The New Ways of Work are already here

NetGeners, who have been online since birth, take this speed, agility, and reach for granted.  As they join the workforce, they bring with them New Ways of Work. In many cases, more senior members of the organization perceive fundamental differences between the behaviors, values, and norms of the newcomers (and others embracing these new technologies) with the values and norms of those accustomed to traditional working environments. Executives find that they are expected to be leaders in these emerging ‘new’ organization and are wondering what this means for the future of their organizations.

What is seen that some companies have no restrictions on employee use of the Internet during working hours, allowing them to surf the Internet in search of new ideas and customers as well as linking to other individuals on social networks. Others are absolutely convinced that there is no direct linkage between social media and the work their employees are doing and consequently close all the social websites in an attempt to force their employees to “think only about work” in the working hours.

While the pioneering companies that are experimenting with, or even embracing, the affordances of social media will ultimately come out ahead, it is still early to say that the companies that take a more reactive tactic are misguided. It is suggested that trying to change employee behavior and establish norms through only technical or policy barriers is limiting.  Employee behavior, technology, and social norms are linked and coevolve, and an organization that attempts to change one without being aware of this coevolution process is likely to fail.

The general feeling of the top managers seems to be that their employees use Facebook or Twitter at work to communicate with their friends about private topics. The observations indicate that the younger employees place a high value on their connections and will still find ways to communicate, if not in one company, then in another.

Executives believe that strategic management level has to deal with the New Ways of Work rather than leaving the issue to be dealt with by the operational level.

As with other organizational transformations and major changes, the adoption of New Ways of Work in a particular organization will respond to corporate leadership and the resulting organizational culture. If senior managers use a variety of communication tools and social websites, the rest of the organization is likely to adopt this same behavior. If the CEO and other C-level executives have no clue how to use Skype or communicate via Facebook, the culture is unlikely to support employees who want to use these tools.

For most firms, the discussion about New Ways of Work with the executives has been accepted as an issue about positioning New Ways of Work into the companies’ overall strategy.

Virtually all executives are confident that they must develop New Ways of Work in this rapidly changing environment. What form it takes is still emerging as firms experiment with different structures and organizational styles; executives recognize that their organizations are not confined to adapting to dominant industry structures, but instead can shape future structures through their own action.

The immediate challenges are twofold and go beyond simply introducing technology into the workplace. The first challenge is the integration of NetGeners and the accompanying behaviors (regardless of age) into the workforce.  The second is conceptualizing knowledge work processes in ways that take advantage of social media.  These two challenges are related and are addressed simultaneously.

New technology in the organization brings with it different behaviour, social norms, and values.  The result is that executives must acknowledge that these introductions require re-thinking the current organizational structure and established human resource routines if the firm is to meet the expectations of the technologically savvy generation whose learning preferences and styles differ a lot from the once of their predecessors.

Meeting the expectations of NetGeners is not simply to attract and retain knowledge workers, however. Many members of this generation have illustrated, through their games and entrepreneurship, how distributed knowledge-intensive work can be conducted efficiently. The characteristics of their approaches include, among other approaches, flat hierarchies, high levels of self-organisation, and even consensus-based decisions, facilitated by frequent and intense communication through a variety of channels.

A new world of work is already emerging. The fundamentals of competition for knowledge-intensive firms remain continued learning and a capability to apply new knowledge quickly.  Some executives have begun to deal with those issues and introduce new practices (unified communication, virtual teams and projects) sufficient to satisfy the needs of the newcomers though new work practices and even recognition of an “entirely new worker identity”.

For many executives, this will pose the ultimate challenge: a change in organizational culture when the workforce is comprised partially of aging boomers comfortable with established routines and systems and partially of newcomers who comfortable with the wider variety of communication channels. Social media can facilitate and shape the emergence this culture, but executives must lead by choosing the platforms and being visible examples of the desired communication practices.

All in all, New Ways of Work require a rethinking of organizational strategy.  Strategic agility requires dealing with competitiveness in attracting and retaining a creative workforce that engages talent throughout the career life cycle: before graduation from college and even after an employee leaves.  The broader implications are that leaders will need to re-think how to organize and manage knowledge work.  Instead of considering dynamism as primarily a market side factor, organizations also must consider dynamism from the resource side (especially the creativity represented by the knowledge workers).  In the larger knowledge ecosystem, leaders must consider not only firm-firm strategic partnerships, but they must develop a capability to sustain networks in which individuals rather than firms “own” the relationships.

New Ways of Work engagement will sooner or later be implemented by leaders across a wide range of knowledge-intensive industry and service sectors.  It is expected that the pioneering companies to enjoy the advantages afforded to first movers; others may have to play from behind.

The New Ways of Work phenomenon is international.  The technological affordances of social media are not bounded geographically, only by Internet access, and adoption rates continue to grow. Social media is a disruptive technology, and firms that do not include these technologies in their quest for strategic agility undoubtedly will be playing catch up to those that do.

Challenges of the Work of the Future

Members of the millennial generation (Gen Y — those born around 1980 and later) are entering the knowledge management workforce. They are comfortable using social media and other communications technologies. They bring into the workplace behaviours, norms and values that often appear at odds with expectations and practices in traditional organizations.  Social media enables — even demands — new ways of knowledge work — but the resulting tensions create challenges for executives.

Challenge 1:  The Talent Life Cycle

Young knowledge workers entering the workplace bring with them a new dimension of dynamics: they demand personal development through challenging tasks, job flexibility that is higher than what baby boomers would have preferred (and have accepted), participation in development towards objectives that matter to them, and flexibility in connecting and developing their own networks. Such preferences pose challenges to organizations.

In the eyes of the executives, creative knowledge workers determine the competitive advantage of the firm and represent the capabilities for continued learning. The executives recognize that knowledge and learning are not simply an individual capability but one that is manifest through work teams and the organization as a whole.

New Motivations and Values

Young people who grew up with mobile phones and computers exhibit different values and beliefs than their predecessors. They do not adapt easily to the industrial ways of working, hierarchical organizations, and bureaucratic decision-making modes that have been accepted by baby boomers. This generation is about making a difference, meeting a challenge, and always progressing in their capabilities. These drivers, more than job stability and routine, motivate this generation of workers.

They frequently assume personal responsibility to make the best out of every job. They expect professional development of their skills and are not satisfied with remaining in the same position for long. Therefore, “career paths” for knowledge workers are more dynamic and less predictable than they once were. The job stability preferred by the baby boomers is slowly being replaced by a desire for vigorous professional development.

Solution:  Re-think the Management of Knowledge Workers

Search for challenging projects. For digital natives, having fun while working and being a part of what ‘changes the world’ plays a crucial role in the work they do. Therefore, many firms have opened the social network sites for employees. If employees work during their “non-working” hours, they can do private networking during their workday. Many firms already provide opportunities for flexible working environment (people can work from anywhere they want); home office opportunities (this is especially crucial for women with children); and interesting jobs that bring self-realization and self-satisfaction. Such firms are sure that challenging projects in which employees can develop their own ideas and be creative provide more incentives to the digital natives than a higher salary.

Opportunities for development rather than promotion. People like to succeed, and the millennials are no exception. They demand more personal responsibility for what they do, but they want to be rewarded for their contributions and performance. Therefore, progressive companies encourage employees’ learning and development as well as provide alternative reward paths. They organize seminars and conferences where employees can share their success stories and give advice to those who is still looking for new opportunities.

More personal responsibility. Several firms long ago began building the relationships with their workers on results orientation and trust rather than on directing and controlling time spent in the office. These firms trust the workers to be capable and do the work needed in the time framework required. To accomplish this, they ensure a dense communication pattern: they discuss with the employees what they expect and communicate the realistic goals to which they have agreed.

Solution:  Resolving the Issue of Short Tenure 

Executives recognize the mobility and increased dynamism of the human resource. As long-life employment becomes rare, fewer young employees stay at the same work place for several years. They become nomadic workers not only in terms of work space flexibility and work from anywhere, but they desire flexibility in where they choose to work.

Millennials feel they easily could move from company to company; there seems to be little stress associated with losing one’s job.

Approach: Create and invest in alumni networks. What firms need to do is accept when employees choose to leave, recognize their valued service, but engage them in alumni networks so they remain connected. They have to keep track of what their former employees do and where they work: invite them to the annual Christmas dinners and keep them in their network of knowledge assets. This not only widens the company’s network but gives young people the chance to come back to the firm when the good opportunity arises. This approach serves as a powerful resource for identifying new talent and maintaining an engaged network as a source of new ideas and learning.

Challenge 2:  Core Resources — they are not just inside the organization

It now becomes increasingly clear that firms acknowledge the importance of the networks and develop ways of building trust in them. The networks are about interactions that maintain the ties between individuals, but they also are about getting access to new knowledge and information embedded in these networks.

The use of social media has made it possible for professionals around the globe to get advice from their colleagues and share experiences with a mouse click. Utilizing the vast amount of resources that are available online available tends to make access more valued than self-creation. As the technology makes this easier, the focus shifts from simple factual knowledge exchanges to enabling tacit exchanges and collaboration among trusted members of the network.

Question of Control

The cross-boundary nature of the individual networks raises the question of how an organization can control the flow of information in these networks and what should be the role of management in this more open information environment.  If individuals’ loyalties shift away from their employer toward their personal networks, how should executives approach this new environment? Although many organizations express concern over the risk of potential loss of proprietary knowledge, others express optimism that the benefits outweigh the risks.

The key seems to be an organizational agility to embrace openness and the opportunities for learning through the individual networks. Corporations have used similar approaches before to building strategic partnerships between and among firms with whom they could cooperate.  The difference now is that the networks are individual and potentially more collaborative.

Challenge 3:  A New Communication Network Ecology

The emphasis on the use of social media for marketing and HR purposes is diminishing as firms recognize the limitations of treating social media like other marketing channels. The more community-based communication and collective actions permitted by collaboration platforms and shared workspaces has made a dramatic shift from physical meetings to virtual working environment where project and human resource management, technical support, training and networking are done from anywhere.

The variety of communication channels (SMS, Twitter, email, phone, video-conference, shared workspace etc.) also increases and blurs boundaries between customers and employees, business and private.

The capabilities for virtual collaboration are enhanced with the wider range of opportunities for shared storage and even processing capacity in “the cloud,” enabling greater organizational agility for knowledge work across boundaries.

Solution:  Getting Engaged

The more possibilities the firms provide to the employees to stay connected, the greater access they will have for new knowledge and ideas. Collaboration platforms, shared data storage, wikis, blogs, and forums — both inside and outside the firm — enlarge the range of resources available to the firm and leverage existing investments. The emerging network environment does preclude the loss of control but does require executives to rethink the means by which risk is managed. Only by remaining engaged with the emerging information ecology can firms maintain an awareness of the expanded opportunities for learning and creating value. Managing risks through limited experimentation and bounded engagement with the wider networks will be a better choice than staying on the sidelines. Engagement is a better choice than the certain risk of being left behind by the competition.

Industry 4.0 in the food sector

Technology evolves at a rapid pace and organizations must adapt to changes as soon as possible in order to generate sources of competitive advantage. The digitalization of the industry is a revolution that will change (and in fact is already changing) the paradigm of industrial manufacturing, and those organizations that will manage to catch the wave of Industry 4.0 will achieve success in their respective sectors. However, this transformation is not only affecting the secondary or industrial sector, but is also affecting processes in sectors traditionally considered less innovative, such as the primary sector.

In some farms, for example, GPS sensors have been placed to measure the position of the cows allowing also to count the number of steps and their movements. This can be useful to allocate livestock in real time, in case of the farm where the cows are in the open-air field. However, some organizations have gone further and have begun to exploit the data provided by these sensors.

Cow insemination treatments have an important cost for a farmer. They should be done when the cow is in its fertile cycle which comprises a small time slot of about 16 hours every 21 days. To make the things more difficult, each cow has a different cycle, so it can be difficult for a farmer to guess when is the best time to inseminate each cow.

Fujitsu began to collect the data of the movements that make thousands of cows every day and started to process it to see if something could be found. The data volume was very high and could not be processed quickly by a normal computer. Therefore, a set of servers located in what is called the ‘cloud’ with a much higher calculation capacity was used. With this technology Fujitsu developed the program called Gyuho SaaS and discovered a pattern that showed that cows moved much more precisely in their fertile cycle. Thanks to this, it can be predicted more quickly and accurately when a cow is in the fertile period and therefore they can be inseminated with more chances for success, allowing to achieve a success rate from 44% to 90% in insemination treatments.

But that is not all. Apparently, it was discovered that the probability of producing male or female is different depending on whether insemination is done at the beginning or end of the fertile cycle, so the use of this software also helps to increase the probability of getting offspring with the desired gender. In addition, this software also allows monitoring the health status of the livestock or estimating the production that a farm is going to have.

This is only one example of the potential of the big data analysis. This can also be applied to people and not only to cows. Companies have a lot of our data: phone calls, credit card expenses, electricity and water consumption, allocation through mobile phone, etc. With all these data that can be crossed among themselves, we can find that companies know more about us than ourselves.

 

What is the real innovation of Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a digital currency. Although this may seem like an innovation, the reality is that most conventional currencies today are quasi-digital: euros, dollars, etc. they are de facto digital currencies, since economists estimate that only 8% of the world currency actually exists in cash. The central banks of each country manufacture new currency digitally without having to be printed, in the form of loans with the commercial banks that exist in each country. In fact, some Scandinavian countries are taking some measures to eliminate all cash in the medium term. Therefore, the fact that bitcoin is a digital currency is not a feature that makes it different from other conventional currencies.

The innovative feature of bitcoin is that it is the first type of cryptocurrency. This means that it uses cryptographic mathematical algorithms to secure all transactions, control the creation of additional units of currency and prevent counterfeits. Bitcoin is a fiduciary currency, that is to say that its value is based on trust that its users give it to accept it as a means of payment as it happens with the currencies issued by the central banks of each country. While in conventional currencies users rely on sovereign states to control money production and provide mechanisms to prevent counterfeiting, bitcoin users rely on an asymmetric key cryptographic algorithm. This algorithm is based on a type of mathematics that allows a digital annotation to be easily verifiable, but at the same time practically impossible to reproduce it. In this way, the currency can maintain its value.

One of the great mysticisms of bitcoin is that noone really knows who was or who were its creators. Bitcoin´s underlying technical principles were created by an anonymous person (or group) known as Satoshi Nakamoto. It is believed that Nakamoto began working on this project in 2007 after the outbreak of the financial crisis of 2007 that diminished trust that users had with traditional banks. In January 2009, Nakamoto published in the network the first software to operate with bitcoins, as well as the first units of the cryptocurrency. He also created a website with the domain name bitcoin.org and continued to collaborate with other developers on bitcoin software until mid-2010, delivering control of the source code repository, as well as several related domains to several prominent members of the bitcoin community finalizing his participation in the project. Until shortly before his absence and transfer, Nakamoto made all the modifications to the source code. Due to the excellent English he used in communications and publications, it is suspected that this individual (or group) is not from Japan as the name suggests but possibly from the United States or Europe. His identity to this day remains unknown.

Blockchain is the technology behind bitcoin. It is a distributed database (shared and replicated in multiple computers) that contains a book of annotations with all the movements of the currency grouped in linked blocks so that each block depends on the previous one. Only when the chain is legitimately modified (through the consensus of the majority of system participants), all the computers that form the Blockchain are synchronized in seconds, meaning that if one of the computers disappears or is hacked, no impact is produced. Once registered, information can never be erased, which allows a reliable record of all the transactions that have been made in the history.

The nature of the Blockchain allows bitcoin users to trust each other and make transactions among themselves, eliminating the need for intermediaries (for example, commercial banks, and also central banks and governments). This also brings unprecedented security benefits since the hacker attacks that usually affect large centralized intermediaries such as banks are practically impossible to perform against a multitude of distributed computers that comprise the Blockchain. That is, a hacker who wants to hack a block in the Blockchain, does not only have to hack that specific block, but all the process blocks that go back to the history of that blocked chain. And he would have to do it with the majority of participants in the network, which could be millions at the same time.

Possibly the most interesting feature of bitcoin is the fact that it is decentralized. This means that it is produced collectively by the whole system at a speed that is defined when the system is created and that is publicly known and that decreases with time reaching a future point in which it will stop creating new currency. This implies that with unlike conventional currencies, governments cannot produce new currency by emulating the behaviour of precious metals.

This whole system is maintained by a community of different parties that do not need to trust among themselves called miners: members of the general public who use their computers to help validate and seal transactions by adding them to the transaction book following a particular time schedule. The security of cryptographically validated accounting books is based on the assumption that most of the miners are honestly trying to keep the transaction book, also having financial incentives to do it which we will see later.

A very desirable feature for a mean to be used as currency is that it is easy to verify, but difficult to counterfeit. While the protection mechanisms in physical currencies are based on holograms, multicoloured banknotes, microprints, watermarks and inks whose colours change depending on the angle of light, bitcoin relies on strange unidirectional mathematical algorithms that allow to verify easily that a mathematical operation is correct through a public key, but does not reproduce the mathematical operation unless you have the private key.

Bitcoins just like physical coins can be lost. If the private key is lost, it cannot be recovered in any way. However, we can make several backup copies of our private keys to prevent such loss. Bitcoins like another currency can also be stolen. This could happen if someone gets our private key.

The new bitcoins are generated by a competitive and decentralized process and used to reward miners for their system support services. When more miners are, it is more difficult to obtain benefits, so the protocol ensures that the number of bitcoins that are going to be created in a certain period does not depend on the number of miners. This is currently the most common way of rewarding community members who hold bitcoin. The other way is optional and consists of charging a small fee in each transfer in exchange for prioritizing the registration of the transaction in the network. Given that the number of bitcoins established in the protocol is finite and the rate of creation of currency is decreasing over time, it will reach a point in the future where the only rewards will be the fees.

Currently the price of bitcoin is very volatile and subject to very high levels of speculation, which hinders its stabilization as currency of current use, having a very long-term upward trend. There are three main types of conditions that have an impact on its value. The first condition is governmental regulations, such as the decisions of governments to prohibit or encourage its use. Japan’s decision in April 2017 to legalize the use of bitcoins as a means of payment or the prohibition in China in September 2016 of the use of ICO (initial coin offering) calls have caused significant fluctuations in bitcoin´s value.

The second condition is the adoption and increase in the size of the market where this currency is accepted. The more merchants accept this means of payment, the value increases.

Finally, the third condition is the use in illegal activities since bitcoin allows a certain degree of anonymity. When the FBI closed the website The Silk Road, a virtual market where drugs could be bought by accepting only bitcoins as a means of payment, this caused a drop in the value of the currency (although it was temporary since this same fact made the popularity of the cryptocurrency increase subsequently increasing its price exponentially).

The final interesting point is the fact that bitcoin has opened the possibility of creating centralized cryptocurrencies. This means using cryptography to guarantee protection mechanisms against counterfeiting, but still the creation of new currency is controlled by a centralized agency (for example, Central Bank) allowing states to continue regulating the economy through monetary policies.

In this case, the maintenance of the transaction book is done in a set of computers supervised by the central bank instead of a distributed network. Compared to decentralized cryptocurrencies, it could provide better control against illegal activities and tax evasion, but also less anonymity. This can provide more confidence and supervision as the currency is secured by an important banking authority, although there remain doubts as to who controls this authority.

What is in reality Industry 4.0?

The essence of every industrial revolution is to increase productivity. Three previous industrial revolutions were triggered by technical innovations: utilization of water- and steam-powered mechanical manufacturing which took place at the end of the 18th century and allowed organizations to gain higher productivity, introduction of mass-production techniques by using electrical energy at the beginning of the 20th century and the shift from analogue to digital technology in the 1970s. Now, though, we are in the middle of the fourth wave of the technological advancements. The fourth industrial revolution is going to have more extensive impact triggered by Internet and allowing communication between humans and machines in Cyber-Physical-Systems (CPS) throughout large networks. Industry 4.0 will make it possible to collect and analyze different data across machines, allowing faster, more efficient and more flexible processes to manufacture goods of higher quality at reduced cost.

The term “Industry 4.0” describes the expected digitalization of industrial value chains with the idea of using emergent technologies to implement internet of things (IoT) and services in order different engineering and business processes being integrated allow production to operate in an efficient and flexible way with low costs and high quality.

The main aspects addressed by Industry 4.0 are the following:

  1. The IT-enabled mass customization of manufacturing products, meaning that production should be adapted to the needs of the individuals.
  2. Production chain’s adaptation in a flexible and automatic way to the requirements of the rapidly changing environment.
  3. Tracking and self-awareness of different parts and products and their mutual communication with other products and machines.
  4. Advanced human machine interaction paradigms, which includes new radical ways to interact and operate in the factories.
  5. Production optimization thanks to Internet of Things enabled communication in the Smart Factories.
  6. Appearance of completely new business models which will contribute to the radically new ways of interaction in the value chain.

Technological advancements on which Industry 4.0 relies, can be summarized into nine following concepts: autonomous robots, the cloud, industrial Internet of Things, big data, cybersecurity, simulation, additive manufacturing, horizontal and vertical system integration and the augmented reality.

Autonomous robots

Even though manufacturers have been using robots for complex assignments for a long time, robots and their capabilities are evolving dramatically. They become more flexible and autonomous and eventually will interact with one another and work side by side with humans.

The cloud

Within Industry 4.0 more organizations will start using cloud-based software allowing them to store and share data across organizational boundaries.

 

Industrial Internet of Things


The Internet of Things comprises of enriching different devices with embedded computing and connecting them using standard technologies. This allows different devices to communicate and interact both with one another and with more centralized controllers.


Big da
ta

In the environment dominated by Internet of things and Internet of services, new technologies will generate a huge amount of data. The internet of data will allow mass data transfer and storage as well as provide new and innovative analysis methods for mass data interpretation in the context of target application.


Cyber
security

CPS equipped with internet technology require reliable concepts and technologies to make sure that safety, privacy, security and knowledge protection are taking place. Therefore, reliable and secure communications together with sophisticated identity and access management of machines and users are crucial.


Si
mulation

Even though 3-D simulations are being used in the engineering phases nowadays, such simulations will also become widely used in plant operations in the future. They will use real-time data to mirror physical world in a virtual model, including products, machines and humans. As a consequence, the quality of products will increase dramatically.


Add
itive manufacturing

With the arrival of Industry 4.0 additive-manufacturing methods (e.g., 3-D printing) will become widely used to produce small batches of customized products offering different construction advantages, among those lightweight and complex designs. Such systems will also decrease stock on hand and transport distances.


Hor
izontal and vertical system integration

The horizontal integration means cross-organizational and organizational-internal intelligent cross-linking and digitalization along the value chain of the life-cycle of the product and among value chains of adjoining life-cycles of the products. Vertical integration is seen as the intelligent cross-linking and digitalization of different hierarchical levels of the value creation module.


Augm
ented reality

The organizations of the future will widely use augmented reality to provide employees with real-time information allowing better decision-making and improvement of work procedures.

In summary, Industry 4.0 tries to deal with personalized needs and global challenges in order to achieve competitive strength in the globalized markets. It has also a huge world-wide impact mostly concentrated in 4 areas: revenue growth, productivity, investment and employment. In general, Industry 4.0 is thought to have a great impact which is not limited to the industry itself but to the way the humanity works and rests.

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