A World In Flux

After grudgingly finishing my reading of “How We Decide” by Jonah Lehrer, I was frustrated to have only taken a baby step forward in my understanding of human social behavior. Without going into laborious detail, the one takeaway I had from the book was that it has been proven that it is emotion, rather than cold hard logic, that actually drives us to make a decision.

My disappointment, however, lead to a deep dive into Dan Pink’s “A Whole New Mind,” “Drive,” and Maxwell Maltz’s “New Psycho-Cybernetics” books. I’m finding it fascinating to read a number of books within the same category, simultaneously, as interesting patterns emerge.

While “A Whole New Mind” was a bit self-gratifying in that it stroked my ego by affirming that right-brain thinkers were going to own the modern age, I found his comparisons of the generations of “work” fascinating. In the industrial age, workers chipped away at assembly line jobs, happily churning out work in micro-chunks of physical labor. Next came the information age, wherein humans applied the same approach to knowledge work and did essentially the equivalent of assembly-line work in front of computers. This type of work quickly became outsourced overseas and now we have dawned upon a new era of the creative age: a renaissance in which people seek deeper meaning in their lives and their careers, and wherein creativity, beauty and elegance are valued over all else.

What motivates and drives us has changed as well (“Drive”). While in the industrial and information ages, we were driven by the carrot (money), and wary of the stick (unemployment, chastisement, etc), we are now driven by something else: a more intrinsic desire to find deeper meaning and fulfillment in our lives and in our careers. The problem is that the current “operating system” of career structure (as Dan Pink puts it), is grossly out-of-sync with our new reality. Thus, we have social media, social business design, blogs, wikis, etc, etc, as outlets that help alleviate some of the pressure and frustration with the system.

But if our minds are indeed as powerful as Maltz suggests they are (Psycho-Cybernetics), we will undoubtedly design a new operating system for business and indeed society as a whole. We will shed our mental frameworks of what has been, and de-hypnotize ourselves from our ingrained understanding of career and work (read: humans were not meant to live their lives in grey cubicles, attending meetings upon meetings while navigating a sea of corporate politics)… we will find that the system is merely a convenient mental construct which is a nothing more than a relic of an industrial age past.

This is what is so exciting about our times. We see things happening in a number of places, but often find it difficult to make sense of the patterns in the sea of change. Jobs and careers are becoming crowd-sourced; salaries are starting to move toward project-based fee structures; open/participatory systems are winning over closed ones; leadership is becoming more about influence, than about control; and artificial constructs such as “management” are either drastically changing or quickly proving to be false Gods.

Indeed, these are wonderful, scary, beautiful, dark, inspiring and unpredictable times… I urge you to close your eyes, clear your mind, and take a fresh look at what is happening everywhere around you. Evolution has shifted its attention to social behavior, and we are its primary agents of change.

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