Stowe’s focus is the future of work, and the tectonic forces pushing business, media, and society into an unclear and accelerating postnormal era. He is a web anthropologist and futurist, and the lead researcher for the future of work and social business at GigaOM Research. He is best known for his writing at stoweboyd.com, and coined the terms ‘social tools’ and ‘hashtag’. He is writing a book about the future of work.
Why does the world need a work revolution? (In other words: the way we’re working isn’t working. Why not?)
We have slipped over the threshold of a new economic era in the past decade, what I call the postnormal, where many of the premises of the late 20th century are being overturned. In particular, the techniques that worked to increase productivity in the postmodern era — the 30 years starting in the ’70s — can’t be applied again, because work is increasingly not about intensification of routine work and people have expanded their work to the breaking point, already. Also, the web and ubiquitous connection has change the form factor of work at a fundamental level. It is time for business models and management thinking to follow, if business and individuals are to thrive in this new postnormal era.
How are you or your organization reinventing work in some way (big or small)?
I am a researcher, and the future of work is my beat. I am writing about that daily, and working closely with companies making the work management tools that are shaping the form factor of work.
Why do you do what you do?
I consider myself a web anthropologist and futurist, and I am obsessive about emerging social tools and innovations in business organization and culture. This calls on all aspects of my training and inclinations.
What kind of art (any kind) do you like and why? Any recommendations we should know about?
I think film is the highest form of art, bringing together writing, music, and cinematography, and tapping into emotive and mythic archetypes better than any other.
What is one specific thing your company does that makes your culture unique and/or different?
Although I work as a researcher for GigaOM Research, I am a freelancer, and have been for years. So my culture is web culture, not corporate culture.
What is one discipline/industry totally different from your own that has inspired you? How does it impact your work?
I taught computer science for ten years, and that influenced how I approach my work: I think like an educator and a scientist.
What’s one tangible and concrete technique other organizations should use if they want to create a more human and/or meaningful place to work?
The best way to increase the likelihood of change in social groups is to increase the number of connections people have. That drives the speed at which new ideas can spread. After that you can start to a/ introduce new ideas, and b/ find people who are exhibiting the behaviors you’d like to see more widely adopted, and ask them how to spread those behaviors.
What is one surprising thing we should know about you?
I have around 250 stitches in my head, mostly from brain surgery.
What piece of technology (other than your laptop/smartphone/tablet) could you not live without and why?
A gas stove is absolutely essential.
What is “required reading” or “required viewing” for people who want to understand what makes you tick?
- What Drives Us?
- We’ve Entered The Volatile Postnormal Stage Of History
- The Future Of Work In A Social World, Part 1
- The Future Of Work In A Social World, Part 2
Where in the world are you?