Friday, August 3, 2012

Work: Exchange > Shared value > Systemic value

Our inhuman paradigm for employment narrows the focus on the value opportunities from work.  Our drive for efficiency is inefficient by neglecting the unseen.

Working with the Collaboratory in Melbourne, I've been involved in working on (thinking about and designing) collaboration and 'work' relationships that are completely different to the simplistic arrangements I am used to.

You know the ones - you get paid to turn up at a workplace for a period of time and process the abstract outputs of an elaborate performance system - i.e. do work in exchange for money.  In these situations, efficiency is the overarching goal.

What that does is pit your core activity, the 'work' you are paid for, against other sources of value.  Development and learning are performed through 'training' - a separate activity, with its own budget or allocation, for which you take time out of your 'work'.  Same as 'innovation' - well no, typically you don't take time out for it, and there's no budget. But the dominant way of understanding innovation is as a process distinct from work.  And of course there are breaks, and leisure - actually doing what you want to.  For many people, there is no greater definer of work than the catch 22: that it is the opposite of -but also necessary for- leisure!

When you aren't paying people, instead of asking how much you need to pay someone to do what you want (and whether it's worth it!), you ask what they want, and how you can work together to achieve that whilst also achieving your own goals.  And then - other goals too!

The magic is not so much the common value in an exchange, a binary combination of two vectors - but that it opens you up to a completely different philosophy of value creation.  Because it opens you up to considering not two contrasting goals, but a broad field of motivations - part of a complex system of value creation.  It offers a philosophy of work that is not an exchange, but a process of systemic optimisation.

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