One thing is clear, the middle, average mass is disappearing. Both average products and services as well as the middle class. There simply isn’t any more room for average. It’s not a new concept of course, Seth Godin has been talking about this for years. And of course, the middle is a relatively new concept as well. There are some big differences between then and now:
1. Networks are fueling the deterioration of the middle. They allow for cheap and efficient delivery of products and services. They favor skill over anything else.
2. There’s more opportunity for those who realize that skill trumps all. Its cheaper than ever to start, ship and start over. More opportunity means more choice for anyone who accepts this.
3. If there’s a dwindling middle, does that mean there are more extremes? The thing is there’s a redefinition of what success means. In fact, there’s a complete redefinition of what professional and personal lives should look like. I think saying the 1% vs. the rest is an old way to look at things.
Digital networks, along with automation, outsourcing and robotization is allowing us to optimize for skill whether that means empowering the network to create value (i.e.: Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) or using the network to emphasize skill (i.e.: Uber, Etsy).
What this means is that optimizing for average is clearly unsustainable in the long run. If you’re running a business it means you need to aim for the extremes: automation and network fueled value or skill supported by networks.
A few weeks ago I signed up to take part in Bill Jensen‘s new project on the future of work. I was interviewed by his collaborator Mathieu Laferrière (coincidentally I’m happy to see my friend Frédéric Harper also took part).
I was asked to answer three questions:
1. From any time in your life… What tough choices have you made that now guide or influence how you make new tough decisions?
2.What are YOUR toughest challenges or what are the (one, two, three) toughest challenges and choices that organizational leaders need to make to lead us into the future?
3. What are your (one or two) biggest lessons learned that might help other leaders as they face similar challenges?
You can see the full video here (Keep in mind that, I did the interview over Skype on my Nexus 5 in a park on my way to work… in other words I was slightly under-caffeinated).
I signed up because the general topic of work, where it is and where it’s headed is something that’s always interested me. You might have noticed that it’s a topic that comes up regularly on this site. I truly believe work as we know it is changing in ways we don’t even realize and understand yet. I hope my answers help shed some light.
Earlier on I mentioned Frédéric Harper; I’m happy to see our answers are similar at times. It either means we’re on to something or not pushing the envelope enough…
I look forward to seeing and reading the upcoming book.
All too often, we as leaders and managers are quick to pass the buck to another team or down the line. As far down as it needs to go to lose relevance and meaning. That means postponing decisions and refusing to claim responsibility for actions.
It’s too easy to point to another group or department, to blame someone so far down the ladder they have no say.
No, the buck needs to stop here. No excuses, no justifications and finger pointing, no scapegoats – just honest responsibility. The only way to move forward is to make the call and assume responsibility for the outcome.
If that level of vulnerability is uncomfortable to you, then the top is not where you need to be.