial terminology helpful for understanding or lazy stereotyping?

Lazy stereotyping.  Your date of birth determines some of the attitudes you’ve formed based on the world that you’ve operated in but at a point in time – i.e. NOW – we’re all more similar than we are different.  Unless you look for the differences and focus ONLY on those, does this stereotyping stuff make sense to you.  Sadly, many of us do only look for the differences.

12.   What’s the point of work? To get happiness? Make a difference? Recognition? Will the point of work change and how might it do so?

The point of work is is to provide.  Provide income, purpose, happiness, a point, help, salvation, comfort.  Let’s just leave it there.

Are multiple questions ever a good thing?  Do you think we should break them into one long question?  Why ask more than one thing at a time?

13.   How do we step away from a 9-5 working week construct together?

As soon as we can hopefully.  I don’t get why we’re so fixed on this pattern.  How is through the disaggregation of the things that hold 9-5 together.  School and working patterns.  Break them down you change the entire thing.  Digital connectivity gives us a chance to do more of this but in 10 years I hope we are going to see some newer ranges of working patterns emerging as norms.

14.   How much longer will income and wage inequality be tolerated by those on the wrong side of the stats?

Not for too long I hope.  I have faith that some kind of Moore’s Law (or Law of Accelerating Returns) will ensue here.  The more we’re narked about it the more it’ll see change as people drive things forward and momentum is gathered.  So let’s keep pushing this as fairness means we should all be vexed about this whatever side of the bar charts we’re on.

15.   How many more years of casual sexism in workplaces do we have before that dies a death?

I’ll give it 2 years maximum.  The more people think this will be tackled the less they’ll do it.  So let’s keep the pressure on that this will not be tolerated.

16.   If whole chunks of your life are viewable on the internet will we become more tolerating of mistakes at work?

Mistakes at work are often caused by some form of pressure, neglect or naivety.  We’re encouraging iteration and that mistakes will be made.  I believe we can judge a bold aspiration that didn’t quite work out versus wilful malevolence that damages people’s lives.  We don’t need an algorithm for everything.

17.   The image of everyone working on the beach is an attractive one – but what does this mean for introverts or people with mobility issues?

Introverts and people with mobility considerations will probably invent something that gives them a fair crack at working on the beach.  I’m an extrovert and dislike the beach.  Well sand particularly.  Give me the Cabana.

18.   Do I own my data or am I just a data point?

We don’t own anything – only rent it. So we are a data point.

19.   You can already automate ‘congratulations’ messages on Linkedin. How much effort can you remove from a gesture before it becomes meaningless?

I like to think of it as digital assistance and not digital replacement.  So add your own phrase to a prompted message and it’s the best of both worlds.  Therefore far from meaningless.

This response has been automated by the PerryBot.

20.   If I can outsource work cheaply to another country is that simply the free market in action (and an easy decision) or should I care more about the wellbeing of people I already employ?

Yes.  As an employer your duty of care is to your employees first and foremost.  You’ve invited them into your enterprise and will compensate them for their time, brilliance and efforts in return for sustaining your company purpose and reason for being.

21.   If work is to become more transient (the gig economy) then who takes responsibility for long term capability building of people? If I’m only with an organisation for 6 months then why would they invest in me?

Gig workers (!) looking after themselves is another form of self-directed learning.  It’s our own responsibility to be capable and companies benefitting from this will compensate accordingly.  If you’re a Gig worker and your clients take you for a ride (no I’m not talking Uber here), then acquire the capability to negotiate better and it should all work out fine.

22.   The more we understand about the mind the easier it is to manipulate it. How do we build in ethical safeguards within organisations?

We acquire the skill, know-how and ability to not be manipulated.  The more we know how to manipulate people through (say) behavioural economics then the more aware we become of BEING manipulated through nudges so we are more informed.  Organisations don’t build these safeguards, we should build them in ourselves with some help from educators, scientists and benevolent geniuses.

23.   How much do we really know about the organisations that curate the world’s information and present it back to you and how much do you need to know?

Not enough.  So we need to find out more and share amongst ourselves.

24.   Is happiness a legitimate business and economic outcome?

I prefer Menlo Innovation’s awesome CEO Rich Sheridan’s phrase of joy rather than happiness.  I think you can help people find happiness and that has a positive impact on an economical proposition.  When people experience joy in what they do, then work for them has a whole new meaning and drives a business forward constantly.  So create joy and experience happiness would be my way of framing this.

25.   What is the best way for groups to create influence and make a difference in a digital age?

Like-minded people come together and create a force majeure.  Now then, some people say that if all you do is hang around with like-minded people it’s a homogenous echo chamber.  Yet we all know we come together with people more strongly over shared interests so this is the digital tribes and communities we’re seeing all over.  So find your tribe and create the energy to do things that make a difference.

26.   Why do organisational IT solutions still tend to be more expensive yet less useful than consumer solutions?


27.   Does the age of automation mean that a universal basic payment to all is required?

Such a big question in so few words.  We’re yet to see whether this works BUT we know that some instances of being in poverty create helplessness and dependency that is harder to break.  Esteem and worth come into this a lot.  Automation COULD see us need to earn less to acquire what we need and live accordingly to more values-based things we do rather than value-acquisition things we do.  Tiny house movement, slow living, we’re seeing some anti-modernity movements that are creating a post-materialistic view of the world.  As the need for owning things goes down, so the feel of power in owning stuff is less desired.  I hope that some form of universal income provides the stabilised way of living, and that we can see more choices for people in how they do their thing for the world.

28.   When we do save time where does it go? For all the automation and efficiency I don’t hear many people saying they have more time to relax

I think we’re all a little way off of Tim Ferriss’s vision of a 4 hour work-week.  I’m going to pretend we’re in 2029.  I’ll be busy volunteering somewhere whilst getting my universal basic income.  I won’t have any more time to relax on my hands, yet I’ll be doing stuff I love and looking after people I care about.  So that’s time well spent for me.

29.   What aspects of our behaviour is it appropriate to legislate for? Is restricting access to company communications after hours unnecessarily interfering or saving us from ourselves?

More multiple questions?  Why is that?

I don’t like creating too many rules.  Educate and liberate not legislate and regulate.  Let’s spend more time helping people be better in a big old field than by providing electric tags and fences to keep them safe.

30.   Will you ever want a consoling hug from a robot?

Nope.  Robots might be fun but they have no soul.  Only humans and pets can do this hugging thing right.

31.   Why are so many organisations already designed and led as though the workers are robots?

Pin manufacturing has a lot to answer for.  Design will save the world, so I think we’re redesigning things like this right before our very eyes.

32.   What does not having to leave your home to work, socialise or shop do to fitness levels over time?

It makes sedentary ways easier but equally, convert your garage/bedroom into a gym and no problemo.  The streets are always there to run on.

33.   What are the chances the world left by this generation will be better than the one left to us?

Better can mean many things.  I HOPE we’re creating better opportunities in a Yin-Yang way to those things we thought would work out but aren’t doing so like pensions.  It’s the planet’s well-being that scares me most.

34.   Do children entering school need to read or write – or will those be surplus skills by the team they leave school?

You mean by the time they leave school?  Oh the irony in the typo.  We should always read and write is my view.  These developed technologies are at the heart of our most civilised moments.

35.   What are the issues that we are sleepwalking towards now that we will regret not taking action on sooner? (thanks to Siobhan Sheridan at the NSPCC for this)

We’re sleepwalking towards our over-reliance on digital without thought of the consequences of what we might be letting go of.  I love digital but I know that over-reliance on anything isn’t great.

36.   What are the opportunities that we will regret taking?

Wow – where’d this come from?  I think we’ll regret taking too few steps into education reform/recalibration whatever you want to call it.  We’ve made (IMHO) way too little progress in what education is, could be, should be and a lifelong learning approach to the world.  Too many people have stopped learning and are fixed in their views of themselves and the world and want to go backwards as a result of it.  Madiba had it right “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”  Yet it’s a political football, we’re locked into league tables and now grammar school arguments in this country.  We should all be more bothered about better education and that’s our big regret moment.

37.   How much of our enhanced technical capability will be channeled into solving societal problems and how much into increasing profits?

My dream is that these two combine so there is no distance or choice here.  I suspect (as we’re seeing now) profits are still driving the technical capability yet there is hope that tech will then also help societal problems incidentally.  I’d like to see it the other way around.

38.   How do you get a mortgage in the ‘Gig Economy’?

Some bright spark will set up a mortgage for Giggers.  Via an app.  And all algorithm based.

OR we dispense with this and some other form of domicile choice creates a new market.

39.   Does the Sharing Economy really share – or does it just collect a smaller margin from a larger volume of workers that are dependent? If we called it the Snaring Economy would it be such a popular concept?

It starts from sharing but it then gets a bit tenuous as it grows, scales and people start looking at money-making from it as the sole reason for doing so.  I don’t think it’s snaring I think it’s mis-sold and overused so there’s more due diligence needed when entering it. I will say it again: educate and liberate not regulate and legislate.

40.   When Prof Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and others describe AI as a potentially extinction level threat why do people think they are overstating it? When did we start thinking we had a better grasp on big issues than Stephen Hawking?

I take their words as a sound set of principles to adopt in ethical use of AI.  Watch them closely and heed their words but also other geniuses are available.

41.   How confident are you really that the Financial Services industry is now running as it should – and what are the knock on risks given the fragility of the world economy?

It’s a broken model struggling still.  I wish there were more convergence on what’s best for the world and not just the elite.

42.   How can we help design roles and organisations that make the most of people?

Listen, learn, let go.  We need – by we I mean all people at work – to activate our most imaginative, brave and curious selves.  Listen – to what others are saying and sharing that may influence your own desires.  Learn – experiment, experience and research those who are changing things.  Let go – we need to (as Alvin Toffler predicted in Future Shock) unlearn.  Letting go of things that no longer serve us well or service our needs must happen.  There are people doing this (check out and the for 2) so join in with them and help make the world’s biggest work-based redesign happen.

43.   What are the implications of the current level of gender imbalance within the tech sector over the next decade?

Bad.  We need more diversity of everything in tech.

44.   Much of the technology we utilise on a day to day basis would struggle to meet most people’s definition of an ethical supply chain. When do we start making different purchasing decisions?

Fairphone are trying.  And so we should keep the pressure on those who are being ethical in their supply and materials utilisation.  Again, see Justin Dillon’s work on Made In A Free World as an example.

45.   What are the best sources of information on the changing world of work and how can we ensure the independent voices are heard when organisations with the biggest budgets will be looking to exploit this space?

Each other.  Social Networks are the best form of pulsating insight ever.  Find the people, find the research, find the examples.  They’re normally not found on the mass media sites but in blogs on Medium, Twitter chats, SlideShare decks etc.

46.   People frequently talk about wanting more equality and higher living standards for others – yet how many people would give up, for instance, 25% of their salary in order to improve the living standards of others?

I think it’s more than giving up salary.  It’s channeling your political activism.  It’s supporting community and local groups.  It’s tough as time is hard to find but that’s my recommendation.  Don’t just chuck money at it.  Human endeavour will help more.

47.   How will we filter content effectively in the future and how open to abuse is that filtering process?

How much do you rely on the ethics of an algorithm which may enforce the echo chamber mindset?  I think filtering tools are already there and are already coming under scrutiny for what they filter.  Something like Wikipedia will probably pop up as an open-source community of hackers providing an Anonymous-like filtering tool to keep you in the driving seat of your autonomous media feed.

Did that even make sense?

48.   How do the business role models of the future act?

There’s a ton of them so they need to act in a symphony.  If we look at music we need to world to be like the Proms meets Glasto meets Ministry meets Madame Butterfly .  A collection of varying models, formats and approaches that are constantly evolving for better.  So they ACT like a planet full independent but interlinked eco-systems.  I’d like to see them all adopt a triple-bottom line though: best for the organisation and its people; the community and their people; the planet and all people.

49.   People cry when their pets die. What will be the first piece of technology that you cry over the loss of?

What kind of question is that to lead with..?  I won’t cry over any tech loss.  I will get angry and jubilant over some tech.  I will cry over the loss of compassion and tolerance that over-use of tech might bring us.

50.   If you had one contribution to make to making things just a little better over the next decade what would it be? 

Be part of something that boosts the way we educate each other for a more uncertain future.



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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately – which may or may not reflect other people’s view on the world we’re in.  We’ve been bombarded with events that are worrying, troublesome and downright despicable.  And I keep coming back to leaders.  Who are our the leaders in our world – stewards of direction and channellers of energy and those who focus our attention?

Whoever they are, they’re not doing that good a job of things at the minute as the world seems a more chaotic and damaged place this past few weeks.  Yet I’ve not been outwardly critical and have been looking for 2 things instead.  Intent and attitude.

Whether we need more of it or not, thinking and being philosophical on things isn’t easy, is sometimes derided (stop thinking, start doing) and challenges us in a world we can’t seem to make sense of hourly let alone weekly.  Yet thinking and taking a philosophical approach is probably needed now more than ever.  I was filled with anger on 23rd June at what had happened the day before in the country of my birth and residence.  I was filled with sadness at what happened in Turkey and continues to happen in the Middle East.  I was filled with despair over people’s actions in light of the referendum vote and the shootings and deaths in the USA I simply cannot quite believe.

I needed philosophy and thinking space and time more than I had done in a long long time.

I needed it and I revelled in it.  I withdrew from the world and I got on with trying to work out my emotions, feelings and put them into words so I could make some sense and get on with the doing bits of life.

I questioned my intent and attitude a lot.  I wanted to know what I thought of as important and what was now demanding my attention.  What was my intent on seeking answers when there was nothing but emotional anguish racing through my soul.  Well my intent was to not overreact.  Not to join in with something I then couldn’t back out of.  To not burn bridges and create stand offs and controversy that I wasn’t really ready for.  I asked myself what was my attitude during all this.  It bordered on arrogance, despair, judgement, disgust a range of things I don’t normally have to process.  And I checked in my attitude and I made it good.  Better.  More philosophical.  Only now can I address some thoughts of “what next?”  Only this week have I been able to make plans and start doing.  My attitude – it seems – is now one of determination, calmness, resolve and inclusion.

My intent now is to continue to make a positive difference in whatever way I can.  I have restored my faith in grasping complex issues and making sense of them in my world and in my way.  My intent is to be a participant in better.

I thought back to leaders I’d been around when things were tough.  I replayed scenarios in my mind and I looked for their intent and their attitudes.  Some were found wanting and had played an irrational, emotionally charged and controlling set of cards.  Some were found to be considered, let emotions be known but weren’t afraid to be uncommitted until they were ready and they had a clear grasp on the implications of their decisions on a better future.

So i found myself in appreciative recognition of those 2 words.  Intent. Attitude.  I looked then into those around me and their actions and words and sought out their intent and analysed and deduced their attitudes based on what I could as evidence.  I found many wanting and reacting in counter-productive even narcissistic and divisive ways.  I also found some with compassion, reason and focus that made sense to not only me but to the world I woke up in several weeks ago.

In this pacy world the pressure is on to form an opinion and make a call as quickly as possible for the time is now.  I still think there are times when we need pace and expedience.  And yet my own soul – healed somewhat through contemplation and thought – would say otherwise. Don’t rush unnecessarily.  I needed to show some emotion but I didn’t want to create a shit-storm of words that would box me in and create more grief not less.  I wanted to share what I wanted and keep what I didn’t.  I wanted people to know that glib wasn’t helpful and nor was gloating.  I wanted people to know that only.  Not what the final words were or the uptick of considered thinking was now like in descriptive terminology.  

And again, I thought of leaders.  Who people look up to when they can’t make sense of something and want others to guide the way.  They too need time to think, reflect, pause, consider and if that’s the case – tell people that and join in with them about the only certainty being there is a lack of certainty.

When this happens we might see their intent and attitude as enough for now.  Intent will show there is not ignorance or denial but intent to resolve.  That will do for now.  Attitude might show I’m pensive because it’s not clear.  I’m not committing because it’s too dangerous.  And that will do for now.

We’ll have a lot more challenges and anxiety to come maybe, but if we can be clear on our intent (and may need to be clearer as it forms into more cohesive references) and we can trust through a just and true attitude (which again, may alter as things become more known and clarified) then that will do for now.

We can learn a lot about ourselves when we question our own intent and our attitude to situations.  We can learn an awful lot about others when we do the same thing.  I guess my urge with this piece is that in lieu of certainty, clarity or comfort take heed from the mild inquisition into your own and others intent and attitude.  

My intent for this piece is to bring productive, thoughtful comfort to troubled times.  My attitude is to share and stimulate these words for the good of us all.  In a spirit of togetherness that transcends labels and percentages.  

I’m therefore standing by my intent and finding solace in my attitude.  I’ll be looking for the best of that in others too.  Especially those leading anyone else.


I’m chuffed to be going to, and being a part of, All About People.  Andy Swann and others are going to light up our brains, warm our hearts and fuel our souls with stories of organisations and places that are, All About People.

I’m even more chuffed to be hosting/facilitating a different kind of panel session.  One where the audience is as much the panel as a small team of “experts”.  David d’Souza and I will be working the room (he may not even know this yet – he’s expecting it to be a normal panel thing).

I’ve put the flow of the audience/panel session below so if you want to join in on Twitter or Facebook (#AAPConf) and be part of the virtual panel – here’s what we’ll be talking about and creating some thoughts and ideas about.

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It is, after all, not about a panel of people but ALL ABOUT PEOPLE.


WorldBlu Freedom at Work Summit 2016 (aka The Power Question summit) closed on 11 May with what can only be described as a moving, powerful and insightful series of speakers and activities.  Plus a Night of Honour that was truly a celebration of the best of the freedom-centred, democratic workplace fraternity.

We started with a piece of history in Arun Gandhi.  Grandson of Mahatma and leader of the Arun Gandhi Institute (

Describing – so eloquently as you’d expect – the impact of violence in the world we are in.  And not just physical violence but behaviour that is violent to the planet and to humanity.  Stories of mischief in his youth were then beautifully annexed the frame of penance not punishment.  Punishment being considered a violent act and penance a retribution of non-violent consequence.  When an everyday white lie was exposed, instead of punishment, his father insisted on an 18-mile walk home as penance for his (Arun’s) misdemeanour.  So guilt ridden was Arun, he drove at a slow pace following his father.  

Lying caused him spiritual pain through penance and not through physical short-term resentful punishment.

When Arun uttered the “be the change you wish to see in the world” phrase you couldn’t stop yourself from feeling his Grandfather’s legacy and the impact of this oft-quoted phrase was not lost – it was amplified.  It had true meaning.

“How do you follow Arun Gandhi as a speaker?”  said our next storyteller Sam Chaltain.

Well, you do so by touching people’s souls with a message of hope and imagination in the world of education.  Wonder ( is a challenger organisation (my words not Sam’s) who are creating a modern education system fit for the 21st century and our future.

Metaphorically, the opening slide – and highly emotional short film – of a murmuration of starlings gave us a sound basis for our thoughts and Sam’s words.  Human beings are not programmable vessels we are complex and adaptive and our systems for learning need also to be fit for that complexity and adaptiveness.  It’s like the worlds of Organisation Development and education collided in my head for the first time.  I had a bit of moment about that.  Something I love and know/work in and something I love and want desperately to improve and change but don’t know how suddenly felt like two forces of gravity on the same planet.

An organisation that looks to set learners free of restrictive homogenous curricula? (again my words not Sam’s). An organisation that will convert a disused warehouse into a magnificent learning space.  An organisation that teaches through projects not subjects.

And then we have the looming Singularity : The coming together of the human and the machine intelligence and capability – the ability to have recursive self improvement.

If we have enough problems educating people in the world of now, how on EARTH are we going to educate our children in this technologically advancing world?

And for whatever hype you think sits in and around the concept of the Singularity, there’s some pretty sharp predictions that this will be with us from 2040 – in the shape of us no longer being able to comprehend the technology we have is actually capable of.  Quantum dilemma ahead.

And leaving us with the most moving of films aboard a kayak watching a murmuration of starlings form and shape the sky was the perfect metaphorical end for something about individuals being shaped by life instead of individuals that are shaped by a system.

Moving stuff I can barely convey in words because emotions genuinely took me over in listening to this amazing story of what we should all be thinking about: education and children.

And as if that’s not enough we then took another step into an amazingly dark world of slavery across the world.  Children – mostly – but adults taken away from their free lives and put to work for nothing more than rudimentary living standards and threats of punishment and persecution.  

Justin Dillon talked of his journey through being in a band to discovering his purpose: to expose the slavery that exists in most every product we normally purchase and consume.  Made In A Free World is his enterprise aiming to expose those companies who have a traceable 100% ethical footprint.

That Justin emailed Steve Jobs about precious metals in Apple products and got a reply is testament to the power in this area.  

Not just a nice poster campaign and a movement of principle but a set of makers who can be relied on with products that are free from slavery.  And a tool for industries to check if their supply chain is high, medium or low risk of some form of slavery in the acquisition of materials, labour or supply.

A moving film showing a little 9 year old boy freed from slavery working moved us all to tears; when asked what do you want to be when he grows up he pointed at Justin: “like him” he said.

No child or adult deserves to work in dangerous or unhealthy conditions and absolutely no-one should be working in slavery of any kind.  Justin’s mission is to help people not just in those conditions but those who unknowingly perhaps, help it continue.

It makes you wonder at the state of the world and how money drives people to do such cruel things as trick teenagers into being trafficked and steal children from their parents.  As money is the catalyst for this to happen, money and choice can overcome it and make it truly a thing of the past.

So this was a pretty moving experience.  

And when we needed a hero, up pops the most humble sort; activist of the Occupy movement in Hong Kong Benny Tai.  A real sense of spirited journey through political and controlling administrations post the handover of Hong Kong to China from the UK.  Benny shared his most troubled times leading a movement to challenge the Government on democracy.

And yet it wasn’t about him, it was about those with him.  Benny is a force of nature but it is clear that you can see he is inspired by his mission, his beliefs and the people who join him.  To answer the call from the Lords of History is quite some personal feat.

And a yellow umbrella that signalled the resistance to force and power was most poignant.

And we weren’t done yet because those organisations that form the WorldBlu list and community had their turn.  Nathan Donaldson, Ed Wesley and Garry Ridge all underscored what freedom at work was about.  A bit of a fast-forward from slavery-supporting capitalism to a form of more humane and conscious commercial application, Boost, DreamHost and WD-40 are making good on their operating mode by being inclusive, imaginative and working without fear in hiring/letting go decisions; change and restructure and a culture of learning and support.

It’s not easy being human.  Especially in the working world we occupy now.

It’s not easy taking on the system, racketeers, a profit only mentality, controlism, fear-inducing power-hungry leaders, helping scared people and children.

It’s easier with a full heart, a clear head and emotional drive and belief though.  We need other people to help us do this and the WorldBlu community and its associations with Made In A Free World, Occupy and WonderByDesign are all showing us that the movement is to be respected and regarded.  Admired and enhanced.

We all live in a complex, adaptive system.  We all need to be aware of that and work with flow to bring the best from that complexity and be adaptive to the changes we need to make the world a really good place to be for us all.  Starting with our own self, our schools and our workplaces.  It’s becoming imperative we all work towards better and not just more.

Watch out world – freedom is coming to get you.

So I’ll leave you with Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” for that’s what we all felt after the most amazing WorldBlu summit experience.

Birds flying high you know how I feel

Sun in the sky, you know how I feel

Breeze drifing on by, you know how I feel.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me.

And I’m feeling good.


It’s Day 2 of the WorldBlu Power Question Summit in Miami and a day full of insight and conversational flow.

And it’s flow that I’m feeling. Flow as in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi variety. The right amount of skill and pressure to gain the state of optimum performance and application to something we want or need to do.


It was this state that kept popping into my head as we addressed fear.

Fear that we might fail. That we are ill equipped. That we are not allowed. That we are facing adversity we cannot contain or control.  Fear that others will think we’re out of our minds thinking it doing something.  Fear we don’t believe in ourselves. Fear we’ll compromise our values.

Many types of fear we face in our lives and ways of working.

With the scene set by Traci Fenton CEO of WorldBlu, we worked through some exercises that defined fear for us and gave a frame to the fears we have.


Henri Hyppönen kicked us off with his research into fear.


Fear that makes us less socially connected. Fear that makes our IQ drop. Fear that means we resist change.

And most importantly for – the plus point of the day for me – keep the fear outward facing in an organisation and create safety within it.

Henri stated there is a problem with a burning platform of fear to change: people may get burned on it.

Kirsty Spraggon is a sharp minded Aussie who has previously been a high performer in real estate sales.


And then she confronted a fear live on a TEDx stage in Malibu. Something that held her back for years. From that point on Kirsty provided inspiration to others to face similar fears and the story of one woman’s outing of a fear brought all to tears.

Kirsty left us with a great thought : if you bury the fear you also bury much potential joy in your life. And an A-Emotional hum to your life does you no good at all.

We heard of the fear of slowing down and of slow generally. Carl Honore has faced his  fear of slow and built slow, calm, in the moment to his life and he’s better in a dimensions. The stigma attached to slow is a societal pressure that is leading to over or peak work, low attention spans and snatched living.

We heard of the use of the Power Question to bring clarity to bear in both leading and change by Ed Wesley, Garry Ridge and Nathan Donaldson.

We heard of authentic push backs on bullying behaviour from Miranda Ash. Overcoming a fear of loss and discovery of a place of power despite the loss.

And we plotted our own fears and made sense of an inventory of fears.

We worked through a fear in details and  shared it with our thought partner.

And then we built our story through Travis Thomas and Mat Matheson’s improv techniques.

And my “a-ha” moment?

Something you fear and realise you need some work doing to? Let it out of your head and invite others in.

People care about what your fears are.  People want to help others through things that they fear.

And back to flow.

You are in optimum performance state when you have high skill and high pressure.

For high skill read tactics, definition and determined energy.  For skills you might not have, others may have to lend to your cause.

For high pressure read a situation of fear. Of significance. Of challenge.

Then you have freedom to flow. Creating a state of flow from a state of fear is likely to lead to resolution strategies, confident application and belief.

Freedom to believe in your state of flow to overcome fear and create action.



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WorldBlu Freedom at Work Summit 2016 (aka The Power Question summit) is underway here in Miami, FL.  Yesterday afternoon (May 9th) I had the absolute honour of co-facilitating an Open Space session with John Engle (CEO of Haiti Partners) and over 40 participants at this year’s event.


Expertly positioned by John, the participants formed the biggest circle possible in our Open Space.  One by one we did what used to be known as the “creeping death introductions session”; yet this was no cringeworthy exercise: This was where each participant revealed a piece of themselves in their pursuit and belief in freedom-centred working.

My contribution with John was to create the space and share the principles of the Open Space method and let the participants drive their contribution to the event and what was on their minds and in their hearts.

I positioned the question “How do you create a freedom-centred workplace?” yet I invited something much bigger, bolder and more personally powerful to those participants: today we could change the world we live in for better work and working lives for those around us and those coming on after us.  

We had the chance to feel the power within us and ask the questions that mattered to us and the world we work in to truly make a difference.  I felt a surge of emotion as I talked through my belief in the people in that room.  From Zappos to sole practitioners; from Nearsoft and Widen to Red Bubble and GE; from Haiti to Copenhagen; from New York to Cedar Rapids.  From first timers to veterans of the WorldBlu summit.  We ALL had something to bring, share and create.

We heard from growing democratic workplaces keen to see that growth continue but feeling the tension of challenge to the model that’s made the success possible.  

We heard that leadership in a democratic organisation is vital and that decentralisation is as critical.  

We heard about the rise of work-related stress and consideration that a democratic, freedom-centred way could be a way out of this “epidemic”.    

We heard from people keen to start their journey and others wanting to build a firmer epicentre of trust to what they already had.  

We heard about more fun in the workplace and the need for more diversity in that open, democratic workplace we already value.  

We heard that innovation, disruption and a sense of restlessness was a worthy consideration in working towards a freedom-centred vision.  

And we heard that we can all spread the word of democracy at work and invite the world to be more participative in something meaningful for all.

Most of what I heard was a power in each and every participant and therefore in each and every one of us.

We rarely gift ourselves with the realisation that power is in us.  We see power in others, in social and legal constructs, in collective affiliations and in politicians and companies.

We all have power.  All of us in the room yesterday afternoon are now part of something bigger than themselves and potentially bigger than we realised we were.

We have something to do. We have others with us in spirit, in mind and in soul.  We have asked of ourselves and we’ve invited and shared with others.  We have given ourselves the gift – even if momentarily – of power.

When we think of our power we may shy away from our potential or be just a little apprehensive about our impact on the world.

My hope is that we now think differently about the power in ourselves.  That we create a fusion of energy, belief and actions that helps realise the reason we were drawn to that room yesterday afternoon.

For in ourselves lies the true greatness we deserve to unleash on the world.  

Individually we may seem a mere atom in the cosmos yet connected to others as we did yesterday, we are the universe.  

The power of self.

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Johanna Wilde is a practitioner I had the pleasure of meeting in October last year around a conference on Organisation Design.  I recall us entering into some passionate discussions as part of an Open Space group and we seemed to have equal passion and Johanna tons more experience and wisdom.  Johanna posted a smart and short blog post

And I replied to it thus:

A leader that gets people up, tuned in, energised and applied towards something meaningful and useful is critical.

I’ve seen leaders hold a place together because at one level there are leaders with toxicity and greed, power-lust and ambition and that’s been countered by other leaders being human, smart, caring and responsive to people’s needs.

The best examples we’re seeing in the world of leadership are when the human and the dignified ambition combine to urge people onto great things collectively. THAT’S great leading in my view.

So this iS another post on leadership and it’s a reflection on what a leader can do in creating a place where human endeavour

(and I used those words in Post 1

thrives and gives rise to meaningful activities, fulfilling lives and joy in accomplishment.

A place where there is freedom.

Freedom to express yourself – who are you not just what do you do.

Freedom to be creative – show us what you think the world could be like.

Freedom to be collaborative – let others around you join in with the brilliance you want to be part of.

Freedom to be vulnerable – when things aren’t as they should be, there should be protection, preservation and perseverance.

Freedom to learn – let yourself go wild and find the things that make you a better human, a better part of something.

Freedom to celebrate – when your excitement at accomplishment is unstoppable and you want to let that joy out.

I’m not advocating we have a new model, a workshop or an event around these themes but I think I would desperately like those of you who read this and who have the privilege and the position of leading to take note:

When you think about you as a leader what do you TRULY believe others will say about you?

Will they say they have freedom to express, be creative, collaborative, vulnerable, to learn and to celebrate?  Or some or even one of these?

Because if they aren’t honestly able to attest to all 6 of these, then you my friend, have work to do.

This is not an all-knowing click-bait “6 things leaders need to do more of”.

It is though a plea from the soul of everyone who needs you to lead purely, clearly and with freedom in your heart.  And if you have fear, let the fear be known and be worked on together and not used as a springboard to power, push, assertion, direction and panic.


That’s why this next 3 days of insight and sharing at the WorldBlu Summit on the Power Question are so important to me and others:


What would you do if you weren’t afraid?


So leaders, what WOULD you do if you weren’t afraid?  Would you let people have the freedom to be, in the work they do with you?  Or will you control and be the thing other leaders think you ought to be?  Being yourself without fear holding you back, could open up something new, special and powerful in all the right ways.

So what WOULD you do if you weren’t afraid..? for more and #thepowerquestion #freedomatwork #WorldBluBritPack

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#WorldBluBritPack Blog 1 – The Power in Freedom.

There’s something in the air.  Frederic Laloux used this phrase and it was based on his much talked-about work featuring in the book “Reinventing Organisations”.  Teal organisations – whether you like the phrase or loathe it – is about a shift.  A shift in the way we – as endeavouring Human Beings are approaching and want to feel enabled by our work.  I don’t even like calling this sort of thing a job anymore.  The “job” proposition has such a controlled, locked in and owned feel to it.

My good friend Simon Heath has an even stronger view than mine saying “human endeavour is what gets the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.  Work is a damp fart”.  

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I get that I really do.  We should LOVE what we do.  Even if it feels a bit choresome – take pride and feel the sense of worth, value and accomplishment in what we do.  Our machine and commoditised existence means we have created low value jobs for people who don’t really want to do the work but need the money and that’s given rise to growing distrust in people.  That we have so much management and controlling policies is because we believe we cannot rely on ethics, principles or belief in each other.

I know the receptors in my brain light up when I’m given work to do that I KNOW will have a positive impact on others.  Whether that is actually fixing something or creating something new that delivers something better or more fulfilling than before.

I’m lucky and focused on who I’ve found to work with and believe in, and what I’ve found as the things that I NEED to work on.

#FreedomatWork is one of those.  Which is why I’m delighted to be headed to Miami to join the WorldBlu collective.  Even more than joining in I’ll be holding the space on a session on Monday as the soft start of a 3 day summit around the principles of democracy at work and the pursuit of freedom centred working and leading.

That we even NEED a summit like this is a shame.  Because in many respects and for a long time, we’ve dehumanised work and we’re about to see more work going the way of machines, technology and automated devices.  I won’t go down this route because this is a post derived from my belief in the human spirit and in the sense of purpose.

Back to there’s something in the air.

There is.  I don’t believe I’m alone in this but I know there are millions of doubters and deniers, decryers and denouncers.  Yet I can feel a gentle surge of humanism set against a forceful clinging of power by the incumbents.  

If there’s one thing I truly believe in it’s that overuse of power means it eventually destroys itself; and that hope, belief, compassion and generosity prevail.  It’s cyclical.  Dark needs light and good needs bad.  Yet the rhythm and the impact of both need to provide sustainable ways.  When we face adversity, we group and work together or we turn on each other and fragment  When there is no adversity, we create it and do the same.  It’s the rhythm of life, the force of nature whatever you want to call it.

Yet controlism has had it’s time in the light and now is – in my view – ready for the dark to allow freedom to come back into the light.

If you look at the world you’d think “sure there’s some developing nations but surely we’re more prosperous than ever (despite the odd 4-year crisis every 10 years).  We’re getting to live longer and diseases aren’t wiping us out like before.”  That may be the case in some places but drug addiction, crime, domestic violence, fraud,radicalism etc exists and creates disharmony and a challenge to living without fear.

If we don’t live without fear how can we possibly expect to work without fear?

Controlism causes the creation of new forms of anti-controlism.  Wealth creation but inequality brings discord and uprising.  Brutal regimes force people to fight back and overthrow them.

So the more we try and control people at work through systems, financial frameworks, managing, contractual and litigious ways the more people will feel the discord, fight back or withdraw and fight or flee from harm.

Controlism.  That’s what we need to be rebelling against by diverting our energies to whatever brings more freedom.  I see people light up when given the freedom they need and deserve yet even a tiny hint of suspicion and a feeling “can this be real?”.  SO used to controlism are we that are unsure when we are given freedom either because we’re conditioned to accept and work with controlism or that we feel no longer competent without controlling methods.

Freedom.  It is such a big and beautiful word.  Just the sense of it lifts my soul when I utter the words “I want to be free”.  When I hear people say “I felt so free…” I have the most empathic reaction and feel enriched by one simple word.  Freedom.

If you believe in yourself and in making a way through life that matter to YOU, then freedom is important.  

Freedom to work how you want.  

Freedom to live with who you want.

Freedom to choose the way to live that creates good for others (be it financial or otherwise).  

Freedom to create choices that do good.

Freedom to create more freedom for others.

There will be more from The Power Question Summit this week from me as part of the #WorldBluBritPack.

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The Power Question is WorldBlu’s focus for the summit in Miami between 9-11 May 2016 – “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Hope or Hype?  The Future of Work

BR Hope

So I read a great post by Ted Bauer and it was The Problem with the Future of Work. Found here:

A really good piece I thought – there is a lot of utopian guff about the future of work and I admit, I add to it.  

I was challenged by the post – it even got me a little annoyed because Ted had burst some of my bubbles a bit.  He’s entitled to do that though and I think it’s good people help me keep a sense check on a wildly optimistic view of the future.  And that happened recently to me too.  Someone very senior on a panel said “of course Perry’s right about the things he talks about with self-organising teams being successful but he’s wildly optimistic about it becoming a norm and taking over our workplaces.”  I didn’t disagree – it was an opinion and I respected it. I couldn’t counteract it as I didn’t have evidence – in fact there is no evidence to prove or disprove that this will or won’t be the norm.  There is evidence of the likelihood of this not being a norm but that’s now – not in the future.  

We don’t know what the future will bring or indeed when that will arrive.  Today is the future of yesterday.  We didn’t know exactly what our day would bring.  It’s happening now and so the data couldn’t have predicted everything that did happen even if it got some of it right.

When will the future of work arrive?  Well, I guess sooner or later.  I rarely stick a stake in the ground but I think that in 10 years time, there will be a lot we talk about now as the future, that has become a norm.  So the future will have arrived.  And there’ll be another future of work people will talk about.  And so it repeats.

Anyway, I have an ideological view of the future.  I don’t buy the dystopian version at all – though I like the caution and consideration I get about the future of work when I get sceptics and deniers all coming at me with their rational sense of reasoning and the like.

I have even described myself as a hopeless romantic about the future of work.  Except that’s doing me a massive disservice.  I am not hopeless at all I am hopeful.  Full of hope and to some, that’s a problem.  It’s the let-down, the come-down the absolute earth-shattering reality of things they want to protect me from.  Well I’m 48 years old, and still full of hope.  I don’t think I’m about to run out of it any time soon and so thanks for your concern.

I need hope.  I live for hope.  And I think hope lives within me.  I am romantic about the future of work because I believe in better.  Not the Sky strapline per se, but I believe that there is ALWAYS better to be had.  Better is quite a broad term I accept that, but I think you get my drift.  Better at, better for, better than before.

So the future of work will be better.  I believe we’re headed towards a series of shifts that in those 10 years I mentioned we’ll have better work.  Do I think work is better than 10 years ago?  From a personal perspective, totally.  From a wider perspective?  I think mostly so.  We’re safer at work; we’re rewarded in a wider range of ways.  We’re able to be more flexible.  We’re able to develop.  We’re able to create better lives for ourselves.  Pretty much anyway.  The 10 years ago me would loved what I have now, but then.  I didn’t even know I needed some of the things I now need from a fulfilling working life.

What was my prediction 10 years ago for my working future?  It was to have more opportunity; influence; be more learned; be more adaptable.  I didn’t have a future “role” I wanted.  I had hope then and I still have it now.  My future hope was I would have all these things and I have them – that’s the kind of better i believed in and have realised.

So I think I did alright in predicting my future so I now find myself having a go at predicting a wider future of work based on insight; belief; and yes, hope.

So I don’t share Ted’s view that none of the things we’re talking about the future of work resolving will shift or even disappear.  With a whole lot of hope turned into action and doing, we’re going to get there.  To a better future.

In the past, many employers weren’t good at their duty of care for their people – some were – a lot weren’t.  So people incurred injuries and poor conditions and some people unfortunately died through their work.  We’ve now seen most working conditions safer and more humane.  Legislation and societal pressures changed those dynamics and those similar forces can and will change some of what work needs for that future (even the version many of us utopian “thought leaders” share so avidly).

Sharing economy – hopeful.  Distribution of assets, wealth and opportunity.  OK, not perfect and not about to upend other economic models overnight but it’s giving rise to a lot of different opportunities and to some, is a future for them.

Self-organised teams – hopeful.  Distribution of power, meaningful working and choice.  Again, not for everyone and not solely going to destroy the hierarchy overnight but I hear more and more examples of this being more than one or two random outlier companies but enough to get more people adapting and taking on some or all of the traits of self-organised teams.

Flexible working – hopeful.  Distribution of the “workforce” to anywhere there’s an internet connection and at variable times.  Well this one we all recognise despite the fact there are still masses who squeeze themselves onto trains and into cars stuck in traffic jams.

I could go on.  So the future of work I predict / narrate / provoke thoughts about is something I believe in, am hopeful for and genuinely feel is coming.  It’s not just MY future of work this time unlike 10 years ago; for I now believe that MY work exists to help make work better for everyone.  Yes you read that right – I do what I do so it’s better for me AND all of you.

And that’s why I believe we will see some upending of bureaucracy, leadership, and structures.  Why we will see some eradication of toxic behaviours, fear-based controlism and archaic procedures.

There would have been men in the 1880s who would have said “the future of democracy will always be down to us – the menfolk”.  And then through the Suffragette movement, women were given the vote in the UK.

So this future hope / change thing can happen.  OK that’s one isolated example amongst many that have never happened but to live without hope?  To shoot down others hopes as wildly optimistic based on YOUR judgement and lens on the world?  To decry the trends and be hip by being anti-trendy isn’t being that helpful at all in my view.  

Where’s the evidence that this future will happen?  Well there isn’t any because it hasn’t happened yet.  There are indicators and some evidence based examples we can use to scenario plan, model and create.  So we have to rely on some data; some feelings; some beliefs and yes, some hope.

I think hope comes with baggage – sure.  I remember the venerable Dean Royles saying to me about his love of Sheffield United FC that it’s the losing and the ups and downs he can take – it’s the hope that makes it so hard.  As a Northampton Town fan I can empathise.  Yet here I sit writing this out having realised a hope of mine – that my team would win the league.

So the baggage is more/all about your view on the world.  My hope comes with letdowns sure.  But in all honesty, most of what I hope will happen does – in some shape or form.

Entrepreneurs are hopeful.  They hope their venture will turn into a success.  Inventors are hopeful.  Explorers are hopeful.  Where would the world be without these hopeful souls?

The future of work is about hope.  When all the component parts of it are revered and maligned, proven or denied it’s about hope.  Whether there’s hype to be found or otherwise, there’s hope.

Please don’t deny your hope, and especially not that of others through closed minds, cold hearts or stern words.

We may believe we have to stick with the forged shackles of now (and the past) as the best we’re ever going to get.

Yet a better future lies in the sustainable resource that is hope.  I believe in that hype.



Posted: February 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

Freedom At Work

Can you out-happy Henry Stewart?

At a round table dinner the other evening the topic of discussion was digital and the shifts we’re seeing (good and bad) through the introduction of more advanced digital technology.  The debate naturally moved into the realms of people and the way we work.  I uttered this phrase without really knowing where it came from but it stopped me in my tracks and was a real epiphany for me

Maybe we’ve hit peak work.

There’s ONLY so many hours in the day.  We ONLY have a certain number of kilojoules to put into our working lot.  We are sentient beings with capacity for much but we can become overwhelmed.  And we’re seemingly hitting that point of saturation.   Overwhelmed by the pace of things.  Tensed by the range of things we seem to cram into our lives.

So I think we have hit peak work.  Now Simon Heath has been on at this “work less” thing for a long time now and I’ve even challenged his view.  Based on what I love doing: my work.  I can’t get enough of it.  I read, research, watch.  Do, devour, discuss.  Think, trial and talk.   And to many it’s all work.  However, just because I have a high tolerance for it doesn’t mean we all should and even I’m getting to the point now where it’s beyond any capacity issue I’ve ever known.

It’s like we’ve been merrily tapping our feet to the classic concertos; then a little quicker with some improv jazz and now we’re on 160 beats per minute of drum ‘n’ bass.  And everyone’s trying to get on the dancefloor.  And we’re getting weary and our steps are out of time and we’re losing the excitement we had for the music that lifted us.

So what do we do?

Well if we all stop working then we’ll probably all create a whole new swathe of work for HR in disciplinaries and record numbers of sackings.

SO we have to look at the machinery that is doing this to us.  And digital technology is both our cure and our cause.

That’s not necessarily something we can and will wait for with baited breath if recent patterns are anything to go by.

What we can do now is shift our models, approaches and attitudes.

And the one thing that’s calling out is a move away from – as Professor Gary Hamel calls it – controlism; and into freedom.

Which is why I’m so behind what WorldBlu is all about.  Freedom at Work – organisational democracy.

I am fortunate enough to call Traci Fenton, Miranda Ash and others in #TeamBlu friends and compadres in the game of workplace change.  Add into the mix Peter Cheese from the CIPD and different business leaders like Rich Sheridan, Jos de Blok and Henry Stewart and you have people passionate and professional about the changes we need to see in much of what we call work today.  And some of that might mean less of it.

I’m not about to go travelling or sit in meditation for a few days at a time but what I am, is resolute in learning, reading, talking and sharing.  As well as working.  The future of work could be a very different proposition – and if you’re already over all the talk about the future of work then fine.  You might be in a good place personally and professionally.  Yet many aren’t so fortunate.

So if we don’t talk about a future better, then I fear we still bop along to an ever increasingly sped up soundtrack.  You might not like talk of the future of work as some Google-esque; hipster office in a converted lamp factory in Trendsville but it’s not THAT future I’m talking about.  It’s better in the coffee bars wherever they are.  The service stations en route to somewhere.  The engineering complex in a vast petro-chemical plant.  The tunnels keeping our sanitation going.  The eco-farming venture in rural anywhere.

Freedom at work isn’t some socialist ideology or as Traci Fenton calls it “all Kum By Yah”.

Freedom at work is the removal of oppressive bureaucracy and distrust; the un-domestication of people; the space to be human, autonomous, clear, inventive, passionate and committed.  And it might just mean freedom to work less.

I helped facilitate a discussion about women in leadership the other week.  And we ticked all the usual boxes of why there’s such a disparity and lack of opportunity and patronising rhetoric and more.  Yet something thing struck me and again it was one of those thoughts.

We no longer need a 5+2 week and should move to a 4+3 or similar.

This might court all sorts of controversy but in all seriousness, we’re not on as many production lines as we used to be.  We have enough people to spread the labour over a new way of working and schooling.  We have fixed on 5+2 but I can’t think of a really good reason why this is the case in a 24-7 always available world.  It’s not even 5+2 really.  We’ve simply slipped into 6.5 + 0.5 in many ways.

IF we moved to a 4+3 we’d have more freedom anyway.  We might see gender balances/biases and parenting shift to a better shared proposition.  We could see us able to give 4 days a lovely push and 3 a super recharge (or 3 and 4 the other way).

I’m one lone voice in a sea of stuck orthodoxies but believing in Freedom at Work is more than a simple tagline to something interesting, cool or viable.

It’s what we need.  And maybe, just maybe, WorldBlu’s philosophy is for now.  Maybe peak work is what we need to consign to a history lesson and talk of how daft we were working 70 hour weeks.  And how much more time we now have to learn, play, care, put back and be our own individual versions of a human triple-bottom-line.

We need a house sure.  But always a bigger one?  We need a car perhaps.  But always a faster or more stylish one?  We need clothes sure.  But always a new outfit for every event?

Are we in post-materialistic ways?  Not yet but I wonder if we’re starting to realise the acquisition of stuff is not really defining success.

Freedom at work isn’t because we are oppressed workers in satanic mills (though we still have too much child and forced labour in parts of the world).

Freedom at work is because we’re human, sentient, compassionate people who’ve been inadvertently rewired as gung-ho career jocks with little to show but a LinkedIn profile.

Freedom at work means happiness.

Peter Cheese quoted Aristotle at the recent WorldBlu event on freedom at work and it seems apt to finish this post with that very same post.


“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”