This is a conversation about the future of work. Consider this a half formed thought, but one which i’ve been chasing around for a while now. As part of the work exploring where we go, ‘Beyond Organisations’, and linked into the work on the Socially Dynamic Organisation, i’ve been considering a broad shift, away from ‘domain specificity’ (where we are excellent within a discipline), into a generalised specificity (where our excellence is distributed).
Before you comment, i realise that a ‘generalised specificity’ is a tautology, but i’m unsure how better to represent the concept: i don’t mean that we need just more generalists, but rather that there is likely to be a specific capability around ‘generalism’.
Much of the professionalisation of work in the last two hundred years or so has seen the rise of domains, with underlying educational and development pathways, which have bought with them a segmentation of power, and a general constraint. The differentiating behaviours of the Social Age are one of interconnectivity: connecting knowledge to need, people to community, and surplus to need.
The rise of socially collaborative technology has, itself, seen a rise in recognition of the need for connective skills: Social Capital, as i call it within the Social Leadership work. The skills and behaviours that bond communities, that connect.
Formal domains have long held power, through their spans of control, but as the taxonomy of knowledge evolves, away from formally held and tightly controlled, through to being more dynamic, co-created, adaptive, and socially held, so too do the mechanisms of power, and spans of control, that lie underneath it.
This speaks to every dimension of our challenge: to evolve Organisations into a new structure, which is less domain specific, more an interconnected network, running on the social currencies of pride, trust, and respect, as much as the formal currencies of money and control. Purpose led, Socially Dynamic.
These changes will also blow back to models of education, and the very notion of career, as well as the respective structures that support those two things. No longer universities as places, but rather as lifelong communities perhaps, and no longer organisations as the backbone of career, but rather tribes and connections.
We will still build our domain specificity, and expert knowledge, but perhaps connected through generalised specificity, strong Social Capital, and an ability to connect, to create, and moderate, new knowledge.
This is an imperfect first pass through this language: part of #WorkingOutLoud is to rehearse and prototype new thinking and vocabulary, and to share that not with an intent to be right, but to learn to be closer to a new understanding.