The Unbundling of Work

by MindBridge partner Katy Tynan

In 1999, in his dorm room at Northeastern University in Boston, Shawn Fanning wrote a piece of code that changed the world. Facilitated by the steady increase of broadband Internet access, Fanning’s software allowed individuals to share their music with each other. For free.

This full frontal assault on the music industry’s revenue stream did not go unnoticed, and by 2001, Napster was crushed under the weight of multiple lawsuits. But no matter how much the record industry wanted to go back to the way things used to be, it was too late. The unbundling of music had begun.

For years, the record industry had been using a strategy of grouping a single hit together with 7–10 other songs, and selling the whole package as an album. This bundled product allowed them to charge a premium for the whole set of songs when many people only wanted to purchase one or two of the tracks. And despite the ability of the music industry to offer songs individually with the advent of digital technology, they had continued to push the album paradigm, as well as the price-point, even though digital music had none of the associated costs of production that came with traditional records and cassettes. Although they succeeded in driving Napster itself out of business, they could not avoid the subsequent demand to buy songs on an individual basis.

Unbundling as a trend has continued across a variety of industries. From music it spread quickly to software. No longer could Microsoft sell one package of applications as an office suite. Customers demanded the ability to buy just the elements they needed. And on the heels of that has come the unbundling of education. MOOCs and online certificate programs are growing at an astounding rate while traditional four year degree programs struggle to defend their value propositions and attract students.

The unbundling trend has come about largely because the digital economy has given rise to the ability to personalize the user experience in a way that was simply impossible in the brick and mortar world. We could not have unbundled music without the ability to divide and deliver every track separately without incurring a huge cost to the producers of the product itself. This same principle applies to software and education as well. And this trend has given rise to a generation of consumers who expect the ability to personalize every aspect of their lives, from music and learning to work and family life. This, in turn, has given rise to an emerging demand to unbundle the 9–5 job.

Caitlyn Marshall is a writer. A graduate of Emerson College, she spent five years working in marketing, moving from an assistant up to a content manager at a consulting firm just outside of Boston. Even before she got married and had two kids, she struggled to understand the rigidity of the full-time job.

“It seemed ridiculous to me as a creative person to have to commute into the city and sit at a desk during a set period of time in order to do the work I do. I was happy to come in for meetings and to collaborate with the team, but sometimes I write late at night when it’s quiet. Sometimes I want to take a walk or meditate to keep my focus. All of those things are so much harder when you have to go sit in an office all day.”

An annoyance during the early years of her career, it grew to a major sticking point after her daughter was born. Both Caitlyn and her husband worked full-time, and in both cases it was an all or nothing choice.

“I talked to HR about going part-time, but at that time they considered my work a full-time role only. They were nice, they wanted to help, but what they told me was that it wouldn’t be fair to give me a choice to choose my hours if everyone didn’t have the same choice.”

This is the crux of the issue. Both the Millennial generation and Gen-X have grown up with technology, and with a clear understanding that it can enable them to work in a much more flexible way. In fact, during the day-to-day processes of most professionals, a majority of their time is spent on email, phone calls, and other activities that don’t require them to be physically present in an office. And so a generation of workers questions the rationale of this routine that creates traffic jams, costs money, and ultimately creates an artificial society that often feels more like Dilbert than the engaging, collaborative community that CEOs envision.

Why haven’t we changed yet? The technology exists to support not only remote working, but much more flexible and personalized work. While flexible work has been hotly debated for a decade, the number of organizations that offer these options is surprisingly low — 20% according to a study by Stephen Sweet of the Sloan Center for Work and Aging at Boston College. Only 18% allowed workers to share jobs, down from 29% in 2008 according to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM).

This despite ample studies showing that flexibility improves engagement, retention, and productivity.

It’s not about technology, it’s about trust.

While many employers have expressed a commitment to flexible working, managers often lack the authority, training, and support to effectively personalize schedules for individuals on their teams. And without these tools, flexibility can’t be implemented throughout the organization. While time in seat is known to be a terrible metric for productivity, it’s one of the easiest to measure. So when push comes to shove, new managers and leaders who are overstretched fall back to measuring people’s commitment to their jobs by how much time they spend there, not the quality or relevance of their work.

And beyond the logistical challenges of managing flexible workers, there is unspoken inertia on the part of those who have made their way up the corporate ladder under a different set of rules. During change management exercises and organizational development processes, it’s not surprising to hear senior managers talk about the need for new hires to “pay their dues” before they are permitted to adopt a flexible schedule.

Yet despite these challenges, changing demographics and evolving technology are increasing the demand for the unbundling of work, and for a more personalized experience. A recent study by Millennial Branding showed 45% of millennials choose flexibility over pay. And flexibility does not simply mean the ability to work 40 hours in four days rather than five. Younger workers are looking for an engaging culture, meaningful work, and flexibility in terms of where, how, and what they work on. A generation of digital natives, millennials know that what they learned in school will not carry them through their careers. So the ability to learn new skills, take on new responsibilities, and create opportunities to use their talents is what the emerging workforce values. Often these goals are incompatible with rigid employer policies, and as a result millennials are flocking to startups and entrepreneurial pursuits.

A 2014 Bentley University study showed 67% of millennials want to start their own businesses versus a mere 18% who want to climb the corporate ladder.

As with the music industry, the technology is now in place to support the complete personalization and unbundling of the job, and the demand has grown. In 20 years, the 9-5 full-time job may be as much a memory as the LP.

Entrepreneurship Programs: The Future of Higher Ed

Jobs. Dell. Zuckerberg.

In an age where some of the biggest names in entrepreneurship are college dropouts, higher education now faces a dilemma unique to the 21st century: How do schools retain entrepreneurial students without stifling the game-changing ideas they leave to pursue?

In Entrepreneurship, the New Requirement in Higher Education, MindBridge Partner Katy Tynan describes the growing need for entrepreneurship programs to become an integrated part of core college curricula, melding the benefits of a college education with the benefits of real-world learning.

Citing esteemed higher education institutions such as MIT and Stanford as examples, Tynan goes on to explain the many benefits of implementing entrepreneurship programs.

Read the full story

reading room

Advisor Sean Wakely takes on Faculty Development through Higher Ed Publishing

MindBridge Partners advisors are connectors and creators.

This week in San Francisco, Advisor and higher ed publishing expert Sean Wakely will be attending the 40th Annual Professional and Organizational Development Network (POD) conference—the group’s premier meeting devoted to improving teaching and learning in the higher education community. He’ll join a team of new faculty developers and college professionals to address the challenges and rewards of creating programs that strengthen current institutional leaders and build a talent pipeline for the future.

A conference session on “Scholarly Writing Programs” highlights the increasing pressure faculty and graduate students experience to publish and suggests innovative strategies for increasing writing output while balancing other demands. Sean’s participation in the conference kicks off his own foray into the development of campus-based writing workshops for prospective academic authors that require support to successfully publish book-length works.

Contact us if you are interested in learning more about Sean’s work in faculty development via publishing.


Sean Wakely
Founder, Academic Author Advisers
Advisor, MindBridge Partners

MindBridge Partners Expertise Featured in Computerworld and Harvard Business Review

MindBridge Partners boasts a team of experts that you’ll always find at the leading edge of trends in strategy, innovation, and technology.

Can Erbil, Senior Advisor and professor of economics at Boston College, along with Partner and Author Katy Tynan, were featured in a recent Computerworld article on the growing trend of IT professionals as freelancers: “Tech pros make the most of the ‘gig economy’.”

Katy also penned an article on essential skills for new leaders in the workplace. The piece, “Do you have a manager’s mindset?“, was published in the Harvard Business Review last week.

MindBridge Partner and Author Katy Tynan talks the Evolution of Work

Fact: The workplace is evolving.

…but what do paper airplanes have to do with it?

Last Thursday, MindBridge Partner and Author Katy Tynan gave a talk at the CEO Club of Boston on the roles of technology and human behavior in the evolution of the workplace. She describes a “coming employer/employee seismic shift,” and how if we are to succeed, we must be ready to change everything we’ve learned about working and managing others.

Check out her talk below.

Katy is speaking today at the MAPCS Annual Professional Development Conference.

Dr. Sile discusses transformational trends in the global market for education technology.

MindBridge Partners CEO presents at 34th Annual Conference on U.S.-Turkish Relations

MindBridge Partners CEO Esin Sile, Ph.D. attended the 34th Annual Conference on United States-Turkish Relations in Washington, DC.

For over 30 years, The Annual Conference on U.S.-Turkish Relations, has been the largest gathering of government leaders, entrepreneurs and industrialists, academics and policy makers who focus on the full range of bilateral issues. (from website)

Dr. Sile was a panelist at the Education Session on Monday, September 28th.   This year’s session emphasized the increased role that education and education technology have been playing between the two economies. Over the last few years, the potential for disruptive business models in education technology has captured the interest of investors on both sides. (This is due in large part to government efforts to integrate state-of-the-art computer technology into public education systems.) As such, the global market potential for educational products—which vary from online curricula to educational gaming to tools for teachers and administrators—is growing by the day.

The panel on “Commercial Diplomacy through Investment in Education” addressed current and future investment behavior in education and education technology. Dr. Sile presented transformational trends with the greatest potential in education technology.  She also discussed the role of technology disruptions in creating more effective and improved approaches to education—approaches which have become increasingly fragmented, competitive, and global. Finally, Dr. Sile addressed how some of these trends, such as Peer2Peer Learning, can be utilized within the Turkish education system.

Interested in learning more about the research? Send us an email! info@mindbridgepartners.org.


MindBridge Partners to present “Leading EdTech Transformation” Workshop in November

MindBridge Partners will present a half-day workshop on Friday, November 20, at the Courtyard Marriott Boston-Natick from 7:30AM-Noon.


In this workshop, entitled “Leading EdTech Transformation,” we will provide leaders of school technology initiatives with actionable insights to guide their strategies in choosing new tech and implementing it successfully. It’ll be an exciting opportunity for attendees to connect with a broader community of peers and experts, all navigating a fast-changing Edtech landscape.


Presentations By:
  • Framingham Public School District Superintendent Stacy Scott
  • Operations Executive and Entrepreneur Katy Tynan
  • CIO and Educational IT Consultant Keith Gillette


Please visit the Eventbrite page to learn more and to register: http://leadingedtech.eventbrite.com/


We look forward to seeing you there in November!


How Private Colleges are Approaching the Challenge of Educating Students for the Global Workplace

It’s not easy to be the leader of a small, private college these days. Over the last decade these schools have been under tremendous pressure from seemingly every direction. With high (and rising) tuition, and a centuries-old liberal arts curriculum, these institutions have endured criticism about their value proposition to students, as well as the relevance of their curriculum in today’s rapidly evolving, global workplace. These concerns were highlighted when Sweet Briar College announced in 2014 that it would be closing its doors.

Private, four year colleges have an average cost (tuition and fees) of just under $25,000 per year according to the National Center for Education Statistics 2013/2014 report. This is by far the most expensive education a student can pursue. And while students feel prepared to tackle the challenges of their new jobs, their employers aren’t as confident that new graduates are ready. A study by the AACU in 2013 found a substantial gap between students perception of their own readiness and employers assessment of the same skills.

So how are colleges adapting their programs to better prepare students for the evolving landscape of work? Small colleges are embarking on innovative projects which are showcasing their ability to adapt to changing circumstances. And beyond the addition of new programs and new ways of thinking about teaching and learning, these schools are also finding that the liberal arts curriculum, despite its age, is a surprisingly good platform for preparing students for the modern workforce.

Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts, is one of the twenty oldest private colleges in the United States. Tracing its roots to 1784, with a charter signed by John Hancock and Samuel Adams, Becker has a long tradition of educating students using the liberal arts model. Yet it is just this tradition that has been criticized as being outdated and impractical in our technology-enabled workplace. So how does an institution like Becker tackle updating its curriculum while maintaining the core values upon which it was founded?

Dr. Robert Johnson, president of Becker, is passionate about the future of learning, and how Becker is adapting to preparing students for a whole different world when they graduate.

“We are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technology that hasn’t been invented, so it’s necessary to change how we think” says President Johnson, “we have to value learning over knowing.”

To Dr. Johnson, while that means tactical changes like focusing on learning the skills of the entrepreneur, it’s also about teaching global citizenship.

“If you are an educated person on a planet with over 7 billion people then you are privileged, and you have a social responsibility to go out into the world and leave it better than you found it.”

To teach global citizenship, Becker incorporates three key pillars into their curriculum:

  • Academic Excellence
  • Social Responsibility
  • Creative Expression

Becker’s goal is to take the best of their existing program, and infuse it with a global, entrepreneurial perspective, to give students the skills they need to adapt to change, and evolve along with the diverse and dispersed workplace they will become a part of.

In contrast to Becker College’s position as one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the United States, Hampshire College is one of the youngest. Founded in 1970, Hampshire was itself an innovative project which was created by a committee formed by the presidents of Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Amherst College, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to rethink the practice of liberal arts education.

“Hampshire was created to be disruptive” says current president Jonathan Lash. In the spirit of that intent to try new things, Hampshire eliminated traditional constructs like majors and grades. They allowed students to select interdisciplinary fields of study, and, guided by an advisor, put together a unique curriculum based on their own interests. Rather than receiving grades, Hampshire students receive extensive written and verbal feedback from their professors to help them learn and grow.

The founders were less concerned about job training, and more interested in trying to invent a new way of approaching teaching and learning. The focus was entirely on the student, and supporting that student as they pursued answers to broad questions about the world. Yet this lack of focus on job training had a surprising result. In 2012, Forbes released a list of the 20 best colleges for entrepreneurship, and there, alongside MIT and Stanford, was Hampshire College.

While Hampshire was not trying to create a business school, they seemed to have done so by accident. “It turns out that the skills are fabulous skills. They are the skills of the entrepreneur,” says Lash. “Our students see change as opportunity.”

Hampshire and Becker are great examples of a renaissance in the image of the small, liberal arts institution. While they received the brunt of the criticism for being high priced purveyors of impractical learning experiences, they have proven to have the ability to not only demonstrate success through the outcomes of their students, but to be more agile than their larger competitors.

The global marketplace is demanding more from new graduates than ever before. Employers are focused on skills such as teamwork, creativity, and communication as core competencies for the modern workplace. And as the marketplace requires these new skills, colleges are challenged to build programs that foster these capabilities while still providing the core learning experiences that students need and expect from higher education.

MindBridge CEO and Partner Esin Sile Speaks at Evolution and Growth in Business Ecosytems Symposium

Dr. Esin Sile, CEO and Partner at MindBridge Partners, is a featured presenter at this week’s symposium on Evolution and Growth in Business Ecosystems. Her presentation, entitled Impact of Incubators and Accelerators: Measuring Value Created will discuss the growing trend of ecosystem based launch environments for startup companies, and the emerging metrics for evaluating impact and value these organizations provide.

More details on the symposium, and a complete list of presentations and topics can be found on the conference website.