We’ve been very interested in the ideas that Tim O’Reilly has offered in his book WTF: What’s the Future and Why Its Up to Us.  He is uniquely positioned to describe possible scenarios for how the unfolding digital age could take shape, and asserts that we will shape it (not the machines), either by default or by design.  The difference will be whether or not we recognize the choices we have along the way.

One topic in particular seems to be front of mind for Tim: how people fit into the new world of work.

For us at DSE, a core value is unlocking human potential, from senior leadership to a brand new recruit.  We’ve always championed the people of an organization, in whom there is great potential (sometimes untapped) to carry the mission forward.

So what has been the paradigm shift for us in light of Tim’s book?  It is how we see these people who enable us to reach our targeted outcomes.  More specifically, it is how we see human labor within the business model itself.

Traditionally, human labor is seen as a cost.  Above the line.  To be minimized.

What if human labor is seen as an investment instead?  As such, returns go to labor as much as to capital?

Tim O’Reilly would argue that the digital age enables such a paradigm shift.  Technologies are creating a new world of work, one in which much of what people have traditionally done will be done by machines, or at least augmented by machines.  People will be needed for other kinds of work that machines can not do.

In the emerging digital era, it is possible that our business models can shift, such that people can can be seen not as a cost to be minimized, but as an investment to be rewarded, developed, and further deployed.

For a sneak peek into Tim’s ideas on the subject, and other related topics, check out McKinsey Global Institute’s podcast, The New World of Work:  How can business leaders, policymakers, and individuals prepare today for the jobs of tomorrow?

Let us know what you think about this potential paradigm shift.  We’re eager to engage with other bright, forward-thinking leaders.  Our value of unlocking human potential applies to ourselves as well – these kinds of conversations are critical to that end.  We look forward to thinking through the ramifications of these kinds of shifts together with you!