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I believe in work.
The capacity to perform work — to shape the world and make our ideas manifest — is among the highest privileges of being human. Any capability so powerful is worth thinking deeply about.
I believe work can be a vehicle for personal growth.
It isn’t obvious at first, but work can provide opportunities for nearly every aspect of personal growth: learning, perspective, self-expression, self-affirmation, status and prestige, self-sufficiency, self-discovery, and making a positive impact on the world.
Any experience in life can inspire growth. I figure, why not choose the activity you spend most of your life doing anyway? Personal growth is expensive, and work conveniently provides both a forum and a funding mechanism.
I believe work can be an act of self-expression.
It doesn’t happen automatically, but people can imbue their work with the passion, the creativity, and the purpose that give their life meaning.
This is different from doing what you love all the time. Passion needs truth, and the world into which we send our work is nothing if not truthful.
I believe work can and should be intensely enjoyable.
I don’t believe that we should have to suffer to produce our life’s work. Beyond being useful, working can be exquisitely fun. At its best, it provides the ideal conditions for human happiness: working in small teams under difficult conditions, striving against all odds toward a goal bigger than ourselves.
As children, we recognize no division between labor and play. The reinvention of work is really the remembering of a time when there was nothing but action and perception, intertwined in an endless fascination with the world around us.
I believe productivity is an excellent sandbox for life.
Anything worth doing, and especially anything we have to do, is worth doing well. Productivity makes an excellent sandbox because it operates according to the same principles found in any other area of life.
And it leaks — success in productivity is easily translated to success elsewhere. If we want to free up time and energy to pursue what matters to us, it’s a good idea to start by streamlining the boring but necessary activities we have to do to get by.
I believe we need a new conception of what work is and what it’s for.
This new conception requires careful thought and intellectual rigor. It requires sensitivity to the innate needs and abilities of humans. It will require operating from first principles and borrowing from extremely diverse sources with an open mind.
What constrains the performance of most workers today is not their capability or creativity, but decaying institutions founded on outdated conceptions of labor. The traditional dream of rags to riches has been replaced by a new one: the dream of a sustainable quality of life, in every sense of the word.
I believe a new conception of work will require radically new productivity methods.
Technology gives us unprecedented leverage, but on its own is of little value. What’s hard to change is everything that surrounds it — the rules, the mental models, the policies and procedures, the habits, the self-narratives, and the paradigms.
These things take much longer to change, and they don’t follow exponential growth curves. But they determine what impact a new technology has on real organizations and real people.
I believe the main obstacle to adopting new productivity methods is people’s limiting beliefs
Most people defend the system as it exists, because change seems threatening. Change evokes fear, anxiety, overwhelm, and resistance. It doesn’t feel like we have the bandwidth for it. It doesn’t feel like we have a say in how change happens.
Which is why the work of improving the productivity of knowledge workers is really the work of guiding personal growth. It involves helping people understand themselves, get in touch with what they really want, and reframe limiting beliefs, with empathy and a sincere intention to help.
I believe design is very close to the core of what it means to be human.
Humans are designers. Our ability to create, to invent, to author new things is mysterious and audacious.
Which is why the field of design, very broadly defined, is one of the most fertile disciplines for us to draw on in our reinvention of productivity. Design has made technology more humane; it can do the same for productivity.
This requires, first and foremost, showing people that they are designers, by nature if not by profession. Next, it requires teaching them how to design their own methods, for their own circumstances and their own needs.
I believe we can design a way of working in which the interests of employees and employers are fundamentally aligned.
This hasn’t been the historical norm, but there’s no reason we can’t make it happen.
It will require new methods that leverage the unique qualities of humans, instead of suppressing them. It will require making it possible for people to bring their whole selves to work. It will depend on human creativity and intuition, not be threatened by it.
Organizations can become platforms for humans to reach their full potential, and in the process benefit from unleashing that immense source of energy.
I believe a new way of working will require a whole new infrastructure.
Everyone has the motive to author their own life. Most also have opportunities of one kind or another.
Creating a new infrastructure to produce these tools and train people in their use is one of the highest-leverage opportunities in the world today.
I believe the reinvention of work is an urgent matter.
Look around the world today — how many crises and controversies can in some way be linked back to outdated conceptions of work?
The economy, jobs, education, income, quality of life, equal opportunity, social mobility, the cohesiveness of families and communities — in all these areas in which we have so much trouble making progress, the essential nature of work goes unchallenged.
I believe we urgently need a movement to reshape not only our conception of work but the institutions, systems, contracts, and relationships that stand upon it. There’s no time to wait.
I believe the future of work must be human-centered.
A new definition of work must put human beings at the center. Work doesn’t have to make us suffer. It doesn’t have to destroy us. People are not only the means but also the ultimate end of a more productive and purposeful society.
The future of work is about providing opportunities for pragmatic imagination to take hold in a new generation, for deriving pleasure from one’s professional life, for people to function as human beings, rather than resources, in the workplace.