MIT Sloan School of Management News Briefs — July 2005

Tom Malone:
The Future of Work

Tom MaloneImagine organizations where bosses give employees huge freedom to decide what to do and when to do it. Imagine electing your own bosses and voting directly on important company decisions. Imagine organizations where most workers aren't employees at all, but electronically connected freelancers living wherever they want to. And imagine that all this freedom in business lets people get more of whatever they really want in life — money, interesting work, helping other people, or time with their families.

In The Future of Work, MIT Sloan Professor Thomas W. Malone, codirector of MIT's “Inventing the Organizations of the 21st Century,” shows where these things are already happening today and how — if we choose — they can happen much more in the future.

Malone argues that a convergence of technological and economic factors — particularly the rapidly falling cost of communication — is enabling a change in business organizations as profound as the shift to democracy in governments. For the first time in history, says Malone, it will be possible to have the best of both worlds — the economic and scale efficiencies of large organizations and the human benefits of small ones: freedom, motivation, and flexibility.

Based on twenty years of research, the book provides models for actually designing the “company of the future.” Through examples of organizations around the world Malone outlines:

  • Four decentralized organizational structures — loose hierarchies, democracies, external markets, and internal markets — that will be enabled by technology but centered around enduring human values
  • The shift from “command-and-control” management to “coordinate-and-cultivate,” and the new skills that will be required to succeed
  • A framework for determining if a company's situation is ripe for decentralizing and which organizational structure would be most effective

Related Link:
Tom Malone Bio