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Ep. 67: Gary Bolles and the future of work

Watch our interview with Gary on Youtube.

Gary Bolles is Chair for the Future of Work at Singularity University, the author of "The Next Rules of Work", and an expert in how jobs, teams, and organizations will evolve in the years ahead.

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Show notes

  • Gary has a few different roles: he's a chair for the future of work with Singularity University, he's published a book on the same subject, he runs a small consulting firm, and he has numerous courses on LinkedIn.
  • Thomas asks what's driving the Great Resignation, a phenomenon in which people are leaving their old jobs by the thousands in search of other opportunities.
  • This was the subject of a recent solo interview that Trent and Thomas did together.
  • Gary thinks two things are happening: as a result of the COVID19 pandemic many people began to question where they were in life and whether they were doing what they loved to do, and the requirements of living with the pandemic began to change how work is viewed.
  • He goes on to say that there are six different facets of the diamond of work--who, what, when, where, why, and how. Covid changed the 'where', and for some people it changed the 'why'.
  • One of the dangers of a steady, long-term career is complacency. People will often get into a routine and stop growing as human beings.
  • Trent asks what the long-term consequences of the Great Resignation will be.
  • Gary notes that some things are hard to rollback. Now that people have experienced greater agency in their jobs they're unlikely to go back to cubicles and rigid schedules.
  • This presents a challenge to managers who might still be operating under the old rules of work. Many feel the need to constantly supervise employees through 'management by surveillance'. Today, companies are discovering that productivity might actually increase with employees working from home and being largely unsupervised.
  • CEOs have also found that people are much more concerned with finding purpose in their work. They want to be in charge, they want to define their own work hours, they want to determine which problems they can focus on, they want to determine who they work with. There's all this agency.
  • Gary believes this greater focus on purpose and agency to be fundamental. Managers, leaders, and everyone in the hierarchy will need to grapple with this change.
  • Thomas then asks about automation and the future of work. Gary notes that these concerns go back much further than the Luddites, with Aristotle having worried that someone would build a machine to play the lyre. Ultimately, though, what will be automated is individual tasks, not entire jobs, and so work will become easier and easier in the decades ahead.
  • This and more about union activity, the gig economy in the episode!
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