Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Mon Jun 21st 2010 at 10:13am UTC

A Fundamental Shift in How We Work

My interview with the New York Post’s Brian Moore.

To Richard Florida, calling today’s economic woes the “Great Recession” doesn’t begin to describe the tectonic forces at work. This is not simply a time when jobs are hard to find, says the urban theorist and best-selling author, who also runs the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s management school. Unlike previous downturns, such as the ones that kicked off the previous three decades, he believes today’s recession is a “great reset” that will fundamentally change the work we do and the way we do it.

“Great resets are mechanisms by which technologies change, productivities improve,” says Florida, whose latest book — titled, yes, “The Great Reset” — describes current and past transformations in American society. “But most important, they’re shifts in the way we live and work.”

Read the full piece here.

7 Responses to “A Fundamental Shift in How We Work”

  1. Greg B. Says:

    Recently finished “The Great Reset”. Some great insights! My background is in Manufacturing Engineering, which is unfortunately a fading field. I have an idea to share about Knowledge jobs and Service jobs, and perhaps a viable middle-ground of new employment…

    One way of reducing the ill effects of consumerism is to have our goods (furniture, appliances, homes, cars, toys) be very long-lasting, very durable, and very repairable. A middle-ground between high paying Knowledge work and low paying service work could be designing, producing, and maintaining the new durable items.

    The concept of ownership would also change slightly, since these durable goods could be rented, leased, or owned. There would be something like a service contract, and trained people to keep the durable goods in good condition. There would likely be some sort of buy-back agreement that requires them to be sold back to the supplier, who would refurbish and resell them.

    The idea is just a seed. But imagine a recliner designed to be easily dismantled repaired, recushioned, and reupholstered (and the people who enjoy doing such tasks). Or a washing machine, or a chainsaw, or a stroller, or a bread machine. One could look at office copiers for one example of how this is currently done.

  2. Artist Says:

    Hi, I found your website on the list of the 50 Best Blogs for creative thinking. Congratulations. I’m always interested in creativity of all kind. Great site.

  3. Ian Graham Says:

    The fundamentals of “work” have irrevocably changed. IMHO when you boil it down to the root cause there are two significant forces at work (no pun intended):

    -Business Model Migration
    -Communications Shift

    The former deals with the way we work. Organizations have migrated from predominately hierarchies to bands of nomadic freelancers that are flatter, highly networked and distributed. In software development (a leading indicator of the shift) the old model was called waterfall development (large hierarchical companies like Nortel). The newer networked and distributed model is what I like to refer to as an Oasis model (Like co-working) that is made up of pools of resources that join as necessary and then break apart again to form new work groups.

    Communications shift is essentially another migration only this time from the TV Industrial Complex to Internet based sales. This is characterized by a normalized distribution (TV Industrial Complex) to a long tail distribution for the Internet. This transition has lead to the emergence of all kinds of social networks and new Internet based communications like; Twitter, FaceBook, Linkedin …

    The earthquake today just north of Ottawa registered 5.5 on the Richter scale. However, the impact of these two changes on the fundamentals of work could measure a 9.0 or more on the Great Reset scale.

  4. Michael Wells Says:

    I read the whole article and was interested in your take on New York. We just got back from the Big Apple and were struck by the number of young people everywhere and the diversity. Many more ethnic groups and languages than when I lived there in the ’60’s or for that matter more than we saw even a decade ago. Even if most of them were tourists, its still a much larger number of Asians (East & South), Africans and Europeans than I remember ever before. Lots of people speaking French, for some reason.

    I think NYC, even Manhattan, is on its way back up. I saw ads for condos in Chelsea in the $300K range, not cheap but not millions either. And the art was great. We were sitting in Central Park when a man nearby started singing opera with a great voice for his fellow picnicers. My ex-wife has paintings in a gallery in Chelsea and so we went to the building which housed 20 or so small galleries, one of many such buildings. We walked the nearby High Line, a wonderful park/art/preservation project – Then a public art project called “Play Me I’m Yours” put 60 pianos around the city for anyone to play and we listened to a marvelous jazz pianist who was walking by, plunked the keys and said “not bad” and played for maybe half an hour. Another public art project put sculpture figures on the roofs of several buildings around Madison Square Park. Also got to Brooklyn.

    The Reset is well under way in NYC, lots of creative class folks.

  5. David Gross Says:

    We still have to eliminate this 1998 idea that innovation in somehow connected to job growth. You have cities across the country, like Nashville, that are below average in PhDs and patents per capita, but above average in wage growth.

  6. Rachel in California Says:

    Gregg B., thank you so much for your comment.
    “One way of reducing the ill effects of consumerism is to have our goods (furniture, appliances, homes, cars, toys) be very long-lasting, very durable, and very repairable. A middle-ground between high paying Knowledge work and low paying service work could be designing, producing, and maintaining the new durable items.”
    You have got it right. We are drowning in a toxic swamp of cheap junk that is not immediately consumable (like food), can’t be easily repaired (like the shoes, clothing and watches of earlier times) is not durable (like old-fashioned houses, kitchens, and cars) and can’t be rebuilt or repurposed for new uses (like old stone and old brick). We need new creative design that takes a long view.

  7. Mara Mirza Says:

    The instability of our environment has frightened us from commitments. Home-owners are turning into renters, the automotive industry is introducing ‘lose job? Return car!’ plans, and telecommunication companies are going pay-go more than ever.

    Contracts, memberships, long-terms are being replaced by trial, pay-go and no-commitment plans.