The PROPEL Manifesto

The future of work starts right here, right now.

This manifesto is about the future of work in an emerging ideology of business, where people are at the center of a human ecosystem instead of boxed into a mecha­nical system.

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Have you heard the phrase, “the future is already here — it’s just unevenly distr­ibuted”?

We all have the social capital to help fix that.

  • Let’s talk about the things that human beings bring to the table in a work envir­onment.
  • Let’s leverage our human attri­butes and make people and all of their whole selves the fuel that makes organ­izations and busin­esses grow and flourish.
  • Let’s unleash our power as networked indiv­iduals.
  • Let’s make Dilbert cartoons and The Office something we can enjoy as the relics of a past indus­trial, mecha­nical age.
  • Let’s stop work from sucking.
  • Let’s empower ourselves and each other to make our lives, and thereby our societies, better.

Some truths we wish to be self-­evident:

Work matters. We want work to suck less—for everyone, not just the few lucky ones.

The disti­nction between “work” and “life” is artif­icial and a barrier to lever­aging both the power of the indiv­idual and that of the organ­ization.

Work is the expending of effort for the creation of value. If there’s no effort, but it’s still consi­dered work, it should be autom­ated; if there’s no value, the work is pointless and wasteful.

Work is the process of creating something for the purpose of human flour­ishing. Let’s get rid of what doesn’t do that. Work has meaning for every indiv­idual. Work involves identity.

Work involves a sense of belon­ging. Work has meaning for the networks each indiv­idual is connected to. Work has meaning for the local community and for the global commu­nity. Work involves social respo­nsibility.


I. Human beings are the most important “asset” we have.

  1. Our best work is at the inter­section of what we like doing, what we are good at doing, and what we get paid for. Our goal is for those three things to blend more. Flow has value for the organization.
  2. Work is about learning. Learning is never complete and we have a respo­nsibility as indiv­iduals to make sure we’re always learning. We also have a respo­nsibility as organ­izations to provide resources and envir­onments for learning. This is not a choice, it’s an imper­ative. Learning has value for the organization.
  3. Work involves colla­boration and co-creation with others. Work doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Collaboration – both internal and external – has value for the organization.
  4. We have a need to commu­nicate and share what we do and how we each do it diffe­rently. We work better in the open. Transparency has value for the organ­ization.
  5. We need to bring our whole true selves to work. We need to have systems that help us understand each other and our diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Empathy has value for the organ­ization.
  6. We are able to do more than one thing. Our indiv­idual skills, whatever they are, have value and that value is marke­table.
  7. The formula for marke­tability is the same for everyone but the weight of each component is different and may change over time. Agility, defined as the capability to evolve with our networks, has value for the organ­ization.
  8. We are connected, and we bring networks with us to work. Our conne­ctedness has value for the organ­ization.
  9. We will feel a sense of belonging and purpose if we’re involved in the direction and purpose of the system. Ownership has value for the organ­ization.
  10. We build relat­ionships. Relat­ionships—and the human emotions involved in nurturing them—have value for the organ­ization.
  11. We need to give as well as receive const­ructive feedback. Truth has value for the organ­ization.
  12. We will trust our employers if our employers trust us. Trust has value for the organ­ization.
  13. We have intuition as well as intel­lect. Intuition has value for the organ­ization.
  14. We all aspire to love what we do. To love where we work and who we work with. Love has value for the organ­ization.

II. Organ­izations that flourish are systems that maximize the value of their human employees.

  1. The blurring of bound­aries between the “I” (indi­vidual human beings) and the “we” (orga­nizations and systems) creates value that is both shallow and deep.
  2. The pace of change is accel­erating. The only way an organ­ization will keep up is through its people, who have a natural ability to pay atten­tion.
  3. Indiv­iduals represent nodes and networks. Organizations need to recognize the value of building relationships with networks.
  4. Proximity is no longer a prere­quisite for relat­ionships and networks. Let’s make the techn­ologies that enable virtual commu­nication invisible and ubiqu­itous, so we can just get on with it.
  5. Organ­izations need to better under­stand indiv­idual talent, and how to commu­nicate the requi­rements for needs­-based work.
  6. Indiv­idual talent means indiv­idual custo­mization, which means an expon­entially longer tail of marke­table and monet­izable skills.
  7. Indiv­idual talent means hyper­local talent; invisible techn­ology means that hyper­local talent has global reach.
  8. Indiv­iduals have a wealth of so-called “soft” attri­butes that provide organ­izational value and are therefore marke­table and monet­izable. Let’s start paying for skills like the ability to:
    • build relat­ionships
    • act as a bridge
    • distill infor­mation
    • focus deeply
    • debate
    • influence
    • facil­itate
    • see the bigger picture
    • tell a story
    • manage compl­exity
    • draw meaning
    • write persuasively
    • manage group dynamics
    • solve open-ended problems
  9. Strategic trans­parency is the only way to achieve trust; trust is the only way to maximize the value of the people in a system.
  10. Trust provides structure and predi­ctability in a much more powerful way than hiera­rchies and organ­izational charts do.
  11. Strategic trans­parency enables clarity over control, also known as scalable simpl­icity—the capacity for all parts of the system to work towards the common goal of the system.
  12. Decen­tralized leade­rship requires less middle manag­ement, but more middle level thinking.
    • The role of manag­ement is to be the “keeper of the story”, to make sure there is trans­parency flowing from top echelon to front line.
    • The role of manag­ement is to facil­itate difficult conve­rsations and manage conflict.
    • The role of manag­ement is to facil­itate the finding of solut­ions, not to dictate them.
    • The role of manag­ement is to be the “conn­ector,” to match people with the right skills and abilities to projects where those skills are most needed.
    • The role of manag­ement is to be the “brid­ger,” to protect and ensure inclusion—to ensure that different voices and persp­ectives are heard and involved in the work of the organ­ization at all levels.
    • The role of manag­ement is to eradicate the fallacy of “best pract­ices”—to ensure there is constant learning and agility in business proce­sses.
    • The role of manag­ement is to be the “spac­emaker,” to ensure learning can happen on a conti­nuous basis by providing conta­iners where exper­imentation is encou­raged.
    • The role of manag­ement is to remove hurdles to engag­ement.
    • The role of manag­ement is to release the flow of infor­mation and data and to get it to the right people at the right time. The new workplace is data-­driven, but infor­mation is not wisdom. It’s the human analysis of the data that drives value. Data is the start of exper­imentation and learning, not the end.
    • The role of manag­ement is to hire talent that is agile enough to shift and flow based on market need.
    • The role of manag­ement is to get out of the way.
  13. Leade­rship is the system’s capacity to shape its future. Leade­rship comes out of the group and parti­cipates at every level of the system.
  14. The new human workplace has a respo­nsibility for the susta­inability of all the resources it uses, including human beings. The new human workplace therefore has a respo­nsibility for social good.

We can upgrade work.

If you think of work like an operating system, then the system most organizations are currently running is fundamentally the same one we’ve been running since the early 1900s. It’s been updated over the decades, obviously, but the kernel of this operating system hasn’t really changed: it’s engineering — using math and abstract thinking to design systems and manipulate objects in an environment in order to create value. Inputs leading to outputs. Cogs in a predictable machine. Only those machines are not so predictable in the digital age. That system got us where we are, but it won’t get us where we are going.

This Manifesto — and our mission — is about creating an entirely new operating system for organizations. It’s about upgrading work. It’s a new ECOsystem that still values the power of engineering, but now confidently and boldly puts human beings and community at the kernel of the O/S. Not because that gives us the warm and fuzzies, but because it works. Because it’s powerful. Because it unlocks tremendous potential that we’ve been sitting on for a century.

Let’s go.

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