By Phil Gibbs on November 8, 2011
No, this is not about Occupy Wall Street or the high unemployment rate we have been enduring. Well, maybe it is, in a way. Actually, it is about the unemployment rate going much higher when measured by the traditional number of people holding “jobs.”
This is about a new way of thinking about work and organization and jobs. It is interesting to explore how far the movement away from the traditional job could take us—will we recognize the world of work as we have known it in the next few years?
Maybe it is helpful to realize that people have not always held jobs as we think of them today—certainly not jobs in large organizations. Jobs that define our hours of work, our health insurance, our dress, our relationships with bosses and peers, our compensation and standard of living, our title and prestige in the community, our vacation time, and our career path. It is a little shocking to realize how much of our “lives” are controlled by our “jobs.”
It hasn’t always been this way. Back before I was born, people were hunters, fishermen, farmers, shepherds and warriors. There were carpenters, blacksmiths, bakers and merchants. There was plenty of “work” but few “jobs.” There was compensation but no payday. There was time off but no vacations. There were demands of the work, but no bosses.
Wait a minute—did I mention warriors? There were great warriors who organized and led large armies to defeat enemies. They had paydays, often at the expense of a defeated enemy. There were uniforms. There was a well defined hierarchy. There were procedures and rules. So maybe all this began with warriors and armies!
As tasks became larger and more complicated, we copied the armies. We developed elaborate rules and appointed bosses to enforce them. We decided what dress was appropriate for work—don’t you just love “business casual” as a description of dress outside of work! We set the hours we expect people to be at work. We did psychological studies and then handed out rewards for people performing work as demanded. And we had the nerve to measure “job satisfaction!” Oh, I forgot, we enacted laws to govern what was appropriate to do and not do at work, and hired lawyers to fight with each other over enforcing the laws.
So what is wrong with this picture? Sound like progress to you? Not me! A return to hunting, fishing and farming sounds pretty good. Maybe it is not the hunting, fishing and farming of our ancestors, but it is designing, modeling, coding and marketing using state of the art technology. And it is accomplished by people working independently but tied together as never before by sophisticated information systems.
Sounds interesting! No job, but an abundance of work. No boss, but plenty of demands from the work. No paycheck, but compensation for the work. Could this be where we are heading? Should people be looking for opportunities to work, rather than looking for and sometimes demanding jobs? You have to admit, it is worth a little dreaming.
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