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Discover The Future of Work

Berlin is crackling with innovation. From start-ups, to hipsters, to legacy companies. Granted, I was attending a NOAH conference with a stated aim to "connect leaders into Europe's digital eco-system" but the energy and vitality of the European start-up scene showcased here was impressive. Europe may not (yet) have the fire-power of California's Silicon Valley but what's clear is that old world legacy companies and new digital upstarts recognize they need each other in Europe's largest economy.

My research on the future of talent confirms this, revealing that old world companies are starting to reconfigure themselves into smaller spaces as market opportunities and emerging digital niches begin to grow. In fact, smaller multidimensional teams are beginning to emerge with sales, marketing, service, product development, production, and technology staff co-locating together and focusing on serving a single customer segment or functional need. Fascinatingly, these smaller, nimble talent clusters on the client side mirror what's happening in many major cities around the world including Berlin. Berlin has a talent cluster that's reached critical mass and I suspect there is one near you as well.

See the rise of these talent clusters as waves of entrepreneurial digital talent that is bubbling to the surface. Although everyone appreciates that the spiritual home of the start-up scene is San Francisco, the start-up movement has gone global, accelerating into Berlin's Silicon Allee, London's Silicon Roundabout, Dundee's Silicon Glen, Austin, New York, Singapore to Beijing (the list is endless). Go and look. Each has a sizeable start-up scene—a talent ecosystem—that can be leveraged and integrated into a workflow or innovation stream. Berlin and other cities are home to hundreds of accelerators (start-up schools) and thousands of co-working spaces. Check out the startling growth of WeWork (the European CEO was on the stage at the Berlin event plugging what they do): The company now has 6000 shared office locations dotted around the globe compared with just 300 five years ago...

The rise of these clusters of entrepreneurial activity, spearheaded by the start-up movement, isn't like the bubble that emerged with the rise of the era. The economic fundamentals are there from the building blocks of digital services with ubiquitous connectivity, incredibly cheap data storage and computing processing power which are now driving this into a sustainable wave of entrepreneurialism. I believe executives increasingly need to reset the dynamics of power and decision making in their organizations to uncork experimental business processes and harness these talent clusters and the platform interactions they have to offer. A great digital reorganization in underway.

Just as many of us have got accustomed to trying an innovative service from start-ups, so more start-ups are emerging as the Web educates budding entrepreneurs how to do it. The information on how to do it is accessible to every person everywhere, and increasingly digital talent (self-directed, flexible, and agile) wants to try it out. Global standards are emerging from programming tools, back office platforms down to the hipster dress code. It's no surprise that more established companies located in unexciting locations with an older culture are struggling to attract younger talent to work for them. The issue is recognized, documented and is now being tackled however. What I found was that the rigid approaches to organizational management typified as the 1980s value chain mania is giving away to something much more fluid, connected and nuanced. Silos are being broken in the first steps to improve knowledge flows and redraw organizational power structures. Many companies are in fact, starting to junk old and rigid organizational models and building smaller, nimbler clusters of talent that serve a particular market or niche. The core is shrinking and the edge is expanding...

PS. Check out what Berlin has to offer. A start-up event that can bring the CEOs of both Uber and Daimler together—new world and old world—to share a platform and describe a compelling vision for the world is the shape of things to come.

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