As Dan Pink observed in “To sell is human“, we are all selling something. Thomas Piketty noted in “Capital” that people with capital make better returns than those selling their labour, and that the advantage is exponential. It’s the ‘Matthew effect”, and in today’s world, a fact of life.
So how might the vast majority of us – the 99% without substantial capital, position ourselves in that world when efficiency dictates that we create systems and algorithms that minimise and simplify labour input?
I suggest we all have far more capital than we realise; it’s just that it is not of the “keep it in Monaco” variety. Instead, it is intangible, vital and underutilised.
John Kuzava, in a post yesterday, wrote beautifully about it when he said, metaphorically, that we walk the dog to work and leave it sat at the door as we go into the workplace. The “dog” is that vast part of ourselves that sees things the narrow definition of our work doesn’t think it needs, that considers thoughts unacceptable to those in charge, and hankers for somewhere to walk other than to work.
The more processes and algorithms homogenise what we buy, and the more those offerings become concentrated through mergers and acquisitions, the more opportunity there is for the dog. For our humanity, creativity, sense of purpose, and the joy in contributing to others more than the pressure to take from them.
The vast majority of services we buy are indistinguishable other than through a thin veneer of expensive marketing, and the products we buy are mostly easily replicated, as any trip to eBay or Amazon reveals – and often of good quality. Clearly, there are rogues about, and huge armies of expensive lawyers make excellent livings trying to stop fashion items made on a phantom shift in the factories that make the real ones making their way to market.
Dan Pink points out his “ABC” of thriving in these conditions – Attunement, Buoyancy, Clarity and how to “walk the dog” – Pitch, Improvise, Serve. Dan Pink’s work is always worth reading, but the real effort is turning it into action. Our challenge is that by the time we finish a days work, the dog is exhausted and just wants to go to sleep. We are working longer hours, despite many giving up the commute. That’s just daft.
As anybody who has trained a puppy knows, one of the earliest challenges is to socialise with other dogs before they see them as competitors. They need to learn to play together.
We can learn from that. We can focus on “giving Caeser his due” at work and finding the time to socialise those dogs we leave at the door. Who knows what might happen?