The Future of Work demo project kicks off

On top of what Eindhoven Engine does with its regular projects and the community building around it, we also want to launch projects that are challenge-driven, multidisciplinary and promise to be impactful. Can we use the collective intelligence of students, the founding partners of Eindhoven Engine and the Brainport Region to contribute to the co-creation of solutions for those wicked problems in an open innovation manner? Eindhoven Engine has identified a few potential demo projects and wants to kick off with the ‘Future of Work’.

In a world in which we do not know how half of all jobs will look in ten years’ time, what will the relationship be between work and (lifelong) learning? Is remote work more effective and/or flexible and does it contribute to a better life/work balance?  Do the lessons learnt from the corona crisis mean that we should fundamentally rethink what we do and how we do it? Can technology play an interesting and impactful role and what would this look like? Many challenging questions for which we do not have the answers; hence, a real wicked problem.

Business Model Innovation approach

At this stage, Eindhoven Engine Academy wants to prepare the launch of the demo project through a series of four seminars with a limited number of participants from the founding fathers (TU/e, Fontys, TNO), our own team, some volunteers that are active in current projects and a few students. We are going to follow a compressed format of the Business Model Innovation approach mentioned in our previous newsletter, bringing it together in four two-hour sessions and continuous group work in between the sessions. Each session has a theme, after which the groups will work in co-creation on the definition of the project.

Walter Baets, Eindhoven Engine Academy

The themes covered are: a complex world creating wicked problems; design thinking and systems thinking; complex adaptive systems and collective intelligence; organizing for emergence.

In a month’s time, we will have the context and the briefing for our first demo project: the Future of Work.

PDEng Design Challenge

In an intense last week of January, teams of PDEng trainees worked on challenges presented to them by companies. One of the challenges which a team worked on was the ‘Future of Work’ demo project of Eindhoven Engine.

Future of work

The challenge we gave them was as follows. Hybrid forms of (remote) working have an impact on communication, connection and creativity in teams (at the very least) – an impact that we are beginning to understand. However, our reflection should have started earlier. What is the purpose of work? Can we create an environment and approach that moves away from linear, predetermined thinking and opens doors to more creativity and eventually more fun? Can we use this opportunity to start working ‘smarter’, not just doing the same with smarter technology? Can we use tools that facilitate efficient ways of working, such that we do not have to adapt to existing procedures and platforms but instead redesign processes and support tools in alignment with one another? How can we create accidental meetings in a virtual environment, the chaotic situation that invites us to reinvent ourselves?

Future of work

The team came up with some interesting ideas that we are going to take further when we define our demo project on the Future of Work. They constructed a causal loop diagram, from which they developed two possible interesting scenarios: working smart instead of hard (with creative jobs and a focus on the human dimension of work) and work as a learning process (lifelong learning, upskilling/reskilling, use of learning machines to support this match between work/learning). The team observed a tendency to move away from ‘learning in order to work’ towards ‘working in order to learn’. This focus also has huge potential in helping to define University 4.0. Eventually, they also paid attention to the ‘network employee’: the (knowledge) worker who works for different projects and no longer for a company.

Walter Baets


Lots to think through in relation to these highly creative, challenging ideas which are at the center of what corporates are being confronted with. The next step is a pilot project in order to work further on detailing these possible scenarios, after which Eindhoven Engine will launch the Future of Work as a supported demo project.

For more information, please contact Walter Baets, Eindhoven Engine Academy

Business Model Innovation in an Exponential World

The Eindhoven Engine Academy offers a training and mentoring journey for ‘Business Model Innovation in an Exponential World’. If an assignment is clear and we know what we would like to develop, systems engineering is the right route to follow. But what do we do if we do not really know how the innovation should look? Or even worse, we do not fully understand the problem and therefore have no idea what we can do? We call these wicked problems and they are more common than expected. Corona is the obvious one and shows us every day what it means to live in a complex world surrounded by exponential events. We see the difficulty in coming up with integrated, systemic solutions for the different dimensions of the pandemic. But what about the Future of Work, for instance? Will we continue to work more remotely? What will the impact be on real estate (estimates range from 20 to 40% less demand for office space), on public transportation (the NS CEO expects the company to be more seriously strained and on mobility? How can we use exponential technologies to support a more creative and humane society?

Walter Baets, Eindhoven Engine Academy 

Those wicked problems need another approach, another focus: not so much on developing the optimal solution but rather on optimally defining the problem and exploring all possible paths towards impact. This means that we think creatively and systemically about all of the dimensions of the business model within the exponential reality. It is not so much the technological innovation that makes the difference but rather the business model. Going back to the Future of Work, can we identify the business models that might still work in the near future (even though we do not know how this will look)? Companies and individuals need to take decisions, invest, develop and reorganize.

Launch of seminars and coaching

To help with this process, Eindhoven Engine Academy is launching a combination of seminar sessions and assignment coaching (on a problem of the company or project) in order to support the design of innovation for emerging factors, for uncertainty. This process can be organized physically (corona-permitting) or virtually. The topics dealt with are understanding the exponential world, the tools for defining an impactful project, complex adaptive systems & wicked problems, organizing for emerging factors and exponential leadership. Between each workshop session, participants work on their assignment (their project).

First pilot

A first pilot is being organized with some Eindhoven Engine project volunteers and some of the Eindhoven Engine team members involved in the Future of Work. This process will help to define a demo project for the Eindhoven Engine, which we will then open up to all interested parties and facilitate in such a way as to create innovative crossovers. This demo project on the Future of Work will be announced to all in order to encourage participation.