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Unit 5 Paper

The future of work and


the future of my work

Hisham El Sherbini

AMSR7

Team 2

November 2017
Table of Contents
1. Introduction .................................................................................................................................... 1

2. Second-Person Inquiry into the Future of Work ............................................................................. 2

3. First-Person Inquiry into the Future of “my” Work ........................................................................ 3

4. Conclusion & Reflection .................................................................................................................. 5

5. References ...................................................................................................................................... 7
Hisham El Sherbini Unit 5 Paper

Before we work on artificial intelligence, why don't we do


something about natural stupidity?
(Attributed to Steve Polyak)

1. INTRODUCTION

From the very beginning of Unit 5, I was so much provoked by this whole thing about “The
Future of Work”, starting with the very first resource that was shared with us – a BBC Radio
4 (2015) programme on “The Future of Work”. I was astonished at the shallow 30 minutes
conversation that the panel had. The panel included the General Secretary of the TUC, Chief
Executive of Sainsbury's for 10 years, the Professor of Public Management at Kings College
and the Minister for Universities and Skills in the coalition government and now the
Executive Chair of the Resolution Foundation. The whole discussion was more about the
“The Future of Employment” or, as I like to call it, “Capitalist Slavery” (Hermes-Press, 2017).
It was all about controlling labour, restricting their freedom, herding them like cattle and
ensuring they stay part of the system to feed the big cats.

I thought, well, let that not stop me and let me continue. So, I engaged with another inquiry
within the group and I got frustrated again. Starting from the title “Jim is being replaced by a
robot”, I thought there is something really wrong with the title. A human being wouldn’t be
“replaced” by a robot if the human being wasn’t doing a robotic job in the first place, which
takes us back to my main concern: We keep looking at the symptoms and trying to find
solutions for them and we keep ignoring, knowingly or not, the root cause. My main
concern is not that a human being would be replaced by a robot but what’s the core reason
behind that happening? Is it for the sake of improving quality of life, making time and
energy for us? For socializing together and deeply connecting back to nature? If yes, then
great, sign me up! But I doubt that it is. The trend to automate has mainly been for the sake
of reducing costs and increasing efficiency (Cox, 2017) or, in other words, making more
money, growing, profiting and all this Capitalistic nonsense.

Did the frustration stop there? Of course not! In preparation for the Forum 5 conversation
on Canvas, I found Shah’s (2015) article and McGowan’s (2015) video, among other
material, to be totally missing the point. I did express my points in detail in my Forum post
and there might not necessarily be a need to repeat that here.

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Hisham El Sherbini Unit 5 Paper

2. SECOND-PERSON INQUIRY INTO THE FUTURE OF WORK

With all of the above, I wanted to understand what the “fuss” is all about! The 1st step of the
AR cycle that I used involved naming the general objective (Coghlan & Brannick, 2014) which
is: To understand how people see the “Future of Work”! Does it concern them? And, if so, in
what way? Is it just me who is more concerned about the “Future of People” in changing
environments? And how can we provide a real quality of life and space for humans to do
what they are best at? Innovation, creativity and social relationships…

With regards to the 2nd step in the AR Cycle, the “plan” was to co-inquire with friends from
different backgrounds in either a Remote/Virtual conversation (using Skype, for example) or
face-to-face ones. The sample was 12 people.

In actioning the plan, which is the 3rd step, I explicitly used Torbert’s Four Types of Speech to
provide a simple and useful framework for analysing the case (Reason & Bradbury, 2008) as
follows:

1. Framing: I introduced the background and purpose of my inquiry and my interest in


understanding what people think about “The Future of Work” any concerns or plans
they have about it.
2. Advocating: I raised with them my concern about people’s wellbeing, negative or
positive, as a direct or indirect consequence of the use or overuse of Robots &
Automation. I was encouraging a world where people’s wellbeing is ensured and comes
first.
3. Illustrating: I shared examples if Robots were used but regulated and we, humans, have
been provided with Basic Income only enough to meet our basic needs and hence
alleviate the pressure of having to do jobs that we hate just to put food on the table
then that might be a decent approach.
4. Inquiring: I encouraged the participants to challenge my views and introduce their views.

The outcome of this cycle, the 4th step, was quite interesting. All but 2 of the participants
mentioned that they are not concerned about job loss whether for them or next
generations. They believe that:

• There will always be jobs, new jobs, different jobs, jobs to create and maintain
robots and jobs we don’t have now but will be created.

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Hisham El Sherbini Unit 5 Paper

• Some jobs will not be taken over by robots, those that require human emotions,
interactions and judgement such as Psychologists, Judges.
• If we lose a job, we will find another job, we will reskill, upskill.
• If there weren’t enough jobs and especially for the vulnerable then there would be
some kind of income, such as Universal Basic Income to ensure basic needs are met.
Some, though, don’t believe it would work.

Some brought up some thought provoking ideas such as:

• Robots make people miserable. Some simple, manual jobs, brought us together.
When farmers were picking the produce, when woman were manually washing the
clothes in the river, they would talk, socialize, sing. We’re not saying that we need to
go back to that but finding middle ground.

3. FIRST-PERSON INQUIRY INTO THE FUTURE OF “MY” WORK

In parallel with the above, I wanted to do a first-person inquiry into the future of “my” work.
I can clearly see that I don’t fit that much anymore (assuming that I did fit in the past which,
now that I am thinking about it, I probably didn’t!) with the current work systems. I don’t
get along with internal politics, back-stabbing, toes-stepping and greed-seeking, which seem
to characterise all the corporate environments I worked at. Although I was quite passionate
about my work at Microsoft and I wanted to comply with their rules but also give more,
things went terribly wrong and I left them only after 3 months. The job following that at a
small IT company also didn’t last more than 9 months. During that period, I was also
unhappy and low performing. I couldn’t find the passion to contribute. I was quite
disengaged.

For this inquiry, I followed a similar AR cycle to the above. As a 1st step, I set the general
objective as: To understand what keeps going wrong for me at the workplace especially
when I believe that I approach work with passion, commitment and transparency. For the
2nd step, my plan was to employ the LPG (Coghlan & Brydon-Miller, 2014) – Figure 1 – to
help me figure out what actions in the past failed to produce the desired outcomes.

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Hisham El Sherbini Unit 5 Paper

Figure 1 - LPG

Actual Frames Actual Actions Actual Results

Internal politics – often unsaid I start by inquiring about the Lack of stability, demotivation,
and undocumented. Managers processes and rules within the loss of passion and
often want conformity. Often organisation for me to follow enthusiasm, hence self-
“wolf packs” exist where them. I also contribute with dissatisfaction
employees create groups to my opinion. I put a lot of
defend themselves and their passion into doing a better job
positions against others

Desired Frames Desired Actions Desired Results

Organisations that encourage Be honest upfront during Prospering in the workplace:


constructive noncompliance. interviews for new roles about Achieving stability for the sake
how I work and whether the of the family and self-
organisation is the right fit. satisfaction
Prioritize Ideas. Don’t go solo.
Don’t give up soon. Don’t
ignore personal danger signals.

Then it was the 3rd step – the Action. As part of the first-person inquiry in terms of exploring
my values and assumptions and trying to be critically subjective with regards to the ‘inner
(how I experience myself) and outer (what other people think) arcs of attention’ (Marshall,
2001 cited in Coleman, 2016), I recalled old journals that reminded me how I’ve always
been, and still am probably, the “Rebel of the family”. I also recalled a reunion with my
university colleagues a couple of years ago when, after 20 years, the main thing they
remember about me is how I was obsessed about “logic” and that I wouldn’t do things
unless they are logical to me and, if they are not, I will seek to change them. I told them,
“Yeap, I am still the same!”.

I wondered then, is there such as a thing as a “Rebel of the workplace”? So, I researched it
and, to my surprise, there is actually something called “Rebel Talent” (Gino, 2016) which is
also sometimes referred to as “Constructive Noncompliance” (Tsai, 2015). And the penny
dropped! It was such an “aha moment”!

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Hisham El Sherbini Unit 5 Paper

Gino’s research found that ‘of more than 1,000 employees surveyed, less than 10% said they
worked in companies that regularly encourage nonconformity’. Reflecting on that and all
the previous experiences, I realised that it was only those environments that encourage me
to nonconform that I excelled at! Everywhere else, even Microsoft, things didn’t go well.

Now to the fourth step in the AR cycle – the outcome. Gino’s work was mainly focusing on
organisations and encouraging them to let their workers rebel. She was arguing ‘Why it Pays
to Break the Rules in Work and Life’. The outcome of this cycle, from my perspective,
however, were “Desired Actions” that I decided on taking into another iteration of this cycle
to help achieve the “Desired Results” (Figure 1). Such actions were indeed inspired by the
work of Kelly et al. (2014). Like Gino, they researched into “Rebels at Work” but, in addition
to encouraging companies to ‘embrace their rebel talent as a way to foster innovation,
employee engagement, and change from within’, they also offered advice on how
employees ‘can more effectively advance their good ideas, even in organizations resistant to
constructive nonconformists’.

4. CONCLUSION & REFLECTION

In reference to the second person inquiry into the future of work discussed above, my
conclusion is that it’s not about AI (Artificial Intelligence) or Robots. It’s all about human
beings, it’s all about justice, it’s all about ensuring that there is a system that ensures justice
and wellbeing for human beings in light of anything, be it AI, Robots, any other change in
work patterns, changes in society, wars, natural disasters and, literally, anything! Universal
income could be one, only one, of the answers. But, ensuring that a monster system like
Capitalism doesn’t keep destroying our lives is one other very important answer. So, the
quest continues, for a system that is fair, sustainable, treats all humans equally and ensures
their wellbeing and the wellbeing of the habitats equally.

With regards to the first-person inquiry into the future of my work that I performed above, I
am glad to have actually already started that second iteration on the cycle. During my
interview with my current company, whom I’ve been with for over 2 quite happy months, I
did bring up my research into Rebel Talent and how that all what I have experienced in my
professional and personal life have been showing me as possibly being one. I was open and
honest with them about how I work, how I need the space and opportunity to safely

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challenge the status quo. In my head, I thought that things could go one of two ways. Either
they would not proceed with the application (which a couple of companies have already
done that when I mentioned “Rebel Talent”) or they would be very much keen on me that
they would do anything to bring me in. It was the latter. It’s been 3 months now and I am
actually enjoying the job, being loved and appreciated by the people I work with and feel my
levels of energy and passion increasing. Mind you, though, the company is quite Sales-
oriented and it’s all about growth, revenue and profit which conflicts a bit with my values
that are quite anti-capitalistic. However, the world was not created in 1 day. I am grateful
for this step to understand “me” in the workplace, what works with me and what doesn’t.

Having said that, I envision my values taking centre stage, sometime soon. By then, I could
have come up with this amazing new idea of a “workplace” that is owned and managed by
everyone who works at it and one that has one objective: To make everyone’s life better,
genuinely and sincerely. And that includes, not just the life of human beings but, the life of
the planet as a whole.

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5. REFERENCES

BBC Radio 4. (2015). The Future of Work. Retrieved 29 November, 2017 from
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b067vh8v

Coghlan, D., & Brannick, T. (2014). Doing action research in your own organization. Sage.

Coghlan, D., & Brydon-Miller, M. (2014). The SAGE encyclopedia of action research. Sage.

Coleman, G. (2016). Introduction to Action Research. Webinar Slides 2016-10-19

Cox, K (2017). The Trend Toward Automation and What It Means for Business. Retrieved 29
November, 2017 from https://www.springcm.com/blog/the-trend-toward-automation-and-
what-it-means-for-business
Gino, F. (2016). Let Your Workers Rebel. Retrieved 03 December, 2017 from
https://hbr.org/cover-story/2016/10/let-your-workers-rebel
Kelly, L., Medina, C., & Cameron, D. (2014). Rebels at Work: A Handbook for Leading Change
from Within. O'Reilly Media, Inc.
Malnick, T. (2017). Tim is being replaced (by a robot) for WS5 - an inquiry. Retrieved 29
November, 2017 from https://ashridge.instructure.com/courses/65/discussion_topics/1597
McGowan, H. (2015). Redesigning work, employment and the social contract. Retrieved 03
December, 2017 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G67RfVvOmvY&t=40s
Reason, P., & Bradbury, H. (2008). Sage Handbook of Action Research: Participative inquiry
and practice. 2nd ed. London: Sage Publications.

Shah, R. (2015). The Future of Work and Our Social Compact. Retrieved 03 December, 2017
from https://www.forbes.com/sites/rawnshah/2015/06/18/the-future-of-work-and-our-
social-compact/#75b213596fa5
Tsai, L. L. (2015). Constructive noncompliance. Comparative Politics, 47(3), 253-279.

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