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The Future of Work: How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style and Your Life Hardcover – April 2, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (April 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591391253
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591391258
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #535,517 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"...[W]e need visionaries like Malone to help push us past the limitations of our conventional thinking." -- Fortune, April 14th 2004

"[T]he argument offered here is uniquely grand." -- Financial Times, April 15th, 2004

"briskly written...insightful" -- USA Today, April 12, 2004

About the Author

Thomas W. Malone is the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the founder and director of the MIT Center for Coordination Science in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The title of this book is misleading. A more apt title would have been: The Future of Organizational Structure. If you really want to read about the future of work, I suggest you look for a different book.
As an expert on communications costs and benefits, Professor Malone explores how the pros and cons of centralized hierarchies, loose hierarchies, democracies and free markets compare in producing better organizational results. The book abounds with examples, most of which were not new to me.
The book's overall theme is that with the costs of communications plummeting and the value of the information communication increasing it is inevitable that organizations will decentralize more than ever . . . by employing hybrid forms of loose hierarchies, democracies and free markets for the same organization.
The book ends up with a call to live your dreams that draws on decidedly nonmanagement sources of inspiration. The key idea is that organizations can live values that uplift everyone in them.
If you would like a solid introduction into the forces that are influencing shifts towards decentralization, The Future of Work is a good theoretical overview. Professor Malone also points you to online resources for finding out about best practices in some of these areas.
As a book for a practitioner, The Future of Work leaves a lot to be desired. Most will find it too abstract and theoretical to help them decide what changes to make in an organization. The book would have been vastly more valuable if it had focused on a few key areas of management performance (such as developing new business models, creating breakthrough new products, or bypassing competitor's established cost advantages) and described how best to apply the concepts in those contexts.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jay Einhorn on May 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"The Future of Work" began changing my thinking and attitudes about work from its very first pages. It clarified and extended my understanding of myself as a worker, as well as of friends and colleagues, many of whom are either, like me, self-employed, or have entrepreneurial-type positions within organizations. I've already begun using Malone's ideas in consulting with individual clients and organizations, and found them relevant, productive and fun.
Malone's central tenet is that the nature of organizations has been substantially influenced throughout history by the cost of communication. Thus, face-to-face communication characterized hunting and gathering bands, but the advent of writing--with its reduced cost of communication compared to face-to-face talking-- made larger, more powerful and more centralized societies possible. Kingdoms and empires were richer and more powerful than hunting and gathering bands, but at the cost of some of the freedom of most of their members. The advent of the printing press, by further reducing the costs of communication, made possible the reversal of the ancient trend toward greater centralization, facilitating the democratic revolution.
Business organizations show a similar developmental path. Up until the 1800s, most businesses were small and local. By the 1900s, the telephone, telegraph, typewriter, and carbon paper allowed centralization on a large scale, and business "kingdoms" emerged. Today, e-mail, instant messaging, and the internet make it economically feasible for huge numbers of workers to access the information they need to make, for themselves, more of the choices that matter to them.
This change, Malone asserts, is driving a revolution in our attitudes about organizational leadership.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Zimmerman Jones on January 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It turns out that Thomas Malone of MIT is the person who (along with a colleague) coined the term "e-lancer" (i.e. electronic freelancer) back in 1998. This book takes that concept and expands it to outline Malone's view about how business is in the process of a metamorphosis from dense, centralized hierarchies to loose, decentralized networks of workers, specialists, and consultants. Like the transition from kingdoms to democracies, he feels that the rise in accessible communication technology will give employees a greater degree of control in how their companies are run.

He spends the first half of the book explaining how such a system is possible and providing these examples. Malone touches on a great many modern examples of this in action, from websites like Elance, Ebay, and Amazon to the freeform open-source creation of the Linux operating system to more traditional companies that have a decentralized, employee-centered viewpoint.

The last half of the book focuses on how to go about implementing these sort of decentralized systems, like internal and external marketplaces where employees can bid on jobs and use reputation systems to track their success and efficiency. In addition, Malone touches on the need to incorporate human values into the very corporate structure, to motivate people to take part in them.

While the book provides a lot of great starting points, it's clearly an academic approach and only an introductory one at that. It's not a how-to manual. There are many aspects of this revolution that are unclear. For example, how will such a revolution affect health insurance, which many people get through their companies?
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