The New Ways We'll Work

We’ve all been hearing about it for awhile. The internet is here disrupting jobs, changing the economy, instigating global changes like Arab spring. It’s opening markets and creating new cultural norms.

But I don’t think the shock waves have really *hit* yet. 

I think our work is changing, ultimately for the better, but painful in the transition and I wanted to outline a few thoughts on what these shifts look like.

The first is related to specific jobs we work. The number one most common job in the country is Truck driving, yet self-driving cars and trucks are sure to completely obliterate those jobs. Any non-creative job, based on executing a specific task, will be replaced by tech that can do it faster, without mistakes, and 24/7. It’s a no brainer for industries, and inevitable in it’s approach. The jobs we worked changed when the internet was introduced, and they’re going to change again once some of the true fruit of the early internet comes to bear. It’s all about creative problem solving, and adapting to change. Maximizing efficiency will be left to the robots. 

The 2nd is related to the way we define our “jobs.”

When Uber scaled up at incredible light speed, it did so through the “gig” or contract economy. The drivers that work for Uber and other ride sharing companies aren’t technically employed by Uber, yet Uber shares 80% of it’s revenue with them. And there’s countless other companies like this. Zirtual, 99 Designs, Fiverr. These marketplaces that support freelancers or contractors, but don’t follow typical “hiring” and employment models (as in Healthcare, coming into the office etc.).

Of course this has been in massive debate from a legal perspective, but the problem they’ll face in that battle is that, for example: many of the drivers for Uber are pro-Uber. I find it hard to believe we’ll have less companies of this structure (i.e. a centralized mothership who’s work is done in mass via contractors).

*By 2020, more than 40% of the US workforce will be so-called contingent workers, according to a study conducted by software company Intuit in 2010. That’s more than 60 million people.*

When we define our careers by our employer, it turns into a “I sorta work for them”, and I’m “sorta independent.”

People will rep their side-hustles too. “Well, I design for x agency during the day but on weekends I sell hand made children’s toys.”

When we hire, should we be worried if you don’t have something else you’re pursuing? 

Anyways, getting carried away here. 

The point is you can choose when you work, how much money you make, and when you take vacation. I’ll cover more of this in a minute.

The 3rd shift is related to the types of companies that exist. When Instagram was sold for $1Billion it only had roughly 40 employees. 

We see value creation can come from a very tiny group of individuals at scale because it’s aided by technology. Bring on Ai’s problem solving capabilities, and a small team will have infinitely more brain-capacity than those with a large employee base.

More notably, I think we will see a complete change in the average scale of the majority of companies that exist. This change will be;

Either a scaling down (to 1–100 employees) OR a scaling up ( to 2–5–10,000+). 

With that middle ground, the companies 100–1,000 employees generally being very scarce.

I’m calling these two types of companies “Massive Giants” and “Small Tribe” companies. 

Due to a number of market forces, Ai’s role in the workplace, and winner take all verticals wherein first mover advantage, companies to scale to a point they will virtually outpace competitors for years, thus growing Massive.

Due to the reaction to the phenomena above, to stay profitable in this landscape, we’ll see Small Tribe Companies, tiny, nimble, Maintaining low-overhead to thrive. The good news is there are a ton of opportunities here, but small tribe companies means wearing many hats, and dead weight is essential to cut. 

I want to write more about Small-Tribe-Companies as I think they will be a super interesting change to the business landscape. Will try and follow up another time.

4th is diversification of Revenue. Yes, you may still work your 9–5, but these many extra marketplaces give people earning potential outside of their current employment. It’s easier than ever to sell on Etsy, teach workshops or webinars, or have your side-hustle make you extra cash. We’re no longer satisfied fully with the direct 1–1 salary. (Or it’s no longer paying the bills) 

For example renting your place on Airbnb has unlocked new earning potential for millions. I expect this to only continue as more sharing economy opportunities open up to lease out our assets, like the boat you never use or even your car when you’re away.

Thinking you only have 1 source of income or salary might be seen as crazy. Maybe you can even sell your data, or your genome, or any other host of things.

The 5th shift is career hopping and growing through acquisition. 

The good news it, my guess is that there will be more company acquisitions than ever over the coming years. If it’s true that the trend is that we move towards companies that are either “Massive Giants” (~10k employees) or small tribe (even 1–10), acquisition will be the smartest way for companies to grow and inject smart, new talent. Not to mention all of the mid market companies will face existential crisis in the midst of these changes, and need to scale down or pursue an acquirer. What that means for employees is a few things. 

  1. Get used to the company you work for being brought under the wings of someone else (this can be a good thing!). 
  2. If you’re working for the “Giants” it may be hard to hop down to the small tribe companies, but you will have an easy time swinging between the companies at the top. We already see this with massive talent wars that go on between Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Google. 
  3. If you’re in a Small Tribe company, you’ll find more longevity with the people you work with, but only if you NAIL your value prop among the group. Small Tribe companies care more about People + Potential than Power and Promotion.

I’ll follow up with more thoughts on this another time, and maybe some personal anecdotes of these phenomena, most notably all this activity around tight knit creative groups or these “Small-Tribes” that are building the flooring of the internet age’s second inning.

Did you like this format/commentary — would love to hear a response!