Changing the nature of work: An interview with Jovoto’s Peter Ryder

Since the Industrial Revolution, people have come to have a fixed idea about what a “job” is, but in fact the definition has changed over the centuries. Hundreds of years ago, “job” may have meant becoming an apprentice and then plying a trade, or engaging in farming, or simply signing onto a crew whenever an opportunity arose. The idea of a “job” as selling your daytime hours to a large company, and sitting in a cube alongside hundreds of others, is a relatively new idea, and not a very good one. “Job” should instead, be part of one’s life, evolving from one’s interests, pleasures, and life goals.

That’s a lofty definition of “job”, but we’re a lot closer to it today than we have ever been in history. The Internet Revolution brought in changes to the definition of “job” that are still evolving today, and twenty years hence, “job” will still come to mean something completely foreign to what it is today. The inflexibility of the hierarchical, on-premise office is rapidly becoming obsolete, both as a way of making a wage, and as a way of running a company.

Business Ecosystem
Traditional growth of a large enterprise used to mean adding more employees, more departments, and more square footage. Today, it’s very possible to have a company with fifty employees, which accomplishes more than a company just 25 years ago that had five hundred employees.

Rather than growing a big, vertical company, we’re starting to see the emergence of a “business ecosystem”, which has a smaller core and several satellites all the way around. These satellites may be smaller business process outsourcing (BPO) providers, freelancers, tele-workers, and more recently, “the crowd”. Bringing in the crowd in an intelligent way that is productive and beneficial to both the core business, and to members of the crowd, is what Jovoto is all about.

There are two driving forces behind this sea change; technology, and a new type of culture that brings the crowd closer to the core in a truly collaborative and meaningful sense. The underlying cloud technology is the enabler. Sharing data and information across great distances, collaborating virtually in real time, and providing anywhere access to software and infrastructure has irreversibly set the wheels in motion. But now that such a thing is possible, what really makes it work is how it’s organized. Peter Ryder, co-founder of open innovation platform Jovoto, talks about building a virtual community of people that are highly incentivized, not necessarily to work for you, but to work with you.

More than just a match-maker

Globally speaking, unskilled labor has been moving offshore for many years, and that’s a trend that cannot be reversed. The net result is a trend towards higher wages in emerging countries, and if you think globally, we can see this trend as a “win”. But what does that leave within first world borders? It leaves a lot of room for innovation, and for developing and utilizing great talent for great results. Jovoto’s goal is to re-invent work environments that nurture this creative talent and drive great results.

There are plenty of existing sites that do little more than match small companies and freelancers with those who need their services. Still other sites offer very limited “contests” in which freelancers and creatives, eager to prove themselves and gain recognition, spend hours in isolation creating something of value only to have a one-in-a-thousand shot at getting a few dollars. Those sites lack the element of community and collaboration, and are frankly, exploitative in nature.

Jovoto adds in all the missing ingredients, including collaboration, reward, interest, and fairness. It’s more of a co-creation space than it is a mere contest platform, and it establishes a productive link between the crowd and the core enterprise that is beneficial to both sides. Ryder, who is also co-author of the book “Crowdstorming”, talks about the Jovoto model as one of community-building and collaboration. Companies that engage Jovoto often put up serious prize money as well as lucrative licensing agreements, and the crowdsourcing that goes on within Jovoto really lends itself to team effort. “We do this because it’s interesting stuff, if it’s something we think the community would be interested in doing. So much of what makes this work is the cohesive community.”

Just what is it that interests the community? Often, it’s dollars and cents, but in other cases, it’s attention that one might get as a result of participation, or PR value for a small startup. Keeping tens of thousands of community members interested and engaged requires more than a simple prize, it calls for “building a healthy relationship, where people can interact with each other about ideas. There’s no reason for people to show up unless you’re doing something that they believe in.”

Jovoto creates a virtual community of people. “Whether they’re working for other companies, or are independent people, you want those people to feel that they are treated fairly”, said Ryder. “This is a new work environment. That’s the real disruptive part of this. If companies are going to find talent anywhere at any time, you have to treat that talent the same way you would treat your employees, and make things good for them – better than employees in fact, because you want them to come, even when they don’t have to come.”

Jovoto fills the gap that has existed thus far in crowdsourcing. “A big part of that is being open, being transparent, and always being fair,” says Ryder. “And rewarding people with as much financial reward, and other kinds of rewards, as you possibly can, and keeping the mix of interesting ideas for them.”

Tomorrow’s most successful companies are going to need to have a combination of leanness and great size. This seeming paradox is easily met with today’s technology and with engaging platforms like Jovoto, allowing companies to embrace a new business model of lean operations, while still bringing a crowd of potentially thousands of interested and engaged participants into the business eco-system.

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