For the future of work, look to Hollywood.

Movies are complex projects, requiring a diverse set of skills from idea creation to production and all the pieces in between. For each project, a team is assembled – the most appropriate individuals cast for roles, experts brought in for sound effects, stunts or whatever might be necessary. Each brings their expertise together, leveraging technology, to produce the outcome. When it’s a wrap, the team is disbanded.

It is a highly effective, highly flexible, fit for purpose model that can be applied to the world of knowledge work.

In the future, modern prophets tell us that Artificial Intelligence and robots will take over many work processes – anything that can be automated, will be. Traditional ‘Taylorist’ organisations are often referred to as “the machine”, and now this work is likely to be done by actual cognitive machines. Imagine the efficiencies, improvement in utilisation and reduction of error.

However, whilst this augmentation may be welcome, competitive advantage no longer lies in efficiency. Consider the numerous “Kodak moments”, case studies of great companies falling, not from lack of efficiency but arguably a lack of foresight, ability to embrace change and focus on people over profits.

Innovation, adaptability and authenticity will be the bedrock for success.

What is interesting about these traits, is that they are inherently human. Machines are excellent at processing data, learning fast, versioning and replicating. Not so much at dreaming, imagining and creating. And even less so at empathy.

If you see work as a series of projects and processes (ideally connected and iterative) undertaken to fulfil a purpose, then agile and project-based organisational structures are better at supporting rapid innovation. Teams of people brought together for their diverse skills provide much more flexibility and creativity.

Which brings me back to Hollywood.

The “Hollywood model” allows for the best fit of experts to come together in a dynamic way to execute projects. When a project is complete, they move on to another one, changing team members depending on what specific expertise is required for the next job, the next contract, the next strategic concern.

Great for the “actors” as they choose the gigs that keep them highly engaged and are incentivised for continuous learning to keep their skills relevant. Great for the organisation as the model is lean and agile, helping them to keep costs low in order to engage specialised talent when required. 

For long term success, high performance is required for ongoing work. Care for the outcomes are important if a repeat gig is to occur. 

Innovative, adaptable and authentic. Just the elements required for competitive advantage.