The University Record, October 29, 1996

Degrees may not matter in 20 years, Bridges says

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services


"Get ready to market yourself," William Bridges told those attending this year's M-Quality Expo in his keynote address. "Yesterday's wisdom was to find a good job. Today's wisdom is to create a career without jobs."

Sparking some consternation and surprise, Bridges told the crowd that the importance of educational degrees will probably pass by the wayside in the next 20 years, as will universities such as the U-M as we know them today. "People are interested in knowledge, not degrees," he said.

Bridges, a consultant, lecturer and author of several books on change and managing change, challenged his audience to prepare for the future not through education, experience and endorsements but by recreating itself as a viable product through assessing desires, abilities, temperament and assets.

"A product is not a job description or position title," he said. "Nor is it your skill, training or experience. A product is something that produces the outcome a client desires, that solves the client's problem, that confers the benefit the client desires and that adds value missing in other similar products."

Bridges suggested looking in the public market, a community or within a current profession for unmet needs and work that needs doing. "Then launch a little start-up company to do it," he said. Bridges also suggested remodeling a current job so that it is more in tune with the realities of a workplace that is rapidly being "dejobbed."

The new workplace, Bridges said, consists of out-sourcing, using temporary workers, downsizing, re-engineering, TQM, and de-jobbing. "Jobs are not proving to be an effective way to get work done in our economy," Bridges said. "Knowledge work can't be segmented as factory work can be." Bridges illustrated his point by comparing the new workplace to a volleyball team it takes three hits to get the ball over the net, but no one cares who hits it over the net.

Farris Womack, executive vice president and chief financial officer, realizes that the workplace is changing, too, and told visitors to the Expo at its opening that M-Quality is not a program that will come and go, "but it is a different way of thinking about how the job is done." Womack encouraged the audience to be open to the opportunity for the "next" step.