The Future of work: What will work look like in 2025?

Doubling our rear vision: what will work look like in 2025?

Each Friday morning for the last eight years or so, I have been trundling along to Sydney’s Single Origin Cafe in Surry Hills to drink coffee and discuss trends, innovation, marketing, and this strange digital world that we have built around ourselves.

In that time, our “coffee mornings” have played host to overseas visitors, helped connect people with work and creative opportunities, and generated hundreds of new friendships. Some people attend regularly. Some come once a month or as time permits. But no matter how many people attend or how long they stay, many of the conversations echo across time. And something that futurist, Tim Longhurst told me years ago, continues to fascinate me:

To look five years into the future, we have to look 10 years into the past.

What he means by this is that change accelerates. And as we look forward into the future, to understand the changes we have ahead of us, we need to think much further back. In effect, we have to double our rear vision.

With this in mind, to see 10 years ahead, we need to look back 20. Let’s have a think about what will work look like.

Five impacts of new media

Back in the 1990s, we’d look at the internet through the prism of publishing. The printing press was the closest comparison that we had for the kind of revolution that the internet would become – and publishing and media were, in the 1990s, experiencing what we would now classify as “digital disruption”. Elizabeth Eisenstein’s analysis of the impact of the printing press identified five impacts that transformed the world:

1. Expertise
2. Organisational transformation
3. Social and legal norms
4. Concepts of identity and community
5. Education

But rather than looking at these as impacts, think of them as lenses. They are simply a way to understand the changes that are transforming the way that we live. And when we apply these lenses to the way that we inhabit the world, it tells us a great deal about what we are dealing with.

But looking into the future is a very difficult thing to do – and is fraught with challenges. Below I have broken up Eisenstein’s categories and looked at the shifts.

With hindsight, using this framework, we can see that 2015 was not something that was completely unknowable – and with that in mind, I have made a few guesses at what 2025 may look like.

Area 1995 2015 2025
Expertise Tech driven
Windows / R3
Job for Life
Network driven
Organisations W3 Consortium
Standards focus
Rush to digitise “assets”
Rush to digitise “process”
International Knowledge Trading
Rush to “humanise”
Norms and Conventions Story-telling
Mass Communication
Multicultural Arts
Mass Personalisation
Digital Arts
Mass Experience
Identity, Community and Language Name
Education Focus on IT
Tech Industries
Focus on Business
Creative Industries
Focus on Innovation
Industrial Creativity

But of course, these lenses are also viewed through other lenses.

For example, we can tint these views with a humanist perspective or a technologist perspective. We can be optimistic about the role of technology and innovation, or we can be pessimistic about where these transformations are taking us. And we can also focus on HOW we adapt and WHY and whether we will do so at the speed of change that we are experiencing.

And when we apply all these changes to the way that we work – it seems that we have choices to make. The “future of work” will be guided by the choices that we make and the approaches that we develop. As Faith Popcorn suggests in the Slideshare presentation below, the future is leaking into the present. We just need to see it for what it is.

The Future Of Work from Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve

More reading:

The future of work: it’s work, but not as we know it
3 digital disruption lessons from the startup world
The new skills you need for the digital age


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