Early Warning Signs of the Social Age
by Karl Rohde — Get free updates of new posts here.
Observations of a changing world
A number of events have stopped me short and made me think about how we work and how the future of work will look:
When I was approaching my twenties the prevailing view on one’s vocation was very different to what it is now. Parents, teachers and schools invariably taught us that big institutions would provide jobs for the long term. All you needed to do was get an education, follow instructions and you would stand a good chance to have a job for life. The reality, today, is quite different. Lifelong employment, as a societal norm, is now well and truly a myth.
The fall of Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, was intriguing. The media long held power over what people could say and what they saw. Then along came the internet and social networks and Twitter in particular drove mass engagement where it motivated people to action in the real world.
The Julian Assange story reveals another fascinating shift in our times. Uncovering some classified and horrendous information about the US military, he goes on to create WikiLeaks and broadcasts this to the world. Anyone with an Internet connected device can broadcast.
The collapse and or fragmentation of major industries has been quite astounding. Music, newspapers, publishing and education have all undergone a massive change. Businesses are being shaken up.
The iPhone and iPad, and tablets in general, have changed everything. I recall the first time seeing an iPhone. I stopped and realised this would be a game changer on an unprecedented scale. This is beyond business. This has a cult like following.
Technology is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere and it’s relatively affordable and we can't leave it alone. It is integral to everyone's life not just the lives of IT people.
The biggest and fastest growing companies are technology companies: Amazon, Apple and Google. How have they become so large. Google's advertising revenue is bigger than that of the entire U.S. print industry (source: Business Insider). Amazon's annual revenue is greater than half of the world’s GDP's (source: PC Magazine).
More people have access to mobile Internet than access to safe drinking water. The future is mobile.
A Message That Sang to My Soul
In 2010 I read a profound book called Linchpin by Seth Godin. It sang to my soul.
- It spoke of a whole new world of work where emotional labour, art (creative expression) and care would triumph institutional obedience. Being average will no longer be rewarded like it used to be in the industrial age.
- Seth Godin notes that our relevance is waning as the world gets smaller, more connected and more educated - thanks to the Internet. As technology develops and people globally get more educated, white collar work is increasingly being automated and this spells doom for the traditional employee who works with compliance and obedience in mind.
- He talks to the rise of a new kind of worker, the linchpin, who leads regardless of title, who connects others, makes things happen and creates order out of chaos. This worker loves their work and pours their best into it and turns each day into a kind of art.
- Notably he points out that this new world of work will propel more people to do work that matters and that this is based on choice and not skill, talent or privilege.
The evident rise of the entrepreneur, the solo worker, and small businesses indicates a notable shift in the workforce. Indeed a new world of work is here and it’s very different from what a lot of us are used to. The desire to self-actualise is evident and seems more achievable than ever before.
Every day I read and hear stories of people doing remarkable things that go against popular advice, career counselling, corporate development and the experience of a whole era of employees forged over the last 150 years.
Take a look at the top selling business books on Amazon and you'll notice they are mostly focused on free agents - people who are choosing to work for themselves. There is a new term, the entre-employee or the intrapreneur, that describes a new breed of employee that has a personal brand and acts like an entrepreneur. Previously the best business books were on how to comply and hammer yourself into the confines of big corporate institutions and play the game. This is fading. Creativity, sustainability, authenticity, emotional intelligence, ethical leadership and humanistic business are on the map.
So where are we now?
This is the Social Age! What is it? What does it look like in practice? Don't miss my next post as I dig deeper into understanding the social age and its significant impact on all of us. If you have not done so already, subscribe here to ensure you don't miss out.
This article is based on my talk, "How to be Remarkable and Remain Viable in the Social Age". You can download the presentation slides on SlideShare.net.
This article is the first in a series on the Social Age.
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