A little history of Listening to the Future and Management by Design and how they are related.
Listening to the Future isn’t so much a book idea as it was a repository for a number of ideas I was already working on at Microsoft. Scenarios lie at the core of Listening to the Future, the idea that we have to grapple with the future, that we can’t just consider on possibility, but that we need to name uncertainty and then explore how various uncertainties might resolve themselves over time (and in relationship to one another).
Colleague and then Microsoft contractor Rob Salkowtiz and I cobbled together Listening to the Future from a number of white papers on the future of work, the scenario planning material I developed for marketing and analysis purposes, and lessons learned about the scenario process that either appeared in, or was originally developed for, magazines. Although Listening to the Future went into production very quickly, it was really the result of about four-years of work.
The Future of Work scenarios created the context for what would become the New World of Work presentation that Bill Gates delivered at the CEO Summit in 2005. I then used that presentation and white paper as the jumping off-point for the development of a series of thought leadership white papers that covered a wide range of topics, most of them represented by Microsoft’s public sector and Enterprise and Partner teams. Using the scenarios to explore everything from education to manufacturing, we developed papers that we forward looking not just at the technology, but at the context of the industry. Eventually Microsoft subsidiaries decided to not only talk about, but adopt the New World of Work, and lead by the Microsoft Dutch subsidiary in Amsterdam, that transformation continues.
During this time, I kept seeing one pattern reoccur that I could not write about because it didn’t appear to be many people worrying about it much. I have since found that a few more people than I imagined care about it, but at the time, I simply found work experiences broken. They were broken in the US, in Europe and in Asia.
The Dutch transformation journey hinted at some rules, but it would be more than 3-years and many nights and weekends before I found a set of principles and a flow that could be used effectively to design a work experience. The last few weeks of flack taken sent Apple’s way over outsourced working conditions demonstrates that much still needs to be done to make companies realize that investing in their work experience is a positive for employee retention and satisfaction, but it is also a social good. So as the General Editor of the Microsoft Executive Book Series, I decided I would write a management book to address this issue. A future of work in which working conditions were not addressed would not be the most positive future one might imagine.
After completing that book, Microsoft and I parted ways, and Wiley, the publisher, decided to pull the book from the Microsoft series and publish it without the extra imprint.
Since then I have given webinars and keynotes across the US and in Europe on work experience design. We can worry all we want about technology about skills and about markets, but if we forget that fundamentally all of those serve, or are in service too, the worker, then we need to apply a reasonable methodology to the design of work experience. I think Management by Design creates such a methodology.
So the work leading to a book on the future of work begat a book on a work experience design methodology.
But the useful interaction does not stop there. I realized after writing Management by Design that the outcomes of the design work would benefit from scenario-based wind tunneling. You could play the designs through various futures to see how resilient they are against different social, economic, political and economic assumptions.
Note: If you haven’t had the opportunity to purchase Listening to the Future and Management by Design visit my bookstore here.