Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must’ve seen one of the hundreds of commercials advertising the new blockbuster movie Jupiter Ascending. I for one am planning on going to see it (I’m a big sci-fi fan). But it did make me wonder about the commercial civilization that apparently implanted humanity onto the earth according to the story line, and then came back a few thousand years later to farm the planet for profit.
Regardless of the negative insinuations of corporations gone wild, I’m wondering what kind of structural changes to our labor and workforce would have to take place before we as a human civilization are able to build enormous ships and conquer the galaxy. This led me to coming up with the following list of items which will probably need to take place before we’re able to take on projects that can go on for hundreds or thousands of years and to have some continuation for the work that is done.
Some political, social, and geographic safe zones are necessary
Clearly the first point would be we’d have to have a single system and a single place where everyone can gather to build whatever it is that we need to build in order to travel through space. I am making the basic assumption that to build one of those enormous spaceships that we see in the movie would take thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of workers, engineers, human resource professionals, leaders managers and executives to complete. If you don’t have a single system somewhere in the world (and it could be a little piece of tiny land where everyone gathers and materials are transported to) then you can never get the kind of efficiencies that you would be looking for in order to manage and execute on a project of this scale effectively.
Organization of labor and of management would not just be important, it would be absolutely critical
We’re talking about organizing millions of building blocks, thousands of independent supply chains, and tens of thousands of workers. Managing the complexity of an enormous system such as the one that would necessary to travel long distances through space will be more important and more critical than ever before. The reason is obvious: one mistake and billions of whatever currency we will be using at the time (my bet is on bitcoin) would be instantaneously wasted. Not to mention, the immediate livelihoods of everyone affected by this large-scale project.
The HR function and all of it supporting research disciplines and professions would need to adapt and change
If you try to manage a project the scale of Jupiter Ascending-type ships or industries with today’s HR function and the available methods at managing human capital, my intuition is that you would fail miserably. HR today is just beginning to adopt a measurement and metrics-based approach to managing the people in the organization, when data analysis and analytics has been around for at least 20 to 25 years.
In the future, HR professionals and project executives should be able to walk into a room look at a big screen and see the level of incremental innovation that’s taking place at that very moment as a percentage of all productivity and work done for example. Or the project executive would telepathically reach out to the HR professional and ask a question such as ” what is our positive culture index for the day?” It’s a completely new world so it’s hard to imagine with today’s processes, technologies, and systems, but I get the impression that things will be done much more instantaneously and with much more precision.
Scale will be paramount
Managing scale (economies of scale, efficiency scale etc.) will be more important than ever. When you reach large complex project such as the one that I imagine and the ones that are outlined in Jupiter Ascending, you start to run into complexity theory type problems. Complexity theory is a set of principles in the collection of ideas and tools that allow us to model behavior on multiple levels ranging from the individual to the group and beyond. Part of what complexity tells us is that you can affect behavior through large-scale policy changes, and that complexity itself becomes a dominant force as projects become more involved and more complex over time. In other words if you’re a small organization with the ability to execute on specific projects with an efficiency of 90%, if you increase the size of the organization proportionally to the size of work overtime, even if the resources match the amount of tasks that are in front of you when complexity of your tasks increase, your efficiency will undoubtedly go down because complexity itself has become a factor. Managing that extra factor will be more important than ever before.
Motivation and development of workforce(s) will have to change and adapt
There are a number of various models employed by organizations throughout the world today to manage and motivate their employees. It is my believe that those models will no longer work when taken on large-scale galaxy-sized projects like the ones we would have to undertake in Jupiter Ascending. Today’s dominant model is based on time for pay, and in some instances pay-for-performance. When undertaking a large-scale project such as this one neithere model would completely satisfy the needs of the project.
Time for pay for highly specialized jobs such as the ones that would be needed to build a hyperdrive for example would never make sense. The chances are that the brightest and the best that are able to build something on the magnitude of a hyperdrive are doing something else and can demand whatever pay they want. Additionally many of them would be spending their lifetimes doing research. Therefore, you would have to ask them for their skills and knowledge and pay them for it, not their time, in order to entice them to share their knowledge for a project of this magnitude.
The pay-for-performance model creates problems as well. When you have large-scale project with a definable and set amounts of jobs and necessary skills. It could be that the number of opportunities for growth and promotions are not there to entice people to be motivated by a pay for performance system. Additionally it becomes very difficult with large projects to judge each individual’s contribution to the project, and this creates a major pay-for-performance srtructural issue.
Maybe I’m dreaming and am just a dreamer, but I do think that we can become a galactic civilization where corporations are the size of whole planets or that can create whole planets, but before we get there there will need to be many important changes taking place at the core of what makes these kinds of projects possible – the people element.