Old Work is prescriptive and New Work is creative

One of the problems with New Work–the phrase I use to describe the work we are transitioning to as the result of digital transformation–is that the initiation of work is different. 

Compare New Work to Old Work. 

Old Work was about showing up to our place of employment, assuming our position on the factory line (literal or figurative), and then churning out the defined work that had been accumulating since we were away. Old Work tasks were prescriptive and repetitive. 

With Old Work, we knew where to begin because we began the same way every day.

New Work is different. The work is not prescriptive, it’s not repetitive. Instead, we have to think about what to do each day depending on the project we are trying to manifest. 

We have to conjure and then sequence the tasks. The work can be messy and inefficient. There are no manuals telling us what to do.

In the New Work economy the work comes from us, the work doesn’t come to us. 

And that is a big shift. It’s the difference between assembling a 500-piece puzzle and creating a 500-piece puzzle from scratch. Which would you rather do day after day?

Leading in the New Work economy will require a different set of tools and a different outlook. I am not sure we are prepared.

by Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan is the Head Coach at Sandcastle Company, a Seattle-based leadership training organization. His first book, Future Leader: Rebooting Leadership to Win the Millennial and Tech Future [link], is now available. Jonathan regularly writes and speaks about The New Leader Way, leadership resilience, and the future of work. He has years of leadership experience in both the public and private sectors, a master's degree from Seattle University, and professional coach training from the University of Miami.

Filed under: Leadership

Published on December 19, 2019

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