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Transcript: Dark and light of the new world of work

Karl Moore: This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Talking Management for The Globe and Mail. Today I am delighted to speak to Lynda Gratton who is a senior professor at the London Business School.

Good Afternoon, Lynda.

Lynda Gratton: Hi!

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KM: So Lynda, you have been looking at work for a long time, what do you see is the emerging world of work that we are in and looking forward to?

LG: You know, I just think that is the most fascinating question right now and over the last couple of years we at London Business School have run a very expansive project to look at the future of work, involving 200 executives from around the world, and basically what we are finding is that there are five forces that are really going to make a difference - globalization, technology, societal changes and then, of course, carbon is also going to be really important. So, we sort of see a real big change happening in terms of why we work, in terms of where we work, and in terms of how we work.

KM: Do you think it is a generational shift, or is it just the nature of the economy that we are in today?

LG: There is a big demographic going on. Clearly what we know is that Gen Y, currently in their early 20s, want a different way of working. They want more balance and that is not, by the way, just a Western phenomenon, but you see that in India and China as well. But of course, on top of that, is technology. Our friends from Nokia tell us that by 2020 five billion people will be connected to each other. I think that's an amazing question to ask, "What will five billion people do?" My guess is that will really change the way we live and will change the way that we work.

KM: So how do you see, looking forward 10 years, how do you think work will be different for the average person?

LG: Well, I think for the average person it will become much more knowledge-based. I mean, there will always be work in factories, but of course more of that will be done by robots and automated, it will be more knowledge-based, more virtual - you are going to be linking up with colleagues all over the world, many of whom you haven't met - obviously more technologically enabled, and that has a bright side and a dark side. The dark side is isolation, fragmentation and the new poor emerging right across the world, those who don't have access to the global talent pools and the bright side is highly co-operative, possibly empathic, interesting and meaningful work and a more balanced life. I think those possibilities between the dark and the light is a very interesting area to be thinking about.

KM: It seems like, in our generation, we have been on a treadmill, running for years. Are you saying that you think we are getting to the end of the treadmill and that we simply can't act and work like this anymore?

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LG: Well you know, certainly if you take a look at the new technologies that are coming up, fragmentation will only increase, the treadmill will only increase. There is no technology that is going to take the treadmill away. So the question that we face is, "Do we want to be a part of that treadmill?"

What I think is interesting is that our generation said, "Yes we will be happy to do that!" But the new generation, your sons and my sons and daughters, they want something different and actually, although we often think about organizational change being about the CEO, I think this time around it will be about young people and they will say, "We don't want to be a part of this. We want to start our own businesses." I am seeing a lot of what I would call micro-entrepreneurs emerging and, frankly, in many businesses now the barriers to entry are so low that you can start your own business with very little capital and more and more people around the world will want to do that.

KM: This has been Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Talking Management for The Globe and Mail.

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