Monday, September 13, 2010

What does the future hold?

In the future, work will look very different from today.  No longer will it be enough to just show up at a job and be told what to do.  The people who are successful in this environment - who not only earn the most money, but also are important and an integral part of the organizations they work for - will be those who share their gifts, who make connections and who are truly remarkable.  These people - Seth Godin calls them "linchpins" - are the ones who will be critical to this new world of work.

This first chapter of LinchpinSeth Godin's latest book about which Chett & I have been blogging (see my first post about it here and Chett's first here), did not disappoint.

In it, Godin introduces us to the idea that our current way of work - which he describes as being primarily factory-based (whether those factories are doctors offices, car makers or restaurants) - has existed in this form for only the past 400 years or so.  And now, he says, we are transitioning to this new way of work - a world where each person has access to their own factory (either through the internet, accessible to most anyone, or through each individuals own mind and abilities), a world in which each individual will produce something unique, something which no one else could.  This uniqueness is what will make them indispensable.

In fact, Godin describes a world in which the jobs that require someone to just show up, the jobs almost anyone could do, will become fewer and fewer, and the businesses that employ them less popular.  Customers are becoming more willing to do business with those who are remarkable and extraordinary.

And when I think about this, I see it happening often.  For instance, two recent grocery shopping experiences fairly well illustrate this.

At one large, well known department store chain known for low prices, I fell - after somewhat dramatically slipping on a banana peel (a real banana peel - it actually does happen).  My feet went one way, my basket of groceries went the other and, before I knew it, I was looking up at fellow shoppers trying their best to help me up.  No major injury - I got up, dusted myself off and walked away minus only a little pride.  One of the things that struck me, though, was that there were 2 staff working in this produce section - and while they both saw my little incident, neither of them came to ask if I was okay or offer any assistance.  Of course, I was fine and didn't need any help; but still - they didn't offer.

I've recently had an opportunity to visit a different, much smaller and more local grocery store on a couple of occasions.  This store is certainly known to be higher-end and higher priced, but it was a pleasure to shop at. Every little department and section of the store had large trays of samples out for customers.  The staff were all full of smiles and helpful.  I didn't have occasion to slip on a banana peel in this store (perhaps the fact that no banana peels were lying on the ground is an indicator in itself) but I have no doubt that if I had, there would have been a number of staff who jumped to my aid.

Between the two sets of staff, I wonder what the difference is.  Is it wages - more incentive to do a good job?  Is it better training?  Or does the second store simply hire staff who are friendlier, more willing to take initiative and help customers?  Either way, I know which type of staff would be more indispensable and remarkable if I was doing the hiring!

For those who have worked and adapted to the old system of work, it may be challenging and even terrifying to consider adjusting to this new way of working and thinking - which is why Chapter 2 reads much like a pep talk for why we all can (and really, must) adapt and change in an effort to become a linchpin.

I think there are a number of challenges and obstacles that someone could face when attempting to become indispensable: the fear of change, of more responsibility; the discomfort of being vulnerable and doing things that they don't really know or understand; and a simple uncertainty or unawareness of how to make this change.

The good news is that each of these challenges can be overcome if each of us chooses to be.

A final note: the thing that most struck me in this chapter was the encouragement to consider what qualities an ideal candidate for the job you have (or want to have) would possess - and then work to build those skills and develop those competencies.

So - if it's not clear - I am very much enjoying this book.  It's confirming some things that I strongly believe while challenging some other thoughts and assumptions - great combination!  I can't wait to share more with you.

What qualities do you think a linchpin (or indispensable person) possesses?  Are these qualities different at work and in real life?

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