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The Reinvention of Work: Projects Not Positions

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Over the last 20 years work has been reinvented, restructured, and rebooted. The top-tier and bottom level of what working means has been redefined by corporations, visionaries, technologies and individuals. If you're looking for work, you're better off searching for projects, not positions these days. And if you ever wanted to pursue your own dreams, start your own business, or present your own bold idea at your current company, this is your moment. In Seth Godin's new book, The Icarus Deception, he encourages everyone to think like an artist in the workplace, or as an entrepreneur. For people already thinking this way, the ideas contained in this book make complete sense. If the concept of stirring things up with new ideas isn't something you're comfortable with, it's time to realize just how much the working landscape has changed.

If you're a member of the creative economy, as Richard Florida talked about in his book,
The Rise of the Creative Class, you already know that work comes in the form of projects. The part of the economy driven by cultural creatives is about bringing new ideas, inventions, and innovations to the marketplace. In a given week, a creative individual may work on a number of projects that will create new ways of presenting products, events, situations, services, and technologies. The essential ingredients necessary for just about any creative project to be a success are communication and an understanding of how everyone is contributing their talents to the project. With clear communication, mountains can be moved. Without it, pebbles will stay put.

We've entered an age of increased communication, powerful collaboration, and an explosion of creative solutions taking place at every level of society. Any organization or corporation not involved in social and cultural communication strategies is out of touch and quickly losing ground.

People don't have to work as hard to find out what the companies they may want to work for think and believe, since the information is just a click away. The quality of an organization's content is one of the most important choices they face, and choosing to enter the online dialogue has changed how major corporations are perceived. Within organizations, key creatives are tasked with the project of supporting the authentic voice of the brand.

Our economy has many layers, and work is on everyone's mind. A typical working day is filled with activities and projects. Workers go home to families and loved ones, and the early morning alarm sets the process in motion all over again. In the past, the project of a great many workers was simply to keep their head down and make a good impression to their customers or their supervisor. Fortunately, this limited viewpoint and outmoded workplace strategy is shifting to one of greater interaction and increased collaboration.

Citizens without work view work in another way. The see work as a hole in their lives that needs filling. Looking for work has become a project in itself, and for millions, it feels never-ending.

In this economic climate of decreased expectations, young people just out of college and burdened with enormous debt, are expected to be grateful to get low- or no-paying internships that may lead to future opportunities. Not exactly a rosy time to join the job market, begin a career, or gain valuable experience which will form the foundation of their entire future. In one law firm in Atlanta, a college degree is required to become a file clerk or in-house courier. When the lowest rung of the economic ladder is removed, how are citizens supposed to even think about getting into the workforce?

An ongoing project that belongs to all of us is making sure our voices are heard by local and national politicians. Quite often, politicians seem to view work only in the form of unemployment statistics. When, in reality, the numbers are skewed and will never tell the complete tale of what so many have gone through during this time of the reinvention of work, labor, and entire industries. The tug-of-war continues: politicians on one side suggest concrete ideas to help citizens gain a working foothold, and politicians on the other side shoot the ideas down as soon as they are put forth. Elected leaders are in place to represent the will of the people. Constant bickering isn't a pretty sight, whether on the playground or in the halls of Congress. The project on everyone's mind is how to get past the frustrations and blockages, and convince our leaders to get positive change happening again.

Working life has been reinvented in useful ways that have improved lives, and in catastrophic ways that have harmed workers. When the economic world was thought to be flat, as Thomas Friedman discussed in his book, The World is Flat, and millions of jobs were cyber-shipped overseas for the lowest rate, our own citizens came out on the losing end while mega-corporations pocketed the difference. As we all know, there was a steep price to pay for acting as if we lived on a flat game board instead of a living sphere.

The increasing need for jobs with a livable wage attached to them is not going to go away. A secure position in a stable company now seems like a distant dream that belonged to preceding generations, and how one views the daily fact of a working life is a personal, social, and life-altering fact of existence.

Whether one views oneself as a creator, a communicator, an innovator, or simply someone looking for their next position, we're going to continue to see industries reinvented and our culture impacted in major ways due to technological innovations, shifting generational expectations, and the complete loss of certain types of positions. One of our most essential projects is to reform, redefine, and reinvent what an engaging and successful working life means, on our own terms as much as anyone else's.