If you are reading these words, you have experience with, thoughts about, and a wide variety of feelings about work. For many of you, your experiences, thoughts, and feelings have changed over the last year. While our personal experiences are valid, maybe it is time develop a better understanding of work in a broader context. Let me explain why.
As the Covid lockdowns begin to subside and people begin thinking about what will happen next, we continue to work with leaders and organizations about the future of work. Because of this work, I wanted to think more broadly than what could be found in the next corporate announcements about where people will work. Fortunately, I found this new book by James Suzman, Work: A Deep History From the Stone Age to the Age of Robots.
Two caveats about this book before I go any further:
- If you have read any of my past book recommendations, you will find this a deeper and perhaps a bit more obscure book than most any I have recommended before.
- Any book that has the phrase “deep history” in the title will likely be a bit dense and perhaps slow at times. This one is no exception.
Having started with those two points, I believe this one is worth your time. Precisely because it will help you understand work beyond your own personal experience. The history will provide context for you. The questions it poses are critical to our thinking about the future of work, both in the short term (i.e. when and where will people work at the end of the year and beyond), as well as further into the future.
I recommend reading this book to expose you to new ideas and the questions you need to consider. Those two reasons are always good ones for reading a book (especially as a leader). This book’s greatest value is in understanding work and providing you with questions. Use it as a springboard for ideas, not a source of all the answers.
With that context, and yes, the caveats too, I recommend this book, but probably not as beach reading.
Note: If you are seriously thinking about what the future of work needs to be in your organization, you can get some thoughts and perspectives from our very timely and free Future of Work Mini-Webinar Series. It is underway, but when you sign up now, you get access to all the past content. Details and free registration can be found here.