Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Shift by Lynda Gratton

This was recommended to me by a Japanese friend - he read the Japanese version, which is titled "Work Shift" and confused me because I could NOT find a book by that title. But eventually I found it, and woah, is it a thought provoking read.

The book goes like this. First, the author identifies what she thinks are the most important macro-trends taking place. Next, she looks at six possible aspects of the future, three positive and three negative.

The negative aspects are:
1. Fragmentation - a world where a multitude of things constantly demand our attention.

2. Isolation - a world where the reliance on virtual technology and working from home has led to a dramatic decrease (and almost elimination) of face-to-face meetings.

3. Exclusion - ok, this was a bit hard for me to swallow, because exclusion exists even now. According to the author, the difference is that
"the axis of exclusion has shifted from where you are born to your natural talents and motivations and the specifics of your personal connections." 
To be very clear, I don't think the "specifics of your personal connections" part is a good thing, because it's got a lot relying on who you are born too, which is not something anyone can choose. But the natural talents and motivations bit? It sounds like a fairer world to me. The case study involved a girl who loves World of Warcraft and spends at least four hours a day on it.

Assuming that everyone gets the same baseline education, then I see nothing wrong in a smart and ambitious kid from Vietnam or Cambodia beating out a kid from a Western nation, who prioritises games. If there was a failing in the education system, or some intentional bias in there, then yeah, I see a problem, but other than that, I'm fine with it. I don't think that "where you are born" should determine that you get a better life than someone. "Natural talents and motivations" sounds a lot more meritocratic to me.

Again, I am assuming the same baseline education (i.e. everyone who wants to learn can learn), and that even if you choose to work only part-time because you want to game, you are still able to earn a living. Not a luxurious living, with trips overseas or fancy food, but enough to buy the groceries and pay the bills. I understand the future may be a lot more nuanced, but the way the author expresses the idea means that I don't totally agree that it's a terrible thing. And obviously, the increasing disparity between the rich and the poor is a bad thing too.

The positive aspects are:

1. Co-creation - Working with many people to solve large problems

2. Social engagement - Better work life balance, increased empathy and an option for people who want to, to be able to do meaningful work/take time off from work for long stretches to do volunteer work.

3. Micro-entrepreneurship - People making a living through ecosystems.

After this, the author identifies three shifts that we need to make:

1. From shallow generalist to serial master.

2. From isolated competitor to innovative connector

3. From voracious consumer to impassioned producer.

With recent events like the rise of ISIS and the sudden drop in oil prices may affect the accuracy of the predictions (either by delaying them or changing them), what I appreciated about the book was that it was truly global in outlook. Most of the time, all these books focus on the West, which makes does not really apply to a very large segment of the world. But this book has research done in India, Singapore (our Ministry of Manpower was a sponsor too), and the futures, while do not mention Singapore, are set in Brazil, India etc. I found this very refreshing, and made the arguments more compelling to me, because they seemed more relevant.

 The other thing I liked was the use of 'case studies', where they imagine someone's life in 2025. It makes the concepts a lot easier to understand, especially since things like fragmentation can be a bit confusing.

Overall, this is a though-provoking book, and one that I would encourage everyone to read (Also, you can tell that a book is good when even some time after reading it, it makes a big enough impression that you use it in your arguments on why we do not necessarily need to fear that the future will dehumanise us, even if it is a possibility).

No comments :

Post a Comment

I really do appreciate all comments, and I'll try my best to reply within 24 hours!