Redefining the concept of work

By Dr Lydia Cillié-Schmidt

The Deloitte Center for the Edge in a recent article “Redefine work: The untapped opportunity for expanding value” provides an interesting view on the future of work. According to the authors of the article (John Hagel, John Brown and Maggie Wooll) a lot is being said about the future of work, but a fundamental redefinition of work could steer the discussion in a more value-adding direction.

Their redefinition of work involves three shifts:







This redefinition would mean a change in the type of activities that employees at all levels engage in as part of their workday. According to the article these types of activities can broadly be categorised as:

  • Identifying unseen problems and opportunities;
  • Developing approaches to solve problems and address opportunities;
  • Implementing approaches; and
  • Iterating and learning (reflecting) based on the impact achieved.

According to the article the human capabilities of curiosity, imagination, intuition, creativity, empathy, emotional and social intelligence  (amongst others) form the basis of redefined work and without them, workers cannot effectively work in new and nonroutine ways. The authors recommend the following enablers to help employees to unleash their human capabilities in the new redefined work environment:

  • Value for others. Help workers broaden their understanding of value based on who they are trying to serve and what is required to support that, and how their actions create value. The way they create value depends on the context.
  • Help workers see and understand the needs, aspirations, and constraints/conditions of customers, internal participants, and other stakeholders.
  • Expect workers to act on problems and opportunities, individually or in groups, in a context-specific way to create value, without having to go through layers of management.

These highlights from the article may seem a bit abstract, but if you read the full article and the case studies provided by Deloitte, it becomes much more practical. Read more at


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