September 4, 2014

Interviews: A Q&A with Jacob Morgan

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 3:43 PM – Filed under: Innovation & Creativity, Management & Workplace Culture

"Everyone always talks about the customer but in my opinion change must start from the inside first. ... Employees are the most valuable asset that an organization has and we need to spend more time focusing on them."

~Jacob Morgan

A Q&A with Jacob Morgan on The Future of Work

Jacob Morgan has been challenging conventional thinking about the future, about work, and about the future of work at his site, The Future Organization, and on Forbes for year. (In fact, he believes the future of work is all about challenging convention.) If you want to know How To Get Rid Of Email In Your Company, he's on it. Want A Simple Explanation Of "The Internet Of Things", or how Humans Are Taking Jobs Away From Robots, Not Vice Versa? He's your man. Looking for a reason Why You Should Give Up on Collaboration, well... maybe not so much.

The simple fact is that he thinks that "work as we know it is dead" and that the future is a lot closer than we think.

To learn more, we sent him a few questions about The Future of Work.

1. Why did you choose to focus on the employee, rather than the customer, in this book?

Everyone always talks about the customer but in my opinion change must start from the inside first. As an employee who had several bad experiences working for other companies I became fascinated with this topic! Employees are the most valuable asset that an organization has and we need to spend more time focusing on them.

2. You spend a lot of time explaining the trend from very rigid to more flexible work environments and schedules—and even more flexible job descriptions and responsibilities. I can see why this is a benefit for workers; how does it affect the overall organization?

It's a positive scenario for everyone. Organizations see reduced operational costs, improved productivity, reduced employee turnover, and more engagement. I have see no evidence as of yet which shows that flexible work in any way shape or form negatively impacts either employees or an organization. The big challenge for organizations is taking that step to allow things like flexible work to happen. They need to challenge convention around how work gets done and get their mindset out of the 1970's!

3. Can you explain why it’s so crucial for businesses to be early adapters of change? Why can’t business people wait and see what approaches are working best for others and then adapt those best practices?

They used to be able to do exactly that! Organizations would see what others were doing, wait a few years, and then slowly adopt. Today the rate of change has increased to a point where "late adopter" means "out of business." GE recognized this and for the past few years have been working on a "learn startup" approach to improve innovation across all of their business units. Ray Kurzweil from Google talks about us being on "the second half of the chessboard." That is where change is now happening at an exponential rate. As a result, organizations no longer have the luxury of waiting to see what others do, that is not innovation, that's playing catch up.

4. Assuming we’re not going “to fire all the managers” as some—like Gary Hamel— suggest, or simply no longer have those kind of roles—as one example you give in the book, Treehouse, has done—what does the future of management look like?

I have to say that Gary Hamel has certainly been an inspiration for me and has helped me think differently about the future of work. I actually site his article in my book and he was kind enough to be one of the people who endorsed it! I definitely don't think we are going to see all managers get fired. However, some companies like Whirlpool are moving away from focusing on managers to focusing on leadership. At Whirlpool every employee is either a "leader of self," "leaders of others," "leader of function," or "leader of enterprise." Other companies like Tangerine are also stepping away from focusing on job titles to instead focus on roles or responsibilities. The key isn't to just change a name but to change the culture and the ways of managing. Every organization I have spoken with is already thinking about ways to "flatten" in order to improve communication and collaboration. So what's the future of management? Well, it's all about "challenging convention!"

5. What, if you had to wrap it up in a nutshell, is the future of work?

In two words the future of work is all about that—"challenging convention." This applies to three areas; how we work, how we lead, and how we structure our organizations.

"Organizations no longer have the luxury of waiting to see what others do, that is not innovation, that's playing catch up."


Check in with us tomorrow as we conclude our Thinker in Residence series with more of Jacob Morgan's thoughts on business. You can also read a manifesto he wrote for his previous book, The Collaborative Organization on ChangeThis, and keep an eye out for a new one based on The Future of Work next week.

Also, if you buy a HARDCOVER copy of Jacob's book within the next 48 hours he will give you:

  • An ebook: Hire Fast & Build Things: How to Recruit and Manage a Top-Notch Team of Distributed Engineers
  • 20 Quotes to Challenge Convention Around the Future of Work.
  • The original book outline which is very different than the finished product.
  • An actual proposal template from a publisher.
  • Seven versions of the original book cover.
  • The document Jacob sent out to companies and executives to help secure their endorsements and features!
  • Official Guide to "The Future of Work."
  • Things You Need to Know About Writing a Book That Nobody Else Will Tell You!
  • Proposal guidelines and helpful tips for your book proposal from Wiley.

Jacob will be sending all of these things out within a few days, please email him a screenshot of your receipt or proof or purchase at


Learn more about our Thinker in Residence, Jacob Morgan, and read our (brief) take on his new book, The Future of Work.

About Dylan Schleicher

Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.