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Work Futures Supplement - Writings From The Archives


Work Futures

December 20 · Issue #1050 · View online
The ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

2018-12-20 - Beacon NY – I’ve been cleaning up the debris flow from the transition from Substack and other newsletter services, my misadventure at Medium, and other messes.
At any rate, one of the side effects is uncovering and moving to work and some old writings. This post is a collection of those links that might prove interesting, and I have decided to not include ‘From The Archives’ as a regular feature on Work Futures Daily.
Here you go. A selection of writings (mostly findable on from 2018 you may have missed:
Outcomes, not Output | 2018 | I had hoped that Sophie Leroy, an associate professor of organizational behavior at the University of Washington, would shed new insights on ‘productivity’ in this piece on Quartz (see An organizational behavior professor and a marketing SVP discuss our modern productivity predicament), but she immediately embraced the ‘productivity = amount of output per unit of input’ mindset.
Just to support that, here’s something from 2016, Progressivity, not Productivity:
We aren’t really designing tools or practices to increase output, per se, despite using the term ‘productivity’ so liberally. We are really seeking to improve outcomes, which is something different altogether. And that distinction is critical, because it opens the door to incorporating innovation, creativity, and the emergent value of people cooperating toward mutual ends.
So, I am advocating the term ‘progressivity’ in this way, as a replacement for ‘productivity’. The definition is derived from progressive:
favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are.
On AI-ification of Professional Work | 2018 | Ryan Avent provides us a closely reasoned analysis of the pros and (decidedly more) cons of the AI-ification of professional work in Then They Came for the Lawyers. He starts with a bit of history: skilled workers in the manufacturing sector had it pretty good until the machines showed up in the plants, and management started to push for machine-centric efficiency
On Evidence-Based Management | 2018| In a stark expose of the anti-scientism in today’s management, Eryn Brown investigates the sad state of affairs in ‘evidence-based management’, where findings from scientific research could be applied to critical management initiatives and decisions, but generally are not
On CEO Reflection | 2018 | In The Rewards of CEO Reflection, we need to amend the authors’ predilection to address their observations to CEOs and no one else. I think such an approach is limiting, and treats CEOs as some sort of alien species, so if you read the piece, whenever possible imagine generalizing their language in a more inclusive way.
On The Safety Net | 2018 | Sara Horowitz, the founder of The Freelancers Union, announced a new project in Future of Work 2.0: Building the Next Safety Net
On The Gig Economy | 2018 | The Economist presents us with an intriguing futures scenario in If Companies Had No Employees
Theory of AI Mind | 2018 | ‘Theory of Mind’ is the term used to characterize the ability of people to imagine the mental states of other people, to put themselves in the heads of others, and to create a representation of what others are thinking. We do this as a matter of course. But researchers have demonstrated a means to endow AI with theory of mind, so one AI could in principle infer what another was 'thinking’.
On ‘Collaboration’ | 2018 | Sue Shellenbarger** unpacks the unquestioned notions about ‘collaboration’ at work. (I put in scare quotes, because we use the term in so many ways, it means everything and nothing.) In this case, she’s referring to the demands on our time that comes from being asked to participate in too many projects, sit in on too many meetings, and respond to requests for assistance too frequently.
On Constructive Uncertainty | 2018 | Will Richardson drew my attention to a piece by Margaret Wheatley that I had missed somehow, called Willing to Be Disturbed:
We weren’t trained to admit we don’t know. Most of us were taught to sound certain and confident, to state our opinion as if it were true. We haven’t been rewarded for being confused. Or for asking more questions rather than giving quick answers. We’ve also spent many years listening to others mainly to determine whether we agree with them or not. We don’t have time or interest to sit and listen to those who think differently than we do.
On Bosslessness | 2018 | André Spicer debunks the utopian ideal of bosslessness, saying that companies like Valve and others that have theoretically dispensed with a hierarchy and the notion of ‘working for’ other people are actually operating on undefined and hidden power structures.
On Anger: Not A Negative Emotion After All? | 2018 | Until the corporations and politicos read the research and started manipulating us through anger
On The Social Tipping Point | 2018 | Damon Centola, with coauthors Joshua Becker, Devon Brackbill, and Andrea Baronchelli, have published a paper, Experimental evidence for tipping points in social convention. You need at least 25% to adopt new behavior for the group as a whole to shift.
What Does Alternative Work Mean? | 2018 | Danny Vinik says it means an increasingly precarious work existence, with lower pay, fewer benefits, and less security
The Lifetime Wage Gap Between Men and Women | 2018 | In How Big Is the Male-Female Wage Gap, Really?Annie Lowrey tells us there’s many ways to measure the wage gap between men and women,
An Endless Black Friday of the Soul | 2018 | In Everything Is for Sale Now. Even Us. Ruth Whippman chillingly profiles where the gig economy has taken us
The Hidden Economics of Ideas |2018 | Ideas are getting harder and harder to find:
There is a widely held view in Silicon Valley and within the zeitgeist of entrepreneurialism that good ideas are commonplace, and that execution of ideas is what matters for business success. However, there is compelling evidence that knocks that conventional wisdom off its pedestal. A group of economists have released a working paper — Are Ideas Getting Harder To Find? — that argues the opposite.
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Stowe Boyd, 17 South Cedar Street, Beacon NY 12508