A room full of London Business School MBAs, students and professors is an intense and stimulating place, especially when the speaker is the charming and polished Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management and author of ‘Hot Spots’, and especially when the presentation and discussion are about the future of work (http://www.lyndagratton.com/).

Lynda presented research conducted amongst 200 senior HR and management specialists and the conclusions were both positive and negative and largely focused on the impact on humans rather than on structures. It was an evening when MBAs spoke of feelings and fears.

On the dark side of the spectrum, the revolution which we will continue to experience in the workplace won’t stop, and its negatives – if left unchecked in a state which Gratton described as the ‘default’ future – include isolation, fragmentation, exclusion, addiction and narcissism. 

The consensus of the group is that globalisation has peaked and the ‘fragmentation’ refers as much to the next phase, which will see micro-enterprise and specialised business flourish as to our daily challenge to fight interruption in the work place, and to find continuum and peace in which to think.

In a more virtual workplace, relieved of the badges, such as the car, corner office, titles, apparel, which lend us status, how we promote and express our personal brand will be key. Indeed, in the era or portfolio working and micro-enterprises, personal branding will overtake corporate and employer brandings as the focus of our attention.

The positive side of the spectrum – and interestingly, this part of the debate was dominated by women in the room – sees a future of much greater choice, transparency and co-creation, in which the energy of connected and innovative crowds supersedes the current dominance of isolated, competitive individuals – at least in business.

Gratton spoke of how the research had showed people predicted a need to specialise and to have deep mastery of a particular sector, craft or skill, in a world where creativity and empathy are highly valued. 

Several times, the need to re-evaluate the meaning of value, reward and profit in business was raised.

To my mind there is a key driver to achieving this positive future and that is a rethink on communications – in a world where, by 2025, 5 billion people will be connected on mobile devices worldwide, the only way to leverage benefit from this huge crowd – is to communicate better.

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