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The Future of Work: A Manifesto

This manifesto is a work in progress, and my personal output from/summary of 4 incredible days in Omaha last November with Joe GerstandtJason LauritsenJamie NotterJanyne Peek EmsickJen BenzEric WinegardnerJames PapianoStuart ChittendenMike WagnerDavid Ballard, and Charlie Judy.  I’m throwing it up on the blog because I can’t hold on to it any more. I’ve never been known to have a lot of patience. 🙂 This is long but I thought I’d post the whole thing here first, before eventually breaking it up into smaller posts later.  All of it is up for discussion.  I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on any part or the whole of it.


The Future of Work: A Manifesto

The future of work starts right here, right now.

This manifesto is about the future of work in a post-­Cluetrain world. This manifesto is also about an emerging ideology of business, where people are at the center of a human ecosystem instead of boxed into a mecha­nical system.

If markets are conve­rsations, then the people who are doing the talking and the listening and the sharing are the most important asset we have. The groun­dswell exists and is power­ful–we’re part of the groun­dswell and we can make the future of work happen right now, in lots of little ways.

Heard the phrase, “the future is already here – it’s just unevenly distr­ibuted”? We all have the social capital to help fix that.

Let’s talk about the things that human beings bring to the table in a work envir­onment. Let’s leverage our human attri­butes and make people and all of their whole selves the fuel that makes organ­izations and busin­esses grow and flourish. Let’s unleash our power as networked indiv­iduals. Let’s make Dilbert cartoons and The Office something we can enjoy as the relics of a past indus­trial, mecha­nical age. Let’s stop work from sucking. Let’s empower ourselves and each other to make our lives better, and thereby make our societies better.


Some truths we hold to be self-­evident:

  • Work matters. We want work to suck less – for everyone, not just the few lucky ones.
  • The disti­nction between “work” and “life” is artif­icial and a barrier to lever­aging both the power of the indiv­idual and that of the organ­ization.
  • Work is the expending of effort for the creation of value. If there’s no effort, but it’s still consi­dered work, it should be autom­ated; if there’s no value, the work is pointless and wasteful.
  • Work is the process of creating something for the purpose of human flour­ishing. Let’s get rid of what doesn’t do that. Work has meaning for every indiv­idual. Work involves identity.
  • Work involves a sense of belon­ging. Work has meaning for the networks each indiv­idual is connected to.  Work has meaning for the local community and for the global commu­nity. Work involves social respo­nsibility.



I.  Human beings are the most important asset we have. 

  1. We need to bring our whole true selves to work. Human­-ness has value for the organ­ization.
  2. Our best work is at the inter­section of what we like doing, what we are good at doing, and what we get paid for. Our goal is for those three things to blend more. Flow has value for the organization.
  3. Work is about learning. Learning is never complete and we have a respo­nsibility as indiv­iduals to make sure we’re always learning. We also have a respo­nsibility as organ­izations to provide resources and envir­onments for learning. This is not a choice, it’s an imper­ative. Learning has value for the organization.
  4. Work involves colla­boration with others. Work doesn’t happen in a vaccuum.  Collaboration – both internal and external – has value for the organization.
  5. We have a need to commu­nicate and share what we do and how we each do it diffe­rently. We work better in the open. Transparency has value for the organ­ization.
  6. We are able to do more than one thing. Our indiv­idual skills, whatever they are, have value and that value is marke­table.
  7. The formula for marke­tability is the same for everyone but the weight of each component is different and may change over time. Agility, defined as the capability to evolve with our networks, has value for the organ­ization.
  8. We are connected and we bring networks with us to work. Our conne­ctedness has value for the organ­ization.
  9. We will feel a sense of belonging and purpose if we’re involved in the direction and purpose of the system. Ownership has value for the organ­ization.
  10. We build relat­ionships. Relat­ionships – and the human emotions involved in nurturing them – have value for the organ­ization.
  11. We need to give as well as receive const­ructive feedback. Truth has value for the organ­ization.
  12. We will trust our employers if our employers trust us. Trust has value for the organ­ization.
  13. We have intuition as well as intel­lect. Intuition has value for the organ­ization.
  14. We all aspire to love what we do. To love where we work and who we work with. Love has value for the organ­ization.


II. Organ­izations that flourish are systems that maximize the value of their human assets.  The blurring of bound­aries between the “I” (indi­vidual human beings) and the “we” (orga­nizations and systems) creates value that is both shallow and deep.

  1. Markets are conve­rsations and organ­izations can harness conve­rsations in order to create value.
  2. The pace of change is accel­erating. The only way an organ­ization will keep up is through its people, who have a natural ability to pay atten­tion.
  3. Indiv­iduals represent nodes and networks. Organizations need to recognize the value of building relationships with networks.
  4. Proximity is no longer a prere­quisite for relat­ionships and networks. Let’s make the techn­ologies that enable virtual commu­nication invisible and ubiqu­itous, so we can just get on with it.
  5. Organ­izations need to better under­stand indiv­idual talent, and they need to better under­stand how to commu­nicate the requi­rements for needs­-based work.
  6. Indiv­idual talent means indiv­idual custo­mization; which means an expon­entially longer tail of marke­table and monet­izable skills.
  7. Indiv­idual talent means hyper­local talent; invisible techn­ology means that hyper­local talent has global reach.
  8. Indiv­iduals have a wealth of so-called “soft” attri­butes that provide organ­izational value and are therefore marke­table and monet­izable.  Let’s start paying for skills like the ability to:
    • build relat­ionships
    • act as a bridge
    • distill infor­mation
    • focus deeply
    • debate
    • influence
    • facil­itate
    • see the bigger picture
    • tell a story
    • manage compl­exity
    • draw meaning
    • write persuasively
    • manage group dynamics
    • solve open-ended problems
  9. Strategic trans­parency is the only way to achieve trust; trust is the only way to maximize the value of the people in a system.
  10. Trust provides structure and predi­ctability in a much more powerful way than hiera­rchies and organ­izational charts do.
  11. Strategic trans­parency enables clarity over control, also known as scalable simpl­icity – the capacity for all parts of the system to work towards the common goal of the system.
  12. Decen­tralized leade­rship requires less middle manag­ement, but more middle level thinking.
  • The role of manag­ement is to be the “keeper of the story”. To make sure there is trans­parency flowing from top echelon to front line.
  • The role of manag­ement is to facil­itate difficult conve­rsations and manage conflict.
  • The role of manag­ement is to facil­itate the finding of solut­ions; not to dictate them.
  • The role of manag­ement is to be the “conn­ector”, to match people with the right skills and abilities to projects where those skills are most needed.
  • The role of manag­ement is to be the “brid­ger”, to protect and ensure inclusion – to ensure that different voices and persp­ectives are heard and involved in the work of the organ­ization at all levels.
  • The role of manag­ement is to eradicate the fallacy of “best pract­ices” – to ensure there is constant learning and agility in business proce­sses.
  • The role of manag­ement is to be the “spac­e-maker”, to ensure learning can happen on a conti­nuous basis by providing conta­iners where exper­imentation is encou­raged.
  • The role of manag­ement is to remove hurdles to engag­ement.
  • The role of manag­ement is to release the flow of infor­mation and data and to get it to the right people at the right time. The new workplace is data-­driven; but infor­mation is not wisdom. It’s the human analysis of the data that drives value.
  • Data is the start of exper­imentation and learning, not the end.
  • The role of manag­ement is to hire talent that is agile enough to shift and flow based on market need.
  • The role of manag­ement is to get out of the way.

13.  Leade­rship is the systems’ capacity to shape its future. Leade­rship comes out of the group and parti­cipates at every level of the system.
14.  The new human workplace has a respo­nsibility for the susta­inability of all the resources it uses, including human beings.  The new human workplace therefore has a respo­nsibility for social good.


The story doesn’t end here. Over to you. What say you about humanizing and the future of work?



allenmireles May 5, 2012 at 11:29 AM

 maddiegrant I think this is a magnificent beginning that will spark multiple conversations. You hit on so many important valuable points that I want to go away to think about them and come back to re-read the Manifesto in order to think some more and comment more intelligently. Well done you.

FemmeMalheureuse May 5, 2012 at 3:27 PM

Would be nice to see a link to The Cluetrain Manifesto [TCM] along with attribution to its progenitors, Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger. Written in 1999, TCM may not be familiar at all to an entire generation of new workers–the future’s workers–many of whom did not start working in the pre-9/11 world. 
IMO, TCM’s critical premise that ‘markets are conversations’ is absolute essential when considering the future of work. This concept doesn’t change; only the speed and depth of the conversations changes with facilitating technology. Young workers unfamiliar with TCM but who are ‘digital natives’ may need to visit this key premise; the pressure for increasing speed may obliterate the nature of conversations and the markets they represent.

maddiegrant May 5, 2012 at 4:10 PM

 @allenmireles thanks Allen!  There’s a lot I want to talk to everyone about.  But I think overall a manifesto like this is, for me, about simplifying really complex conversations, and distilling them down so we get clarity on what we’re all really trying to achieve – I don’t know if this does that but I think it’s enough of a start to share it with people and see what comes of it.

maddiegrant May 5, 2012 at 4:15 PM

 @FemmeMalheureuse Thanks, I agree and have put in links to Cluetrain for the background.  My audience on this blog is very familiar with it and I’ve posted about it in the past too 🙂  – but thanks for the reminder that younger folks may not be as aware of it.  The manifesto as I wrote it specifically refers to it because ten+ years on, we’re starting to see the fuller disruption of social media.  That’s what our book Humanize is about.  So all of the changes presaged by Cluetrain have happened, but in many circles they are “marginalized” as belonging to marketing.  Humanize talks about how these changes actually affect much deeper organizational issues – and this manifesto about the future of work takes that even a step further towards what we are actually, maybe, trying to achieve as we “humanize” our organizations.

Liz May 5, 2012 at 4:17 PM

What a provocative and thoughtful post Mads.  “Work involves identity.” When we lose our identity, we lose our ability to flourish. 

maddiegrant May 5, 2012 at 4:30 PM

 @Liz Thanks Liz. I look at the work you and I do – what if being able to bring our individual skills to the table was something everyone could do, all the time? Almost like if everyone’s job was to consult for their employer. How might work look different then?

lucgaloppin May 5, 2012 at 5:50 PM

We are talking big change here.
I am intrigued by the last bullet list that describes the roles of management, because from their current command-and-control position this is going to be particularly tough. Why on earth should they give up control in exchange for an uncertain, vulnerable future?
Which brings me to the next question: what is our role vis-a-vis management? Descriptive and finger-pointing? Partnering? Caring? Nurturing? Parenting? Electro-shocking? I-told-you-so-ing? I don’t know the answer but I am starting to suspect that the best results will be achieved by resisting our own temptation to play the us-versus-them and to be inclusive and put all our bets on us-trusting-them in the first place.
Whooooaaaah!! Almost got out of my comfort zone there!

maddiegrant May 5, 2012 at 6:03 PM

 @lucgaloppin Great question.  I think certain layers of management are well aware that they are at risk.  We see “resistance to change” everywhere.  I think it was Gary Hamel who wrote a big article in HBR that says “fire all the managers – here –  While he’s obviously being deliberately provocative, I guess my thought here is that you can’t fire all the managers so why not reframe what they do into a more “systems” way of thinking.  I think those bullets show just a few ways that could happen.  I’ve never been one of those revolutionary, “burn down the houses so we can rebuild from scratch” kinds of people – I’m far more interested in collaborative evolution than in starting over. 🙂

lucgaloppin May 5, 2012 at 6:17 PM

 @maddiegrant To fire all the managers is a great title to grab the attention and Gary Hamel is in the right position to use that war-terminology. However,a from-the-trenches perspective reveals that people want to belong. Full stop. Our job is not to push harder in being right. We should take away the stuff that is holding them back from belonging. And that will require us to be in relationship instead of being right. In other words – and this is where I will start to sound like a broken record – if we want organizations to humanize, we should suspect ourselves (i.e. Organizational Change Practitioners) in the first place. My personal quest is to change change management. In this respect this would mean: to upgrade change management by humanizing our change management approach in the first place. This drawing supports how I think we should approach this resistance:

AmyVernon May 5, 2012 at 6:50 PM

I love what’s here, @maddiegrant – I only wish it could be taught in MBA programs and other management courses. Right now, people who can create connections and networks – genuine connections and networks, not just those created for the sake of having large numbers of people in a “community,” but rather those where people support and work with one another, regardless of “stature” – are truly invaluable. Their value is only just being realized by a few.
You sparked a lot of thoughts in my noggin, and I have a feeling I’ll be writing a few somewhat related posts in coming weeks. 🙂

dc2fla May 5, 2012 at 7:03 PM

Maddie this is so rich with wonderful thought food, and in the conversations already started  add that more to digest. “Trust provides structure and predi­ctability in a much more powerful way than hiera­rchies and organ­izational charts do” and requires far less energy to maintain. We naturally seek it out and easily defy  hierarchical divisions to sustain it where we find it. this, I think it is true to lucgaloppin ‘s point on resistance,  even in those who manage by fear and mandate, believing they alone are trustworthy.

maddiegrant May 6, 2012 at 12:47 PM

 @AmyVernon yay!  Can’t wait! And I totally agree that we’re lacking a good way to identify and measure someone’s skill in network-building.  Or even network-bridging.  

maddiegrant May 6, 2012 at 12:52 PM

 @lucgaloppin “We should take away the stuff that is holding them back from belonging.” You are so right.  
I love the drawing – will go and think about it more closely!  I personally know nothing about change management in the traditional sense, except I do know that people think it’s about “change enforcing” – eg some big decision from on high, and everyone has to toe the line or get fired.   But I also know that all of my own consulting work around social media integration has to do with helping people change how they work – and I think that if change (and experimentation, and learning) is baked in to everything we do, then change (in general) won’t be so scary.  

maddiegrant May 6, 2012 at 12:53 PM

 @dc2fla  lucgaloppin yep – I think the trust piece is exactly where Luc’s idea of “changing change management” comes in!

artiegold May 6, 2012 at 10:51 PM

This one troubles me:
“The disti­nction between “work” and “life” is artif­icial and a barrier to lever­aging both the power of the indiv­idual and that of the organ­ization.”
We are what we are. We do what we do. Some, much — or even nearly all — of what we are is what we do, but recognizing that they are not identical concepts is absolutely vital. We each *must* and *individually* spend some time outside of what we do, lest we lose the identity of what we are. Because without what we *are* there is no progress.

maddiegrant May 7, 2012 at 9:25 AM

 @artiegold thanks for the pushback! I didn’t mean that we can’t take vacations 🙂  
I think there’s a lot that comes up related to that sentence, at several levels.  It’s partly about the concept of “work-life balance” and how we wouldn’t even need to talk about that, or about things like “flex-time”, if it was ok to do family stuff and vacation stuff and all the things we’d normally classify as non-work stuff in such a way as those things become important FOR WORK too, not just separate from work.  
So it’s also partly about the time factor – I know some people like to “clock out”, but what if everyone had the OPPORTUNITY to do a job where they don’t WANT to clock out?  Where they want to think about their work even when they aren’t sitting behind their desk?  Where it’s normal and good to do that thinking in their car, or at the beach, or watching their kid’s baseball game… so being mobile and connected (by choice) is part of that conversation too.
And it’s also about the idea (also related to what I just said) that doing the things that we love, as human beings – travel, hobbies, cooking, going to museums, watching TV, reading, exercise – could be things that are much more integrated to work life, if they weren’t perceived as non-work.  I suppose it’s all about the idea of bringing your whole self to work – including the things that make you different from everyone else.
And having said all that, I 100% agree that “spending some time outside of what we do” is very important. 

artiegold May 7, 2012 at 10:36 AM

 @maddiegrant I don’t think we fundamentally disagree; any disagreement that we seem to have is more semantic than real.
And it’s not even really about time, per se; we can be “at work” while being human and “human” while at work. It’s about the necessity of enforcing work and being as incommensurate concepts, not to be confused for one another (no matter how much they so often look alike).
And vacations are *hard*. Further, the mechanisms that companies characteristically use to “make sure people get proper time off” very often do not server their intended purpose. If anything, they tend to exist to make bookkeeping easier.
There’s another issue, as long as I’m here. I, for example, get to work at home. I’m fortunate in that regard, though I must admit I sometimes miss the collegial conversations that can be so valuable. Still, I’m part of a relatively small slice of people in our society who can work like this, pay the bills, be insured, etc. etc. If a revolution in the workplace does not find its way to the great mass of society it will just be yet another case of “the winners” winning even more…

maddiegrant May 7, 2012 at 3:45 PM

 @artiegold yep – totally agree on that! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments!

maddiegrant May 7, 2012 at 7:02 PM

Posting this related post by Ted Fickes of Bright 3 because it rocks –

perfectmeeting May 7, 2012 at 7:26 PM

@perfectmeeting like this & & &&& 

FemmeMalheureuse May 7, 2012 at 8:25 PM

 @maddiegrant Humanization of organizations–specifically, the lack thereof–has been a critical factor behind the failures of the U.S. and global economies. Look carefully at the problems created by the use of subprime mortgages and the derivatives/swaps created using these toxic, doomed-to-fail financial instruments; the financial institutions involved in the sale of mortgages cared only for sales numbers, the investment banks which bundled these mortgages cared only about hedging their numbers, the government agencies charged with monitoring these instruments cared only for the numbers related to economic growth and not enforcement, the legislature cared only for their largest donors including financial institutions. NONE of these entities measured their performance based on outcomes for the humans most directly affected. NONE of these institutions tracked the welfare of ALL of their stakeholders.
The Cluetrain Manifesto’s biggest flaw is its division between companies and markets, wherein markets are groups of people with demands realized in dialog. Until the conversation acknowledges downstream and upstream human stakeholders, there will continue to be gross disconnects like that between the fraudulently foreclosed subprime mortgagee and the investment banks which made a profit for the 1% based on the assumed failure of the mortgage.

AnneWeiskopf May 9, 2012 at 8:05 AM

Maddie – thank you so much for posting this. You have articulated what I strongly believe to be true about what makes great organizations. And this was true before the advent of social networks – though these networks exponentially facilitate more learning, conversations, collaboration, and the ability to leverage influence. On a personal note, #8 describes the people who have been my mentors and what I believe it takes to be an effective sales person and sales manager. Thank you again, my friend! 

sherrymarts May 9, 2012 at 3:35 PM

 @maddiegrant I much prefer to talk about “work-life satisfaction” instead of “work-life balance.” That small change shifts the conversation from a “should” – i.e. the implication that you should balance work and life – to a preference – what makes you happy? 

maddiegrant May 9, 2012 at 4:40 PM

 @sherrymarts I like that!!

artiegold May 9, 2012 at 5:12 PM

Life > Work.
People > Profit.
The “job” is to maximize them all.

COMPASSconsulting May 16, 2012 at 6:09 AM

@ lucgaloppin What a terrific mind map, love it!  Really good manifesto @ Maddie Grant with learning that goes on and on…in support of humanizing!  Coming from the healthcare industry, TEAMWORK was essential.  I think that might be another place to point to changes in the industry (…besides the insurance co…what an oxymoran…right?) that has failed with less humanization and the focus on productity (quantity vs quality)….Healtcare in America is sick, very sick, and in fact, terminal!  Our Healthcare really needs a second opinion!

faybiz May 31, 2012 at 10:14 PM

Mads- good stuff, I’ve got POV on this:
“Work is the process of creating something for the purpose of human flour­ishing. Let’s get rid of what doesn’t do that. Work has meaning for every indiv­idual. Work involves identity.”
I think it leaves the notion of the 30 year career at one place or most manual labor in the dust (which is a good and bad thing)
I’d dare say “creating something for the purpose of human flourishing” is slightly offensive to those that do a manual labor job that is a NECESSITY still in this day and age. Plumbers, electricians, mechanics probably don’t see themselves doing something for purpose of human flourishing, but not that they shouldn’t. I guess the next line begs the question, what do you think is being done as work/job/occupation/career that isn’t  that process you are thinking of?
I knew family and friends who worked a steel-mill job for DECADES in the Rust Belt and never gave a care about “creating something for the purpose of human flourishing” even if they might have been…

maddiegrant June 1, 2012 at 11:50 AM

 @faybiz I’m not sure I agree.  There are lots of manual labor jobs that should be automated (which is happening – like grocery check-out clerks).  There are certainly service industry jobs that have something to do with creating a good customer experience; and there are skilled labor jobs that I think people could take a lot of pride in their being able to be expertly skilled at something very specific and mechanical.  I think there are very few “blue collar” (let’s say) jobs that couldn’t HYPOTHETICALLY allow for some real pride and professional development.  I’d be interested to hear what people think about that.  I really do think “human flourishing” is a worthwhile ultimate goal even for people whose work supports infrastructure or industry…

maddiegrant June 1, 2012 at 11:51 AM

Read Jason Lauritsen on the work-life balance issue… Why Work-Life Balance is Dangerous

faybiz June 1, 2012 at 12:11 PM

 @maddiegrant Ok mads, since the number of blue collar job openings is going be exponentially rising
I think the onus is on you to suggest how you sell such “careers” as part of a process that is tangentially related to “human flourishing.”
I think there is a tension between what an individual considers “their” work and the grander level to which you are speaking.
Your line about eliminating everything that does increase the human flourish is fairly black or white, little room for anything in between- which is what got me thinking about those that don’t see their work as much more than a paycheck. 
Again, this isn’t to say that a truck driver can’t realize that his shipment is part of a bigger whole, etc, but at the end of the day to him- to his identity, does it define him? And if he doesn’t see it that way, should his position or work be eliminated?

sherrymarts June 1, 2012 at 12:50 PM

“Work is the process of creating something for the purpose of human flour­ishing. Let’s get rid of what doesn’t do that. Work has meaning for every indiv­idual. Work involves identity.”  There is a lot in this statement that could be debated, including what constitutes “human flourishing.”  Do people who work in cigarette and other tobacco factories contribute to human flourishing? Or should we ask smokers to all go cold turkey and shut down the factories? How about manufacturing products that require an internal combustion engine? Also, is work something that individuals do, or is it something teams of individuals do? I would argue that a grocery store clerk does work that contributes to human flourishing because people have to eat, so they have to obtain food somewhere, and grocery stores are a good place to do that – just ask the people who live in “food desert” neighborhoods that don’t have grocery stores. 
I grew up in a factory town where the factory workers took great pride in what their company made. In this case it was glass bottles of all kinds, from large carboys to tiny perfume bottles and vaccine vials. It was pretty common for the workers to decorate their home with pretty bottles that were discarded “seconds” from the plants where they worked. Does pride in one’s work alone constitute “human flourishing?” I would argue that it does. 

maddiegrant June 1, 2012 at 1:34 PM

 @faybiz yep I see what you’re saying.  I wonder if my (maybe) more optimistic view of this is that I work on a daily basis with organizations (associations, of course) whose very existence relies on communicating the value of certain professions as well as helping those professions flourish.  Take the American Welding Society – like many associations, they want to show to kids in school and/or young adults in higher ed that a career in welding is important and valuable to society.  Now, they may not necessarily represent the construction worker who welds (as opposed to the inspectors and other more white collar people), but they do have a vocabulary for elevating the welding profession in general.  Maybe I’m thinking there’s a new vocabulary for all of the full range of what we call work, where it IS part of someone’s identity and they CAN insist that there’s more than just a paycheck to it…

maddiegrant June 1, 2012 at 1:48 PM

 @sherrymarts thanks Sherry, yes of course you’re right – there is a ton of nuance in all of it that can be debated.  I definitely agree that pride in one’s work is a hugely important factor to flourishing and I really love your glass bottles example.  There are also artists whose work is all about making meaning from found objects… 🙂
Let’s take the grocery store example.  WholeFoods is one of the examples we talk about in our book Humanize, as a company that is radically transparent with all kinds of internal information like budgets and salaries – the goal being that every individual employee gets to see what part their role plays in the whole system.  I think I read somewhere that the staff of each individual Whole Foods store has the power over their own local inventory – so they buy stuff based on the location of the store and the produce from the local region etc.  You can imagine all kinds of different jobs in that one store that range from white-collar (management; buyer) to blue-collar (people who stack the shelves; cooks; etc) – but if the whole group works as a team with the goal of selling fresh healthy food to that one neighborhood, then maybe in the future some of the truly automatable jobs (checkout) could be replaced with new jobs (roaming customer service?  Help for old ladies?  etc) that are PERHAPS more meaningful.  
I get that this has to do with a pretty utopian  vision; but I think we’re seeing elements of it happening everywhere, powered in part by big data and mobile/social technology.
p.s. I’m a very recent ex-smoker so will pass on commenting about tobacco 🙂

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