I was recently driving back from holidays with my wife, Nicki, listening to Russell Brand’s excellent podcast, ‘Under the skin’. His guest Pankaj Mishra, Indian essayist and author of ‘The Age of Anger’ said something that really resonated.
“Most lives end in disappointment”
Simple, profound, confronting. But true? We paused the podcast and debated the idea.
On balance, I suspect, sadly, he’s right. Mishra frames his argument in terms of a world in which many feel increasingly powerless and unheard. Part of that pertains to the power shift in which many workers’ incomes are flatlining as profits flow to business and ‘the rich’. This dislocation is being amplified in the ‘New World of Work’. If we are to avoid ‘disappointment’ - to create the successful, rewarding and meaningful careers we dream of - we need to understand the threat (and opportunity) and respond.
The New World of Work has arrived
2018 marks the tipping point. We can now see what the future of work looks like. Maybe not all of the details, but the main drivers are clear. Increased global competition is forcing/encouraging organisations and employers to ruthlessly pursue efficiency, productivity and flexibility gains. New tech makes this possible.
It’s not ‘all good’
This world is one of continuous change and increased uncertainty for most people. Job security is reduced, AI, machine learning and robots are automating the repetitive aspects of many roles. New forms of employment are replacing traditional long-term jobs. Most of us will be employees, contractors, part-time workers and entrepreneurs at various stages. Rather than working for 4 or 5 employers in a 30-40 year ‘career’, we can now expect to have multiple careers and need to reinvent and retrain many times. Like it or not, we are likely to be sucked into the ‘Gig Economy’ in one form or another.
It’s not ‘all bad’
It’s not all bad, but the gig economy and one-sided employment contracts mean ‘People’ are at risk of becoming commoditised - just another resource to be dialled up and down in response to demand. There are corresponding opportunities for those of us who adapt to take advantage of this new market. To do so however, we need to understand how far and how fast things have changed. We need to break old habits, challenge fears and actively position ourselves. This doesn’t just happen!
We have to step up in response
The shape of this new world has massive implications for our future success and happiness. Chances are you need to change. Probably a lot. Probably faster than you’d like. We need to proactively and urgently build and deploy the skills, mindsets and capabilities we need to stand out and differentiate ourselves. These include:
Across 2018, I’ll be exploring these themes. I firmly believe that these are the things we need to obsess on developing to win and be happy in this new world.
Everything has changed. Forever. We must too.