The efficiency-focused, process-heavy systems we have developed during the industrial era are struggling to deal with the complexity and uncertainty we face in a world redefined by pandemics, climate change, species loss and increasingly disengaged workforces.
Several things have become apparent as I’ve worked with people seeking to orient themselves to this strange new world. Because we want efficiency, we define outputs very precisely and cost inputs accordingly. As a result, I see people with huge, untapped talent that goes to waste because it does not fit neatly into process. It feels like we are strip-mining for cheap commodities and discarding the gold we dig up as waste.
This leads people to lose confidence in the unused capabilities they do have, and not invest in them. They end up sweating the personal assets in demand from gig economy business models and letting the valuable ones decay. Whether it is people with creative skills in mundane jobs not requiring them, people with ideas ignored, to Ph.D’s working short term contracts as lecturers, we are not developing the long term assets we need. It is like high-intensity farming, exhausting the soil by applying fertiliser to achieve short term high yields.
We can see the same mindset present at COP26 – 400 private jets worth of expensive political fertiliser applied to a system they do not control. The challenge we face is that in order to optimise organisations short term profits, we are diminishing individuals long term prospects.
Technology allows us to change this if we get our priorities straight and stop letting business set our social agenda. We have the ability to create talent networks outside of the narrow confines of the short term demands of short sighted organisations.
We can seed the future ourselves, one small group at a time, if we make the effort.