Two days ago, the CEO of Little Bird, Marshall Kirkpatrick, ran a must-read blog post: The C-Suite’s Challenge: The Changing Future of Work.

The piece links within to a list of the top 20 most influential thought-leaders in The Future of Work, and (more fascinating to me by far) the top 20 companies tuning into those thought leaders to learn what they have to say. The list is here.

Marshall asked me to share some thoughts on his findings, which he used in his CEO’s Challenge post. The long version of those thoughts follows.

There are a few fascinating threads running through this story, not just one.

The first thread? These are all enormous firms that grew to prominence in the Industrial Age. Not one of these companies does what it did when it was founded all those years ago; they’ve already reinvented themselves, many of them more than once – that’s why they’re in business today. It’s clear from the close attention they’re paying to the leading voices in this area that they know they must reinvent again, just to make it to 2020. I guarantee you, some of their closest competitors today will be Blockbuster Videos and Kodaks just four years from now. By listening to the leading experts beyond their employee ranks, they’re ensuring they themselves will not fall to a similar fate.

For instance, my many contacts at SAP (reporting independently, as they span multiple business units) assure me they are deep into a seismic change in how their company does business. We may not have seen as large a company change so dramatically and fast (and I believe successfully) since the Gerstner era at IBM.

That’s the cautionary hedge to this story, but there’s something much more positive, much more forward-thinking, right on the other side of that coin. By watching what the prognosticators of the Future of Work are predicting, these companies are ensuring that they will be in a position to provide that future to customers in the not-too-distant future.

Look at Salesforce. This company arguably brought SaaS and the cloud into all of our workplaces – what more disruptive and future-oriented move could a company make just a few years ago? At the head of this list, clearly, they’re positioned to keep their edge, maybe even expand it.

On that note, their social CEO, Mark Benioff, said something recently that changed my thinking about the tech startup ecosystem, remarking that it isn’t a bubble (as in the .com debacle of the late ‘90s) because the things these firms are creating are changing the world – and so they aren’t overvalued (with a few exceptions, perhaps). Looking around, paying close attention to what the legion of software and device and even business model companies are actually doing, it’s hard to argue with that assessment.

And what’s happening with those startups? A lot of them are being bought by another firm that Marshall tells me just missed this list, at number 21: Oracle (it’s been estimated close to 200 of them in the last three years alone!) Following the top influencers on the Future of Work and buying the companies they’re talking about? Well, that’s a tried-and-true method of making a giant cutting edge again, isn’t it?

Finally, let me just say that I’m honestly shocked at some of the companies not represented on this list that sure are talking a lot about the Future of Work. Whenever someone is talking and not listening, regardless of context, I think we all know what that is: arrogant. If I were on the board of a company trying to position itself as a pioneer in this space, we’d be calling the CEO in to explain why our company is risking its reputation – and its future – by coming across as so painfully out of touch. That’s just no way to run a business, especially when a tool like Little Bird can expose the authentic voices out there from the fakers. This is the Social Age. There’s no hiding from the truth anymore: we aren’t who we say we are, we’re what we do.

What do you think? Who is crushing it right now by reimagining how we’ll all be working in just the next few years, and providing it for us? Let me know in the comments below – or better yet, with a Meddle!

Read why I say The Future of Work is the Connected Organization (my most popular post on FoW ever!)

Watch a two-minute video as I describe why work will look a lot like Hollywood in the not-too-distant future.

About Ted Coiné

Ted Coiné is CEO of The Extraordinary Network, a group that is rewriting all the rules of influencer marketing by cutting out agency middlemen to work directly with B2B and luxury brands. Proud “bleeding heart capitalists,” he and his team have built support of a great cause into every for-profit campaign they undertake.

His entire career, Ted has collected fascinating people, most notably other thought leaders who also have a large and loyal audience of large enterprise leaders. He has watched the Wild West that is influencer marketing until he realized an opportunity to fix this broken system, and give influencers the sway they need to move markets together, and to get paid what they’re deserved for this power they bring to bear.

An Inc. Top 100 Speaker and one of Business News Daily’s 15 Twitter Accounts Every Entrepreneur Should Follow, Ranked #1 authority on the Social CEO and #3 in the Future of Work, Ted is also a serial business founder and CEO.

Ted is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership gave Ted a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive.

He lives in Naples, Florida, with his wife and two daughters.

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