#4 Three propositions about digital creative work

What the future will bring

Johannes Kleske is a strategic advisor and futurologist from Berlin.  His company, Third Wave, advises businesses across all of Europe on topics surrounding the digital transformation. The challenges within the communications and advertising industry are familiar to him, particularly since he used to be employed by Razorfish, a digital agency. As he confided in us during our Skype conversation, Johannes is skeptical about the developments of the future. His three most important propositions are summarized below.

Charlottes question from #3: In the future, what are the most important job criteria? Fun? Money? Status?…

1.) Self-determination –  the most important criterion for job choices

The working world is changing, and so too are the applicants. The most important criterion for selecting a position amongst the so-called Millenials is self-determination.  Money, prestige and career opportunities are not the primary appeal. Rather, it is important for jobs to provide a large degree of autonomous decision-making, meaningful activities, and work-life balance. Of course, not all job-seekers are the same: some are in search of absolute flexibility – also in terms of working times and locations. Others are still looking for the supposed security of classical employment, via the usual career paths. What the two share in common is the desire to decide freely about the way in which a task is completed and to maintain control over their own lives. If businesses want to attract this age group, they must move away from classical Taylorism, in which small parcels of firmly defined work determine the activities of employees. The persons themselves must be the center of focus – above and beyond their position and qualifications.

2.) Digitalisation will further divide the population

Today, it is already clear that in many industries society is divided into digitalisation winners and losers. On the one side are those who feed the algorithm; on the other are those who are eaten by it. Digital platforms such as Uber, Amazon Mechanical Turk or Deliveroo promise the freedom of new options for earning extra income – in reality, however, there is often dependency on the conditions set by platform operators and, not seldom, outright exploitation. Entire industries are being re-organized. Real creative services, in contrast, will not be automatable even in the future. However, if designers and creative individuals offer their services on worldwide online platforms, they are often also dependent on the value systems, remuneration conditions and terms and conditions of platform operators.

3.) A digital worker’s movement is needed

Exploitation will not be prevented by voluntary commitment declarations made by platform operators. These are merely cosmetic and PR tools and do not actually help click and crowd workers.  Fair working conditions are usually the core topic of unions – but even well-meant initiatives, such as IG Metall‘s faircrowdwork platform, have not developed any real market power or attractivity for digital workers. An overarching, universally accepted lobby organization does not exist.  The only thing that will help is, therefore, an initiative by those affected – a digital worker’s movement. Some tools exist that enable worker empowerment, for example, ones in which freelancers can evaluate their clients and then share this information. Self-organization modeled after the union represents a real opportunity: cooperative platforms operated by internet workers themselves, which are therefore based on fair conditions – at the moment this is unfortunately only a dream.

One question is of particular importance to Johannes during his daily work on understanding transformation topics:

In ten years, will businesses have created more jobs based on new technologies than they have extinguished?

We will look for the answer in our next interview mit Igor.

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