The Digital Renaissance of work : a phygital journey

The Digital Renaissance of Work

The evolution of the work environment in a digital era is not only, as many think, about the digital workplace or the intranet. No one should expect an application to work in an environment where its assumptions are not valid and so, rethinking the work environment without taking into account the transformation of the context of work, of the very nature of work is useless and won’t work. It’s not about building a new digital workplace but a place for a new digital work.

Not a new digital workplace but a place for a new work.

Maybe you remember that three years ago I reviewed a book called “The digital workplace“, by Paul Miller, founder of the IBF (intranet benchmarking forum) and of the Digital Workplace Group, coming to the conclusion that the Digital workplace was a new way to consider and live one’s work.

Published 2 years ago but still relevant, The Digital Renaissance of Work: Delivering Digital Workplaces Fit for the Future is about how work is transforming, is getting done and, of course, on its impact on the work environment.

What ?

The Digital Renaissance of Work: Delivering Digital Workplaces Fit for the Future

Who ?

Paul Miller and Elizabeth Marsh

In short

The world of work is going through a kind of renaissance under the impact of digital in the same way that the invention of printing paved the way for two centuries of innovation and major improvement in the fields of art, science or education. In a world where informations flows freely, is accessible to all and where individuals live in networks, the way we’re living either alone or in groups, at home, or at work, is being dramatically disrupted.

People make sense of work in a new way. New expectations, values, convictions, the capacity to have an impact either by being an employee or an independent worker, impact of mobile  : there’s both a need and an aspiration to work differently, even to reinvent work.

Paradoxically, there have never been so many opportunities to do things, to work, to have professional activities while there are less and less jobs. I causes major changes, inside and outside companies.

• on the way we’re at the same time very autonomous and interdependent with others.

• on the blurring boundaries of businesses

• on the place of work that’s becoming an obsolete concept

• on the way to engage, to express one’s leadership

• on the way to manage the risks that come with this reinvention of work

• on the way we all need to learn and train before entering the workforce and, latter, at work, to be successful in this new paradigm

• on the way we design our work tools and spaces.The Digital Renaissance of work consists of two distinct parts.

In the first, Paul Miller describes what is not only a deep transformation of work but also of society. I his comparison between what we’re experiencing and the Renaissance very relevant as it’s rather a cultural and human revolution made possible by technology than a technological revolution. Of course you must have read lots of things about that but Paul Miller’s way of telling it is unquestionable, clear, straightforward (even about the bad sides). He’s not selling us a vision of the future, a concept. He’s describing the world as it is around us and as too many people still refuse to see it.

A new paradigm for work implies a new environment for work. Technology does not change work but a changing work needs new approaches to the workplace. That’s what the second par, written by Elizabeth Marsh, is about.

This part will please anyone working on a digital workplace and don’t know where to start. She shares a comprehensive framework to analyze the needs a digital workplace can cover. A kind of bible for intranet directors that, in my opinion, can help anyone to assess his situation and frame his project.

Then comes an analysis of the business cases of a digital workplace for those needing to justify the money invested.

The book ends with an analysis of the main organizational and human causes of successes and failures of such projects.

My opinion

Most books on this matter are about either people or technology. This one perfectly deals with both in a smart way : on the one side what’ happening, on the other how to respond in a very clear and structured fashion. Too often, mixing both is a source of confusions and does not help the reader to have a clear idea of what to do once the reach the last page. About that, Elizabeth Marsh’s part is among the most completed things I’ve read,  with Jane McConnel’s annual Digital Workplace Study.

This book perfectly shows the “phygital” nature of the matter : it’s about what’s happening both in people’s life and on their screen. Both are totally linked.

Let me add another good point : contrary to many authors, Paul Miller does not talk about collaboration only but has a clear 360° vision of what digital means not only at work but in our lives at work. I appreciate the half managerial half sociological approach.

As you may guess, I highly recommend this book.