Redefining Work

In physics, work is the transfer of energy from one object to another. It is the product of force (a vector) times displacement (a scalar). The SI unit of work is the joule, the same as that of energy. If the direction of the force and displacement are the same, the system’s energy will increase meaning positive work was done; if the directions are opposite (as with gravity pulling a ball downward) the system’s energy will decrease, indicating that negative work was done.

Unlike play, which is all about pleasure and fun, work usually requires exertion and effort. The goal of work is often to make money for the necessities of life, such as food and shelter. But many people want to do more than just earn a living. They crave passion and meaning in their jobs, as well as a sense of purpose. They want to be challenged, to learn, and to grow. They want to create value for customers, employees, and communities.

A good job is a source of pride, self-esteem, and confidence. The steady routine of work duties and projects can also help provide a sense of stability during rocky periods or transitions in other areas of life. The accomplishments of completing tasks, developing new skills and responsibilities, and earning promotions can lead to a greater sense of personal worth.

If we stop to think about it, we can probably acknowledge that work has changed us — in the disciplines we’ve learned, the wisdom we’ve gained, and the relationships we’ve built. We can also think of the ways in which it has jaded us, robbed us of our energy, or snuffed out our dreams.

We’ve been taught that “work” is a boring, monotonous, uncreative, and stressful activity, but this is simply not true. If we stop to look at the creative, innovative, and exciting work that’s been produced by frontline workers around the world, it becomes clear that there are many other possibilities for the future of work — and that redefining it is necessary.

Redefining work means focusing on the unseen — the challenges and opportunities that lie outside of a company’s core offerings, or even its known markets. It means imagining solutions that don’t yet exist for needs that haven’t emerged, and that involve people working together to solve them. It means recognizing that the vast majority of a workforce is capable of creating more value, and providing them with the tools they need to unleash it. And it means rethinking traditional metrics of success to measure what matters most in business. 1