A quiet revolution

It’s been said that we don’t know there’s a revolution going on ’till it’s over.

Up until that point, we see anomalies, departures from our familiar norms and are slow to come to terms that this is the new normal.

We can see this at a variety of levels, although where I am noticing it most is in the relatively mundane day to day working of organisations, particularly small and medium sized ones.

They don’t have to be very old – twenty years is plenty – for those who founded them to have lived through a quiet but profound change in the relationship they have with new talent.

Twenty year ago, organisations still had the power to choose. More people wanted jobs than there were jobs available. Clear job definitions and qualifications gave them a menu of people to choose from. Over the last twenty years, those jobs have become commodities. Lots of people can do them, from many locations, for ever decreasing prices. And where that isn’t cheap enough, machine learning, AI and automation steps up to the plate.

Lots of options for employers, but the results are increasingly asymptotic. Price may go down, but quality does not go up. Same output for lower input.

Which means that we now have a whole new tribe to deal with. Not just some easy label like “millennial”, but a whole new demographic. People not just with skills, but opinions and purpose. People who want to do something unique, something that matters, something to be remembered for. People with a voice.


Artists comes in all shapes, sizes, and ages. They are a real challenge to employ on conventional terms, because it’s not about the conventional metrics of pay and conditions. They are looking for fellow travellers.

Artists are super empowered. Given the right vehicle, the right environment and the right company they can can help those they work with to achieve “escape velocity” from the mundane to the remarkable. to escape the “soggy middle” of price based competition to building loyal followers who get what they are about.

Look around you. How many artists do you see? Those who do not have to be with you, but are there from choice because it’s where they can do the work they want to. Those who will make a real difference to other than the cost base. Those who are in a race to the top, not the bottom, of their potential.

If you don’t see any, then the revolution may just be passing you by.

The people who can make the difference you need have a choice.

..….and in the way these things work, this from Seth Godin just dropped into my inbox.

Reflections from the edge

We each have our own personal “edge”. It is the point beyond which we have difficulty going. Ancient map makers used to mark areas of the world they had not explored “here be dragons”. Stephen Pressfield talks about “ The Resistance”. Seth Godin talks about “The Lizard”, and in his original ground breaking work, Tim Galwey suggested a simple equation;

Performance=Potential minus Interference

Where interference is all the things that define the edge for us – approval of others, self belief, and the internal voices of “should, must and have to”.

All of these ideas point to the same thing – our own self limiting beliefs. It is not fault, or weakness – it is largely hard wired. Much has been written elsewhere by neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, behavioral economists and others (and if you want details, you can find summaries and book links at http://www.growhouseinitiative.com/library.aspx.)

I suggest for all practical purposes, we can simplify these findings into two critically important areas. Firstly, our brains are pattern making organs – we interpret our internal and external worlds into our own unique version of reality. Secondly, Evian Gordon, an “Integrative Neuroscientist” points out quite elegantly that we “walk towards reward, but run away from danger”. So, we create our own reality, and then react to that creation. That gives the “edge” formidable power.

Early years educators will point out that we have largely created our own view of the world by the time we are seven. We then take these attitudes and dispositions through education to arrive in hugely varying degrees of readiness at the threshold of the world of work.

We created formal mass education at the start of the industrial revolution with a single purpose in mind – to create the assets needed to effectively populate an industrial economy. It was spectacularly successful. Until the late twentieth century and the arrival of the Internet and its handmaiden technologies. Almost overnight, knowledge was commoditized, available worldwide to the vast majority of the global population. Alongside globalization and the pursuit of lowest cost, our manufacturing base went from local, to regional, to global within a generation. And the industrial model of education fell into disrepair every bit as much as the mill towns of northern England.

This move has fundamentally changed the rules. What used to be the foundation of a safe career – an accumulation of knowledge and process skills – has evaporated. First in manufacturing, then in lower level service jobs, and now in, well, pretty much everything that can be reduced to process. IBM’s “Watson” computer first took the quiz shop “Jeopardy” by storm, and is now a more advanced medical diagnostician than any human physician.

So now we have a reversed situation. The ability of people to imagine rather than process is at a premium. The power of insight, or intuition, or relationship is key. The very things that for the vast majority of people, have been pushed deep into the background by industrial education.

But not extinguished. For most of us, it resides just beyond the “edge”. We can relearn (again, a nod to the neuroscientists and “neuroplasticity” – our capabilities are far more flexible than we used to think)

It’s time to explore the edge. There no rules and no courses. I have been working with Myles Downey and others on exploring concepts of “Enabling Genius” – identifying and enabling the unique insights and capabilities that we all have, but which for many do not fall into the convenient labels of conventional descriptors.

The discomfort we may feel at the pace of change in the way we work may just be the key to a much brighter future for those who are prepared to explore beyond the edge.

You can see more on this on the GrowHouse blog