Back at the turn of the millennium in 2000, my life was having a turning point itself. I was working at a job that was definitely the peak experience of my conventional life so far, I was a Senior Web Developer for a local web firm whose clients included notable video game publishers like Sierra Studios, Activision, and Konami. I was effectively at the top of my world, a world which would come crashing down a year later, as the company I worked for imploded along with many others during the Dot.com Bomb period.
Fast forward to today and this experience, this ending, was a catalyst in waking me up to what was wrong with the way work worked. Yet almost two decades have past in which I’ve read books from The Cluetrain Manifesto to Reinventing Organizations and it feels like not much has changed locally where I live. In Vancouver, while there are probably more “socially aware and conscious” companies, they pretty much work internally like any other conventional company out there in the mainstream work world. In effect, the greatest social change and innovation needed today, the way companies work and operate internally, hasn’t changed at all.
Don’t get me wrong. I realize that transforming a company, just as much as transforming individuals, is a radically difficult thing to do. But here’s the thing that perplexes me. Why aren’t newer companies, newer startups, striving to let go of the past and step into the future, working in a new way from the very start of their inception, as it’s much easier to do with a new company. I mean Vancouver has hosted both the TED Talks and the BIL Conferences with tremendous success in the past. Lately though, this exuberant energy around changing the way work works feels like it has fizzled out. Again changing the world, even just changing your world, is a radically complex thing to do.
I’ve been pondering this for a while, wondering why this momentum seems to have disappeared and a single keyword keeps revealing itself to me. Immersion. Or lack there of. Simple put, we are not immersing ourselves within the New World we talk about and wish to live within because we are still immersing ourselves within the Old World. Therefore, no matter how much you wish to be within this New World, you will never get there if you don’t let go of and step out of the conventional Old World. What I’m talking about here specifically are the social artifacts that form the cornerstones of our Old World which symbolically represent the governing beliefs that hold it up.
Why we need to change these cornerstones is because they define our identity. So if we want to transform ourselves and our identity to work in new ways, we need to change these cornerstones. Think of them like the corners of a portal to our New World. Once we create them all and they can align and interact with one another, we can create a stable and sustainable portal to our New World, allowing us to not only step within it but fully stay within it.
The cornerstones of our Old World, our old identity, are evident once spoken. They are resumes, jobs, and bosses. Until these are replaced by new cornerstones, we won’t be able to fully step into this New World and into our new identities, allowing us to communicate and operate in a new way. They key thing to realize though is that in going beyond resumes, beyond jobs, and beyond bosses, our new cornerstones need to not only go beyond them in scope but also include and integrate them within this broader scope.
Growing & Becoming More
The whole emphasis here is that we are not discarding our old identity completely but are instead broadening and redefining it as a whole. In doing so, it gives us the creative capacity to handle greater complexity which is essential for this New World emerging. That said though, the experience still feels earth shattering. The you that you think is you has to die metaphorically, so the you that is truly you can be born (which mirrors Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey). But again by having these new cornerstones, we can create a solid stable footing and identity within this New World, so we can finally let go of the Old World.
Going beyond bosses to me is probably the easiest to articulate right now because it has been covered in so many books like Reinventing Organizations. Within an organizational capacity, leadership gets distributed collectively. So it doesn’t go away but instead transforms into something more. But that said, the greatest challenge here is how individuals deal with this. You have to intrinsically take leadership of your own life and create your own path, rather than extrinsically just fitting into society and waiting to be told what to do.
Going beyond jobs isn’t something covered as much. Many people think the Future of Work is new things within an old context (i.e. new types of jobs). It’s not. It’s old things within a new context. In effect, we need to work in radically different new ways, letting go of social artifacts that now limit us rather than empower us. Luckily books like Reinventing Organizations do touch upon this, loosely explaining how Teal organizations go beyond job titles and job descriptions.
Going beyond resumes really isn’t covered by anyone, as far as my research has found. Yet to me this is a cornerstone that if changed could create a domino effect, helping to change the other ones more easily. That’s because right now, resumes and jobs form a bridge from which conventional work is achieved today, with a boss being the gatekeeper standing in the middle of that bridge. So if we can go beyond resumes, looking at the individual in a much greater, complex, and creative way, we have the opportunity to build a new bridge to this New World, one with much greater potential and possibilities for everyone.