Last month, we visited Chicago for an amazing week of inspiring lectures, workshops and conversations. It was Chicago Ideas Week, and it was fantastic. Prophet’s Curator and Provocateur, Andy Stefanovich was invited to host one of many sessions – his focusing on the future of work. Andy’s role in looking towards the future of how we work has been decades in the making. For more than 25 years, Andy has been helping companies think differently about how they do the work they do with a combination of energetic inspiration and grounded strategy. While many organizations talk about unique culture, the way we work is far more nuanced and complex. As brands seek growth in an economy dominated by digital and increasingly driven by millennials, thinking about how work is changing is vital. Encouraged by Andy’s inspired storytelling, five talented speakers brought to life a highly engaging session.

Renetta McCann is the chief talent officer at Leo Burnett. She started the conversation by exploring how our jobs fulfill emotional needs as well as economic. “Creativity and emotion,” she explained, “are intrinsically linked.” For McCann, building more creative work places, spaces where people can explore creative possibilities is becoming increasingly important in the work place.

Justin Rosenstein continued the conversation by sharing a core belief: through “clarity of purpose, clarity of plan and clarity of responsibility” productivity abounds. That is why he created Asana, a productivity platform for the workplace. With Rosenstein’s platform companies can align around why they do what they do, how they’re going to do it and what role everyone plays in the doing. In this way he believes all companies can create a better working environment, now and in the future.

More inspiration came in the form of Keith Ferrazzi and Dan Black. Ferrazzi, the CEO of consulting firm Ferrazzi Greenlight, shared his insights on change within the organizations for which we work. “Organizations and cultures don’t change. People change within them,” Said Ferrazzi. He believes more collaboration and more fun will help form more positivity within our organizations. Black, the Director of Campus Recruiting at Ernst & Young, challenged our perceptions of generational differences. Bucking the negative connotations of Generation X lacking leadership presence, Generation Y focusing only on themselves and boomers remaining out of touch, Dan highlighted their strengths and therefore the value they could add if properly positioned. Millennial’s lead organizations in their social media and tech savvy. Generation X-ers are, in fact, the biggest revenue generators and crack problem solvers. Boomers, for their part, are the most cost effective and experienced. The future of work for Black means putting people to work in the right capacities.

Lastly, author Alison Wolf invited us to challenge our superficial judgments with a healthy dose of science. While it is true that beauty is often rewarded in the work place, height is seen as a powerful attribute and women must make efforts to not only be seen sexually, Wolf reveals that none of these perceptions have any scientific merit. The future of work for Wolf lies in letting our performance out way our prejudice.

The future of work is an important consideration for brands of any size or geography. The changing face of the worker and the type of work the future demands force brands to imagine how they should adjust. Making our workspaces more creative, collaborative and fun is a start. However, changing our mindsets by letting go of long held judgments, generational assumptions and gaining clarity in our business vision prepares us for a future in flux. Growing businesses require constant evolution and as Andy concluded “constant inspiration.” Its events like Chicago Ideas Week that ensure our ability to remain agile for a changing landscape.

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