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What is the future of working life?

Kirsi Juva | 14.03.2011

The claim that “in the future, work will resemble jazz improvisation” that I heard from Professor Kirsi Lonka has made me think.

Since I’m not a jazz musician, I’ll quote Wikipedia instead of providing an anecdote:

“… it is music that includes qualities such as “swinging”, improvising, group interaction, developing an “individual voice” and being “open” to different musical possibilities.”

I believe that these elements will play a strong role in many jobs of the future. (Note that the accuracy of the metaphor is down to the quotes – think of the terms metaphorically rather than literally.)

We work more and more with others instead of alone. Work is increasingly founded on teams of people working together to solve problems or create something new. In other words, a wide range of skills is the result of coming together as a team.

I am certain that more people would vote for collaboration than against it. I also believe that we all, unfortunately, have at least as many stories about not-so-successful as of successful collaboration. Why is that? Perhaps because, if I’m allowed to be a little provocative here, many of us have learned to collaborate in the “Finnish” way; you know, where the team assigns tasks, disperses to work on them individually and then one unfortunate team member has the honour of moulding the outcomes into “team work”.

But what could be the Finnish teamwork model of the future? I suggest you go and visit the Design Factory at Aalto University to see what’s going on there. There is so much collaboration there you can almost touch it and it certainly seems to be producing some very interesting results.
The Oivallus (or Competence Needs of Learning Networks) project of the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK explores the future competence needs of the economy. What will work be like? How will it be done? What are the skills needed in the future? How should we train ourselves for future work? Kirsi Juva is the Project Manager of the Oivallus project. »

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