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Exploring Microsoft Future of Work Scenarios

Exhibit 4: Proud Tower

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In Proud Tower, corporate interests dominate, and corporations perform many of the functions once allotted to government. International laws favor large businesses and help to protect their intellectual property. Globalization creates a fertile climate for transnational commerce with economic opportunities leading to rapid development in emerging nations within the constraints of the oligarch investments. Many companies have created their own security and encryption capabilities because of a distrust of commercially available solutions. Because a few large companies dominate the market, it is difficult for small competitors to gain a foothold. Consequently, companies compete at the margins for market growth and revenue opportunities within their existing customer base while innovation suffers. Many global revenue models look more like annuities as products and services both offer support plans that roll out updates or replacements on a regular basis.

Some additional characteristics of this scenario include:

• Borders are increasingly fluid with global corporations as the primary organizing principle of commerce at every level.
• Security and intelligence needs tend to outweigh issues of privacy, and the U.S. military forms increasingly close relationships with global corporations.
• Corporations pay more attention to issues of governance, accountability, and sustainability, recovering some civic trust, but new global and social tensions are rising as people anticipate the century’s third decade and as economic inequalities continue to widen.
• Highly proprietary, structured, corporate-monitored information systems and networks dominate the technology infrastructure. The Internet is primarily a means for connecting to work and a place to interact through corporation-sponsored and corporation-regulated sites.
• Intellectual property is controlled by corporations, some of which may deploy proprietary algorithms due to distrust of the companies that offer security solutions.
• Workers are (and must be) loyal to corporations. Whyte’s (1956) “organization man,” reincarnated as the politically correct “organization person” resurges, his conformist, approval-seeking impulses a good fit for this culture.
• The emphasis is on intraorganizational collaboration and communication as people use information and process expertise to gain status within corporate meritocracies. Internal networking and politics are more important than external relationships.
• Searching and filtering of internal information proves equally (or more) important than looking for external information as internal efficiencies and consistency drive corporate agendas.
• Organizationally oriented reputation systems help people figure out the best people inside the organization to work with to achieve their goals.
• Organizations worry constantly about information leaking out as they are obsessed by the need to maintain market image and preserve opacity around business process.

References

Whyte, W. H. 1956. The Organization Man. New York: Doubleday.