Origin Story

On October 8, 2019, a stalwart group of leaders came together in New York City for the first Work Forward Summit, which was sponsored by MURAL and moderated by Territory. The event’s goal was to develop “v1” of a vision of how the business of work can be better. Summit participants recognized that today’s world of work is in a state of constant change. New tools, platforms, even business models are creating challenges for organizations to stay relevant and competitive, recruit and retain top talent, and drive higher productivity. For policymakers, business leaders, and workers themselves, these challenges create uncertainty, as well as opportunity.Today every company and consultancy has a point of view for how to make work better or address the “future of work.” And not surprisingly, they usually suggest their singular solution or perspective as the path to success. Our assumption is that providing a broader Work Forward ecosystem perspective will offer companies the ability to see themselves in the picture and use it as a path for considering their Work Forward strategy.

The beginning

The Work Forward Summit applied a collaborative and co-creative workshop approach to developing ideas and concepts to initiate the Work Forward conversation. First, we explored why we work, landing on a set of key concepts that describe the motivations for work, which included:

  • Purpose – Make a better world
  • Money – Build wealth; fulfill one’s ambition
  • Survival – Ensure subsistence
  • Community – Helping others; connecting to/serving a higher cause
  • Family – Addressing the needs of the ones we love
  • Emotion – Happiness, fun, or love
  • Innovate – Inspire creativity

Next, we moved on to describe the traditional activities that regularly occur in our work week. As you can imagine, the list was expansive, and we barely scratched the surface. That said, after mapping into groups, we came up with about 2 dozen key activities, such as business planning, serving customers, managing finances, communicating, procuring resources/materials, etc.Using this set of traditional work activities as a basis for comparison, we moved on to envision what a Work Forward environment might look like. This wasn’t an exercise in exploring “the future of work.” Rather, we used an activity to describe what a Work Forward world looks like through the lenses of Place (where), Time (when), Approach (how), and Materials (what). The activities of the Work Forward world are always advancing and bettering the “why we work” concepts to help people work better, and therefore, also help businesses work better.

To help build a Work Forward movement and develop a manifesto declaring the aims of Work Forward, the original Summit participants ideated a set of principles to guide us. After individually listing many principles, the participants aligned upon a set of key principles.

Hoping the Work Forward Summit outputs and ideas might prompt others to action, we drafted some ideas for activities that could help initiate conversation and action at your organization. (You can see creative results by downloading one of the firestarter activities). We ended the day by discussing how to advance the Work Forward movement and what we all could do, personally.To see the first output of the event, the MURAL board summarizing the day’s activities, go to this link. To keep up to date on the progress of Work Forward, or observe or contribute to the conversation, just go to the WorkForward LinkedIn group. How about attending the Work Forward Conference someday?