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Work Futures Daily - The Coming of the Work Cloud

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Sam Lessin on work moving to the cloud, Conway’s Law, How Sears treated workers compared to Amazon, E
 

Work Futures

October 25 · Issue #1018 · View online
The ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

Sam Lessin on work moving to the cloud, Conway’s Law, How Sears treated workers compared to Amazon, Embracing imperfection, Nifty AR demo

Beacon NY - 2018-10-25 — I First heard of Sam Lessin when he started drop.io, the cleverly designed file-sharing service which was quickly acquihired by Facebook. He’s a smart designer, but I diverge from his thinking about work platforms, below.
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Long Takes
The Coming of the Human Knowledge-Work Cloud | Sam Lessin reports that ‘knowledge work is going to move to a model much like how cloud computing works today, backed by a combination of humans and machines’. Yes, exactly. Still, I don’t buy his handwave that ‘new machines aren’t going to put us out of jobs in the 21st century, just as they didn’t in the successive waves of the industrial revolution a few hundred years ago’. He offers no proof or analysis.
I also disagree with his nod to Frederick Taylor, and this premise:
The no. 1 thing that is needed in order to drive the future of a knowledge-work cloud is technology that allows us to measure the process and performance of knowledge workers.
No, the no. 1 thing that is needed for the future of work is migrating our organizations onto work platforms that will enable ecosystem economics.
Maybe Lessin’s 'knowledge work cloud’ is intended to be something like the work platforms that I and others have written about. Maybe. But his focus on Taylorist reduction of knowledge work into tasks mediating by a 'knowledge work cloud factory’ is not the Evolution of the Platform Organization I recently wrote about. That vision is about non-linear scaling of productivity, that
will start with modern highly scaled computing platforms, but supporting platform protocols that allow ecosystem members to cooperate. This will also involve AI and augmented reality, 5G, and a long list of other emerging technologies that leapfrog ahead.
[…]
Platforms take on some of the work that markets have been doing in earlier eras, with platform protocols reducing friction in cross organizational and cross-team interactions, and avoiding conflict even in competitive situations.
And the efficiencies take place on several dimensions. Since teams can become 'microenterprises’ – to use the Rendanheyi term [from Zhang Ruimin of Haier] – and they can run in parallel, non-linearly.
But Lessin is right about the size and scale of the opportunity, and work automation will be a major factor. But the real boost will come from the shift to platform organizations that inherit the economics of ecosystems.
Architectural Innovation, not Disruptive Innovation | Esko Kilpi tweeted this piece I wrote, so here it is. I am working on a chapter of a book on disruption, and this is just some background on a piece by Tim Harford.
Conway’s Law (Framework of the Day) | Noah Brier wrote this about Conway’s Law: 'Systems resemble the organizations that produced them’, which is an instance of the 'mirroring hypothesis’. He cites Carliss Baldwin, who wrote:
The mirroring of technical dependencies and organizational ties can be explained as an approach to organizational problem-solving that conserves scarce cognitive resources. People charged with implementing complex projects or processes are inevitably faced with interdependencies that create technical problems and conflicts in real time. They must arrive at solutions that take account of the technical constraints; hence, they must communicate with one another and cooperate to solve their problems. Communication channels, collocation, and employment relations are organizational ties that support communication and cooperation between individuals, and thus, we should expect to see a very close relationship—technically a homomorphism—between a network graph of technical dependencies within a complex system and network graphs of organizational ties showing communication channels, collocation, and employment relations.
He also talks about Tim Harwood’s paper on Architectural Inovation. Go read it.
When Sears Flourished, So Did Workers. At Amazon, It’s More Complicated. | How Sears – in its heyday – treated workers compared to Amazon today. The larger story is about corporate America across the board:
Companies like Procter & Gamble, S.C. Johnson, Hallmark Cards and U.S. Steel all embraced profit-sharing and were part of a corporate movement to encourage the practice, he said.
Among some leading executives in the early to mid-20th century, Professor Blasi said, “there was a notion that wages were not enough and workers had a right to share in the fruits of their labor.”
In the executive suite, however, profit-sharing still flourishes. While 68 percent of workers who earn more than $75,000 benefit from it, only 20 percent of workers earning less than $30,000 do, according to Professor Blasi. The decline of profit-sharing for the latter group has accelerated in recent years, with the median annual grant falling to $300 in 2014 from $921 in 2002.
While Amazon is relatively generous by present-day standards for full-time employees, the majority of warehouse employees are hourly low-paid workers, and Amazon will be phasing out the stock program they had until this month. The company is providing raises of at least $1.25 an hour, plus cash bonuses. Spokeswoman Ashley Robinson said,
The significant increase in hourly cash wages effective Nov. 1 more than compensates for the phaseout of incentive pay and future stock grants.
But having stock creates a different connection to the company, and Amazon has decided to give that up.
Short Takes
Embracing Imperfection | I really enjoyed where Van Miranda was taking me in this piece about letting the bots handle the ‘machinery’ of work management, but when I clicked on the link to awesome.ai I found this:
Magic UX by Special Projects | A cool demo about augmented reality user experience, with some applicability to work.
From the Archives
How To Make Progress When No One Agrees | I interviewed a number of bright folks about making progress.
Quote of the Day
It’s not a revolution if nobody loses.
| Clay Shirky
Crossposted from workfutures.org. There’s lots more there!
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