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FOWI Guide

MAPNet: Rethinking work skills for the future

The changing nature of work is a growing concern for everyone. Technological innovation, automation, big data, and demographic changes such as longevity are leading to substantial disruption across industry sectors.1 Better understanding of future work skills and how they develop is urgently needed.

The MAPNet framework provides a new way of thinking about skills based on the deep structure of work activities. The deep structure classifies activities based on two fundamental mechanisms through which organisations achieve goals: optimising uncertainty and optimising interdependence.

Working in an unpredictable world: Optimising uncertainty

In a rapidly changing world, the traditional approach of managing and reducing uncertainty is no longer enough to organisational goals. Instead, we believe, there can be good reasons to engage positively with uncertainty. In fact, many of the skills required for success require individuals to generate more uncertainty, whether for themselves, co-workers, or customers.

Working in a connected world: Optimising interdependence

Technology is rapidly changing the possibilities for human communication. New ways of interacting and coordinating are redefining the dependencies among people, machines, and tasks. Technology now pervades human experience in less visible and more intrinsic ways, and this trend will continue.

MAPnet skills diagram

The MAPNet Skills

By using the MAPNet approach to understand the deep structure of work tasks, we can also identify the variety of skills and activities that enable success in uncertain and interdependent work environments.

Below we explain the MAPNet skills in more detail, beginning with mastery. Mastery is the foundation on which transformational and connected skills are developed. We describe two types of transformation skill: adaptability and proactivity; and two types of networked skills: Local and complex.


The foundation of MAPNet is the concept of mastery; the ability to perform core tasks with a high level of proficiency. Mastery of skills can only be achieved when the requirements of an activity can be reasonably well specified. That is, when uncertainty and interdependence around the activity are relatively low. The digital age is generating new ways of replacing mastery with technology by replicating the knowledge and execution of tasks.

Transformation Skills: Adaptivity

Adaptivity involves adjusting oneself and reconfiguring responses in a changing environment. Technological advances, organisational redesign, and volatile economic conditions can all make work uncertain. Through adaptivity, people apply their current knowledge and skills to new situations that are more diverse and more complex than the ones they have previously encountered.2

Transformation Skills: Proactivity

Proactivity is a set of self-starting, action oriented behaviours that change the situation or oneself to improve personal or organisational effectiveness.3 Two types of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) have been noted as key to proactivity; a thorough understanding of one’s work (job-related KSAs)4 and context relevant knowledge.

Networked Skills: Local Networks

Team work allows individuals to achieve something greater than their individual capabilities through utilising a network of skills and abilities.5 Teams usually have multiple goals. As such, there is a need to multitask and perform multiple processes simultaneously and sequentially in order to coordinate goal-directed tasks.6

Networked Skills: Complex Networks

Modern work often requires a complex network of skills achieved through multiteam systems. Multiteam systems are defined as when two or more teams work interdependently towards shared goals.7 Multiteam systems are able to complete tasks requiring the combination of a complex network of skills beyond the individual and team level of analysis.8

Integration Skills: Transformational Networks

The skills described above do not function in isolation. High performance is achieved when individuals integrate transformation and network skills. For example, a logistics company with high automation and complex goals requires key people who have mastery skills in core disciplines, an ability to adapt to market changes and consumer needs, while also being highly proactive in pursuing performance and growth via the development and exploitation of local and complex networks.9-11

Skills Transitions: Education and Training

MAPNet identifies transitions between skills to explain and support development over time. We identify two pathways for skills development that are explained in more detail below:

  • Mastery as foundation – mastery is the foundation on which transformation and network skills are developed

Complex skills may be viewed as the amalgamation of mastery over a number of more basic skills. For example, mastering the ability to interpret, analyse and describe data trends for a lay audience allows for high performance in a data analyst role.

  • Mastery renewal – transformation and network skills create new forms of mastery

Over time, previously new skill sets increasingly become expected as core skills (e.g. basic IT proficiency) and previously emergent jobs become more common and accessible to re-skill into (e.g. social media manager). In other words, what was once considered new ways of work become part of organisational routines and new skills are developed; mastery is renewed.

MAPnet diagram Mastery arrows


In summary, the Future of Work Institute’s MAPNet framework argues for a systematic understanding of the future of work skills and their development in order to realise the growing possibilities across broad sections of our society.

MAPNet provides a new way of thinking about skill and lifelong learning based on the deep structure of work activities. By using the MAPNet Framework we can start to ask more specifically how individuals contribute to these two purposes of uncertainty and connectedness, and how lifelong learning can help individuals and organisations to adapt and innovate.


  1. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2018). The future of education and skills: OECD Learning Framework 2030. Retrieved from:
  2. Schmidt, R.A. & Bjork, R.A. (1992). New Conceptualizations of Practice: Common Principles in Three Paradigms Suggest New Concepts for Training. Psychological Science, 3, 207-18.
  3. Unsworth, K. & Parker, S. (2003). Proactivity and Innovation: Promoting a New Workforce for the New Workplace. In: D., Holman, D., T.D. ,Wall,  C.W., Clegg, P. Sparrow, & A. Howard. (Ed.), The New Workplace: A Guide to the Human Impact of Modern Working Practices (pp. 175 – 196). Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
  4. Fay, D. & Frese, M. (2001). The Concept of Personal Initiative: An Overview of Validity Studies. Human Performance, 14 (1), 97-124.
  5. Marks, M.A., Mathieu ,J.E., & Zaccaro, S.J. (2001). A Temporally Based Framework and Taxonomy of Team Processes. The Academy of Management Review, 26 (3), 356-76.
  6. Marks, M.A., Mathieu ,J.E., & Zaccaro, S.J. (2001). A Temporally Based Framework and Taxonomy of Team Processes. The Academy of Management Review, 26 (3), 356-76.
  7. Marks, M.A., Mathieu ,J.E., & Zaccaro, S.J. (2001). A Temporally Based Framework and Taxonomy of Team Processes. The Academy of Management Review, 26 (3), 356-76.
  8. Marks, M.A., Mathieu, J.E., & Zaccaro, S.J. (2001). A Temporally Based Framework and Taxonomy of Team Processes. The Academy of Management Review, 26 (3), 356-76.
  9. Chell, E. (2013). Review of skill and the entrepreneurial process. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, 19 (1), 6-31.
  10. Sarasvathy, S. & Ucbasaran, D. (2008). Effectuation: elements of entrepreneurial expertise (pp. 221 – 227). Northampton: John Wiley & Sons.
  11. Kuratko, D.F., Hornsby, J.S., & Hayton, J. (2004). Corporate entrepreneurship: the innovative challenge for a new global economic reality. Small Business Economics, 45(2), 245-53.