This isn’t what I was intending to post today but over the weekend, my invisible mentor, Seth Godin, posted two entries that are absolutely essential reading to help us recognize the revolution that’s currently happening in the world of work.
PART ONE: THE REALIZATION IS NOW
Americans are frustrated with the world and pessimistic about the future. They’re losing patience with the economy, with their prospects, with their leaders (of both parties).
What’s actually happening is this: we’re realizing that the industrial revolution is fading. The 80 year long run that brought ever-increasing productivity (and along with it, well-paying jobs for an ever-expanding middle class) is ending.
It’s one thing to read about the changes the internet brought, it’s another to experience them. People who thought they had a valuable skill or degree have discovered that being an anonymous middleman doesn’t guarantee job security. Individuals who were trained to comply and follow instructions have discovered that the deal is over… and it isn’t their fault, because they’ve always done what they were told. READ THE REST…
And it’s not just the internet that’s driving this change — though the web is accelerating it. Globalization was already happening before Google. Humans are changing the way they think about the world, and business, in fundamental ways.
PART TWO: THE OPPORTUNITY IS HERE
At the same time that our economic engines are faltering, something else is happening. Like all revolutions, it happens in fits and starts, without perfection, but it’s clearly happening.
The mass market is being replaced by multiple micro markets and the long tail of choice. Google is connecting buyers and sellers over vaster distances, more efficiently and more cheaply than ever before. Manufacturing is more of a conceptual hurdle than a practical one.
The exchange of information creates ever more value, while commodity products are ever cheaper. It takes fewer employees to generate more value, make more noise and impact more people.
Most of all is this: every individual, self-employed or with a boss, is now more in charge of her destiny than ever before. The notion of a company town or a stagnant industry with little choice is fading fast. Right before your eyes, a fundamentally different economy, with different players and different ways to add value is being built. READ THE REST…
Many people are noticing the shift. We agree that it’s unprecedented and irreversible. But this is my concern — while there are tangible, helpful suggestions for how individuals can respond to the big shift (Seth is amazing at this), I haven’t seen enough suggestions for what leaders of organizations are supposed to do.
Here’s the question:
How do we re-organize in a way that doesn’t suck?
This is where we’re going…
(Also, this question will be answered in detail in the new book, which is probably getting A New Title. More on that soon!)
I “starred” both of those Godin posts, too! They were powerful thought-provokers.
Your question about how to re-organize is so great. I can’t wait to hear about the new book (and eventually read it!) so I can see your answer!
My knee-jerk reaction to the question is (re)train/equip our leaders to empower individuals again. Company towns are full of employees and leaders from the age of compliance – which doesn’t cut it anymore. Our leaders need to realize this and elevate their employees as contributors, do-ers, and box-pokers (as Seth may say).
I think you’re absolutely right about empowering individuals, and that is a HUGE part of what needs to be done. But it’s not the part I’m going to talk about in the book. ;-) (Mostly because people like Seth already do it phenomenally well.)
I have a sense that there’s another piece to the puzzle that isn’t discussed as much — the group/organization/structure/system side of business. We’ve got these really complex environments we live in at work, and they affect us a great deal (even though most leaders pay very little attention to them).
So my question is — what are the fundamental things that tie groups together in the new economy? (That’s all businesses are, right: groups of people?) Why should we organize at all? If we’re going to form tribes (which we will), we need better ones.
How do you see the role of mega-corporations in shaping this new world, Josh? They seem to have all the money and power. They are getting even more powerful. Is this good? I don’t understand how the individual can become more powerful if corporations keep gaining strength. It looks to me as though this is the era, not of the plutocracy, or democracy, but the corporatocracy.
This is such an important question — truthfully, it may be the most important question emerging leaders need to answer if we wish to actually create a better world.
You are absolutely correct that there is enormous power centralized in the corporations of today. I would extend this even further to include institutions of all varieties: government, energy, military, the upper echelons of higher education, etc. This is why I talk so much about the growing divide between the wealthy and the poor — the growing chasm is also growing something else: a climate ripe for revolution. (I remain hopeful that this will be revolution of goodness — of connecting, healing, collaborative mindsets.)
So the question then becomes: “What can a single person do when trying to change these massive, systemic problems?” The answer is, predictably: “Not much.” BUT… the playing field changes dramatically if the individual becomes a group. (There’s a growing movement of us, btw; join here if you like.)
As it always has, the power to change the world lies in the collective will of its constituents. And that means ALL of us, together. I’m no mathematician, but I’m pretty sure the wealthiest 1% is still only 1% of the population. ;-) There are more of “us,” and I know we will change things if we want it badly enough.
Perhaps that becomes the next most important question: “How do we get the 99% to want it enough?”