The Future of Work

The weeks following a vacation often feel like a settling of the score.  Almost by design, they exist to make a person question whether or not the vacation was worth it.  There are emails piled up.  There are deadlines that seemed distant and manageable suddenly breathing down your throat.  And there is a line of coworkers outside of your office waiting to pounce on you while you cling to the remains of comfortable euphoria.

That is not the week I had.

Besides landing two exciting new clients that I had been courting for quite some time, I also was exposed to two people who are new to me who have both fired me up.

Chris Barbin, CEO of Appirio, and Michael Botticelli, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) would not immediately seem to have much in common.  But they do.  They are both innovators and they both hooked me this week with their unique ideas for the problems that exist in their distinctly unique worlds.

First, Barbin and Appirio are of particular importance to Indianapolis.  The innovative IT, cloud strategy and management consulting firm has grown its presence in Indy from 20 employees in 2012, to 151 by the end of this year and a projected total of nearly 600 by 2020.  Any city loves to have new businesses growing in it.  But the topic of Barbin’s presentation at the Economic Club of Indiana on Tuesday, was the battle to recruit top talent, and how that battle will change the future of work.

The IT industry competes for talent like no other today.  And as a result, the players in the field have been forced to find new ways to win the employees that make their service delivery possible.  From complimentary gourmet dining in the workplace cafeteria to ping pong tables in the conference rooms, any attractive perk is possible.  But Barbin’s plan starts with a concept called “crowdsourcing” and ends with employees finding their own way to deliver for their employers–and from their own environment.

Think of all of the components of your employer’s cause, and then think of how and from where these components can be gathered to result in the delivery of that cause.  Once the unnecessary boundaries of centralized locations (i.e. offices), unproductive personnel rules (i.e. dress codes), and a long list of others are removed, the future of work starts to look very different.  For example, the office I occupy is largely unnecessary as it pertains to my service delivery.  And it’s expensive. That expense doesn’t make my product better, or my employer more profitable.  And on and on.  I can’t do all of my job from some remote location in the Caribbean, but I can do half of it there.  And in Barbin’s world, that is the kind of choice an employer can offer an employee in the future that certainly makes a difference during recruitment.  Oddly, with cold weather coming to the Midwest, I agree.

Appirio chose Indianapolis as the right place to grow its business.  The city needs to do its part to make sure we are a place where their employees want to be–or innovative employment ideas will easily drive its people away.

Michael Botticelli has a new approach to an old problem also. He has the job formerly known as the “drug czar.”  First, he wants to drop that title because he thinks it represents the old “drug war” approach to battling our nation’s drug problem, an approach that has failed.  He wants our strategy to address our nation’s drug problem to start from the acknowledgement that addiction is a disease. That acknowledgement by itself leads policy decisions down a different path.  It leads toward solutions to the fundamental problem that are cheaper and predictably more successful. And yes, it is a shift away from incarceration and a big step toward treating the problem as a health crisis.

CBS’ 60 Minutes feature on him last week reported that 120 Americans die every day as a result of drug overdoses.  That’s more than auto accidents or gun violence. Botticelli accurately describes the disease of addiction as the only disorder we allow to progress to its most acute state before we begin to treat it.  “Hitting bottom” as the starting point for treatment is a mistake, he says.  And further, we are not able to arrest and imprison our way through this problem.

The heroin epidemic, for example, has grown out of the medical community’s own overprescribing of opiate based pain medicines.  These drugs and heroin act remarkably similar to the addict. We can help ourselves by addressing this problematic healthcare strategy.

in short, solutions to addiction present themselves when we acknowledge our failed policies of the past and start utilizing addiction recovery strategies that work. And maybe then we can stop incarcerating addicts simply because we are mad at them.

Barbin and Botticelli both want to do things differently.  I am sold on their fresh approaches to challenges.  Challenges that really aren’t very new.

The future of work is an exciting one.  The digital age will allow our generation to enjoy it and thrive from it.

My generation has grown up during the war on drugs.  A war we lost.  In economic terms, I am optimistic I will see the drug war shift from fighting the supply-side of it, to an equal investment in fighting the demand-side of it in the future.

Both of these guys have great new ideas.  And my big idea of the week is to get them together.  Crowdsourcing and recovery services put together.

Hopefully these idea men will think about it.