Work is a physical phenomenon that describes the transfer of energy from one system to another. This happens when a force is applied to an object or system and the object or system is moved in a certain direction. The unit used for work is the joule (J), which is equal to the amount of energy transferred or expended when a force of 1 newton is exerted over a distance of one meter in the direction of the force.
There are many different meanings for the word ‘work.’ It can refer to an activity, a job, someone’s working hours, a task or tasks that need to be done, something that is made (like a piece of furniture, a painting or sculpture, or the materials that are used in the creation of these items), cosmetic surgery, and even music composition.
The term ‘work’ also refers to the action of a person, company, or organization in its quest for value. Often, this effort is focused on the ‘unseen’–problems and opportunities that are not apparent to the human eye. By focusing on these unseen issues, organizations can unleash more of their workers’ creativity and potential–and, as a result, find ways to capture more value.
For three decades, the Toyota Production System has demonstrated that frontline workers possess huge value-creating potential. However, that potential is often overlooked and isn’t tapped. Redefining work is more than just a nice-to-have–it’s an imperative for organizations and an opportunity to create more meaningful, engaging and effective day-to-day work for individuals.
Identifying ‘unseen’ problems is a key aspect of fundamentally redefining work. By focusing on the ‘unseen,’ organizations can empower their workers to solve “nonroutine” challenges and seek out new opportunities that could add a large portion of a traditional work load to their daily workload. By taking this approach, organizations will be better able to harness the power of each individual’s imagination and passion, and thereby refuel that worker’s creativity and motivation over time.
In this way, redefining work is a means of transforming the workplace culture in an increasingly disruptive environment where the future of work conversations are moving away from fear and adversity (institutions versus individuals) to a focus on hope and opportunity that both institutions and individuals win.
This change is essential for a workforce that’s constantly seeking out solutions to the ‘unseen’ and creating more and more value in the process. In a world where’silverware’ (solutions that have already been created) are increasingly scarce, redefining work requires companies to put more value-creating potential into the hands of every worker, rather than simply replace them with machines or bots.
The most important thing to remember when defining work is that it must involve motion. It must have a component of force in the direction of the motion, and there must be some displacement of an object with respect to the force.
When defining work, it is important to remember that only the horizontal component of a force can cause a horizontal displacement. That is because if the force and the displacement are in the same direction, the work can be calculated by the equation W = FdW. The only difference between this equation and the other two equations we’ve looked at is that the cosine of the angle between F and d is given in the equation for work instead of the square of the angle between the force and the displacement. This is because the cosine of an angle is associated with the force’s component in the direction of displacement, and it selects that component.