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25. Creating Jobs

On the UK’s twenty-pound note there’s a picture of Adam Smith’s profile overlooking workers in a factory and the words, “The division of labour in pin manufacturing and the great increase in the quantity of work that results.”

A new paradigm for the future of work has yet to achieve mass adoption. In that context, virtual work is still a nascent alternative approach. It will take a while before society views it with the same emblematic pride as evidence of economic competition, innovation and improved productivity.

A large percentage of the new job market will be based on certain new fields, such as predictive analytics, collaborative design of new systems for education, health care, holistic environmentalism, transportation and shaping of the evolving global culture and economy. The shift toward telework is taking place at different rates around the world. Some countries have been hard at work virtually transforming certain fields.

Some industries are making major strides. On January 11, 2010, the New York Times published “Denmark Leads the Way with Virtual Care.” The article by Sindya N. Bhanoo follows a 77-year-old patient as he goes to the doctor without leaving home, using some simple medical devices and a notebook computer with a web camera. He takes his own weekly medical readings, which are sent to his doctor via a Bluetooth connection and automatically logged into an electronic record.

“You see how easy it is for me?” he said, sitting at his desk while video chatting with his nurse at Frederiksberg University Hospital, a mile away.

While planes were grounded in London by the volcano in Iceland, the first ever televised electoral debates in British political history took place. Gordon Brown, who has since stepped down as Prime Minister, delivered a challenge for the future of work in the UK that needs to be addressed in his absence.

“We need jobs,” said Gordon Brown. “We need growth. We need to work with America to make this happen…This is an election about Britain’s future. Your future and your jobs.”

While Brown spoke, a massive civil servant protest was taking place in Athens. In the wake of pay cuts and harsh economic realities brought to bear by the economic crisis and the bailout of Greece’s failing economy, the necessity for job creation became paramount.

The kind of jobs that are created in Greece, however, will mark the difference between unsustainable stopgaps for an outmoded job market, or an embracing of innovative forms for sustainable employment in the emerging world of work. Job creation is itself a job that requires vision.

Virtual work isn’t just a replacement for lost contact in the physical world. Virtual work is a necessity in the struggle to face modern complexity, because without the imagination eventually becoming real, creativity lacks the discipline for rapid movement from idea to execution.

Incremental change is not enough to achieve a future filled with jobs created from a fresh set of economic principles and priorities: personal meaning, shared benefit, measurable increases in productivity and achievement of difficult shared tasks.

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