Originally published on Association for Talent Development Insights blog: https://www.td.org/insights/understanding-whats-next-in-talent-collaboration-in-the-people-cloud-future

The concept of the “People Cloud”—an environment where open-source talent sharing becomes so common that work is communal, collaboration is instantaneous, and “cloud” employees work for multiple enterprises simultaneously across the globe. One of the critical indicators of the dawning People Cloud Era is the growing popularity of collaboration across all domains—economics, politics, organizations, and society.

Driven by deep value shifts, the transformation to a sharing society is also being fueled by exponential advancements in connective technologies. Today everyone realizes the incredible power of social media and the Internet to drive networks, but what happens to collaboration when this technology is more intimate, taking the form of personal devices and ultimately becoming seamlessly imbedded in our bodies?

The Sharing Economy: Value Shifts Toward Collaboration

Clearly the world is much different today from the Industrial Age when efficiency was king and producing more widgets at an increasingly lower price was the only way to beat the competition. We have now shifted from a tangible to an intangible economy, where knowledge replaces inventory and human capital becomes more important than investments in plant and equipment. In this environment, the ability to cultivate and harness collaboration is the new competitive advantage.

Initiated by the convergence of the economic downturn, growing environmental concerns, and the maturation of social technologies, there is a movement toward a more collaborative marketplace—the sharing economy—and it is redefining consumption across industries. New business models enable the sharing of cars, bikes, couches, apartments, tools, meals, and even skills. From the taxi-substitute Uber (recently valued at $17 billion) to couch-sharing sites like Airbnb (worth more than most established hotel brands at $18 billion), just-in-time access to the outputs that goods and services provide has huge economic potential, making ownership a fading model. Given that fundamental human values have clearly shifted towards sharing, it’s not surprising that the same collaborative approaches would apply to human capital.

Organizational Models and Methods: Engineering Collaboration

The top-down, command-and-control organization popular during the Industrial Age is giving way to a more “flattened” structure where collaboration is borderless. In fact, Fast Companysurveyed 64,000 people, and 84 percent believe their career success is highly dependent on their ability to collaborate and “share” with one another.

With increased awareness around its benefits, organizations are attempting to intentionally engineer collaboration. Researchers at the University of Michigan are studying how to increase serendipitous interactions in the workplace because these typically passive moments create important opportunities for information transfer. Scientists are seeking to understand how employees occupy buildings to bring typically disparate people and departments together.

Similarly, Bank of America conducted a study to analyze the importance of face time in its call centers. Through the use of wearable sensors, they discovered that their employees were more productive when they belonged to teams and could actively interact with their co-workers. As a result, Bank of America purposely scheduled its employees to take group breaks, causing productivity to increase by 10 percent.

The Next Frontier of Collaboration: Brain Networking

Opening the door to new collaboration and interaction opportunities is the burgeoning arena of brain mapping, which many are calling the next scientific frontier for human advancement. Our increased ability to understand the brain and its complex neural pathways is leading to more innovative products and services and even whole new industries. Neuro-gaming, for example, defined as using the mind to operate and control games and play, is the focus of electronic giant Samsung who is researching how people can use their thoughts to control mobile devices, specifically targeting people with impairments to help them more effectively connect with the world.

Taking this one step further, scientists are exploring if individuals can communicate with one another via only brain waves. Researchers at the University of Washington have already made human-to-human brain interface a reality, and they are one step closer to “mind control,” an idea that was once relegated to science fiction. In 30 to 40 years, these researchers believe neuro-collaboration will be completely plausible.

It is clear that collaboration in all forms and across all domains is a significant trend shaping the employment ecosystem of the People Cloud future. Organizations that can capitalize on these underlying value shifts and leverage advancing technologies will be best positioned for success in the 21st century.

In my next post, I will explain the next component of the People Cloud—the stronger links between individuals and groups.

Questions for Reflection

  • How can HR leverage advanced connective technology and wearables to promote collaboration on teams?
  • What new organizational models will be most effective in the collaborative People Cloud future?
  • As networking methods become increasingly linked to the individual (physically), what new employee relations issues will emerge?

Yvette Montero Salvatico

Yvette Montero Salvatico is a Principal and Managing Director of The Futures School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance and an MBA from the University of Florida, Yvette has over 15 years of corporate experience with large, multi-national firms such as Kimberly-Clark and The Walt Disney Company. Read more.