A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

Collaborate or Work Alone?

I have recently come across a couple of interesting viewpoints on the world of work.

First, there is a new book authored by Susan Cain entitled Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.  In it she talks about being an introvert and how she has learned to cope with the extroverted world we live in.  She states that somewhere between 30% and 50% of the workforce are introverts who make enormous contributions to the world as we know it.  But, she explains how the current emphasis on extroverts has created education and working environments that do not provide for privacy or time to think for the introverts of the world.

This phenomenon, illustrated by Cain in her presentation to a TED 2012 group, can be found even in the design of the K-12 classrooms where the chairs are grouped in circles of 7-10 to provide for working and playing together.  It is also found in the high tech world where folks all sit together in open office environments.  She has written the book of the same name as a way to speak up for her fellow introverts.  Her call to action is for everyone to consider the introverts and their need to have time to work alone and to have “think and plan” time.  It is a plaintive call.  After listening to her, it is evident that she is a needed voice for those folks since they will likely not speak out for themselves but instead find a quiet place to think, read and plan.

I was wondering about whether one might characterize the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) industry as introverted or extroverted?  In order to create the built environment, we need both introverts and extroverts who are skilled at their craft, but overall are they typically “inward facing” or “outward facing”?

The 19 minute video of her presentation is worth watching:

The second viewpoint I found is an article that I received on one of my futurist blogs on Linkedin.  This one is entitled “The ‘Third Economy’ or How the Collaborative Culture will Displace Jobs.”  Written by Dominique Turcq of the Boostzone Institute, it states that the collaborative environment that has emerged in the workplace is the 3rd economy to the Information Technology (IT) revolution’s 2nd economy impact.  One of the impacts that this third economy creates is that it can make many middle management and mid-level professionals obsolete through the use of online access to experts, and face-to-face collaboration.  Where those mid-level managers had the task of helping their co-workers learn how to connect, the Internet is now providing that platform – rendering many of those mid level management jobs “obsolete”.

That should be interesting news for those of us in the construction industry as the AGC predicts that the jobs requiring mid-level skilled workers will be one of the greatest shortages of talent that we will experience over the next decade.  The new construction methods certainly are headed in the direction of more collaboration and more shared risk – hopefully resulting in better performing buildings.

So, collaborate or work alone?  Maybe the answer is both to work alone and then collaborate.  What do you think?

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