A Third Way of Work

December 17, 2013 3 Comments

Stowe Boyd has posted a provocative and largely resonant manifesto on the future of work.  Our ways of doing business are thoroughly obsolete,  “only 29% [of workers] are actively engaged with work.”  If this obsolescence is true for the private sector, it is even more true for those of us who work for justice.

We should have never organized our work the same way factories do it.  We should always keep a movement perspective, our mindset must transcend organizational constraints.  My belief is that those of us who have committed our lives to the quest of justice should actually be leading the charge in reorganizing how we work together.

Boyd reminds us that “the third way of work is as big a break with the industrial model as the industrial model was with the time of artisanal and agricultural work that preceded the rise of steam power and electricity.”  He says that this “new way of work runs more like a forest or a city than a machine. We need to learn by imitating rich ecosystems, where the appearance of chaos yields to emergent order, and reject order imposed by fiat.”

At the heart of this shift is a move away from “coercion” as a way to get things done, and a move to a sort of cooperation that actually engages those who are called to do the work.  Boyd goes even further, with an indictment of the traditional strategic plan that should loudly resonate in those stuffy conference rooms where where funders gather and strive to come up with a master plan for building movement:

The growing uncertainties in complex, interconnected, global economy means that predicting the future and judging risks has become extremely difficult if not impossible. Therefore, the notion of organizing any reasonably sized company around a single ‘official future’ is broken. We’ll need to adopt a laissez-faire operating system for business, where many experiments based on different hypotheses can run in parallel, instead of lining up all the troops and making them march to a single unified strategic plan.

Stowe Boyd remains my go-to futurist on matters of organizing how we achieve big things together.  This is an exciting time to be alive.  Stepping into the future requires a letting go of the past.


  • Curtis Ogden says:

    Beautiful, Gibran. Thanks for this! I had just read this quote by JFK before reading your post – “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss
    the future.” Resonance!

    Also wanted to mention the interesting model that exists in the Freelancers Union organizing around and adding value to a network of independent agents. I’ve been learning more about them through my brother who is a member and fan. Really appreciate what they are up to and what Sara Horowitz is promoting in the New Mutualism – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sara-horowitz/what-is-new-mutualism_b_4303316.html

  • GibranX says:

    We are swimming in the same waters! Stowe Boyd introduced me to Horowitz’s work and the freelancers union! The New Mutualism beckons!

  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    Thanks Gibrán. Lots of good connections between power, love and networks lurking in these thoughts!

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