Organizing Talent

The opposite of ‘routine’ is ‘original’

Labour is routine. Talent is original. Even advanced technical Labour can be in essence routine. As Labour, once you learn how to do something, you are able to repeat it. Labour is the capitalist dream for human effort, because it can be quantified, controlled, and replaced. Labour is viewing humans as resources. What is becoming blindingly obvious is that Labour is increasingly getting automated which is disrupting how most people have worked for the past century, by doing a job.

On the other hand, original work has high task variety and requires continuous learning, as well as significant tacit knowledge that cannot easily be codified. Talent that does original work is difficult to replace. This means that Talent is much more difficult to push around.

The industrial capitalist system was designed to use Labour as a commodity. While it is more difficult to abuse Talent, the owners of financial capital still control the wealth game. Creating a new power balance is a major challenge if we want to be more equitable in wealth distribution and maintain a dynamic middle class. .

Can social media help Talent thrive? Maybe if you are the best in your field. If you are not one of the recognized leaders in your area, is it really possible to make a living online? It is more likely that skilled content creators will just become part of the long tail, valuable only to online platforms and their advertising revenues. Content creators are too often mere fodder for Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to earn huge market valuations.

If you want to be Talent instead of Labour, first ensure that you have a greater amount of task variety in your work. This holds for salaried workers and the self-employed. Ensure that your valued skills, those for which you are paid, cannot be easily turned into commodities. Be good at learning new skills because Talent is a constantly moving target for automation. It is a  shifting value, as computers get smarter and the world gets networked. It’s only a matter of time before today’s Talent becomes tomorrow’s Labour. This is why most professions need to think in terms of perpetual Beta, or continuous learning and creating.

compassOne way for Talent to survive in the long run is by working together in communities of practice, using social networks to find work and get work done. Those emerging as Talent from the ashes of Labour can no longer rely on the job as society’s main wealth-sharing mechanism. Jobs were for industrialized Labour. So what do we have for Talent? Nothing yet. Talent has to create its own models, using suitable frameworks and models for the network era. There is no template. Talent needs to create its own road map for this journey. To start, Talent needs a good compass; one that does not point in the direction of a job, or routine work.

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Ten Years, Ten Thoughts

In compiling my ebook, Seeking perpetual beta: a guidebook for the network era, I tried to cover all the posts that resonated with readers, clients, and colleagues over a decade. Here are some highlights, representing one thought per year.

  1. Taking control of our learning is a challenge for individuals used to working inside hierarchies that demand conformity and compliance.
  2. The mainstream application of knowledge management and learning management over the past few decades was mostly wrong; we over-managed information, knowledge and learning because it was easy to do.
  3. The basic structure of the job presumes common skills and the mechanistic view that workers can be replaced without disruption.
  4. Value in the new economy, with mostly intangible goods and services, is created by people with passion and initiative.
  5. Because it is so difficult to represent our knowledge to others, we have to make every effort to continuously share it.
  6. Stories are the glue, holding information together in some semblance of order, for our brains to process into knowledge.
  7. An informal professional learning network, with its redundant connections, repetition of information and indirect communications, is a much more resilient system than any designed professional development program can be.
  8. Leadership in networks does not come from above, as there is no top.
  9. Successful individuals in a network society will see that their connections change over time, and that openly sharing will make them more valued nodes in the long run.
  10. Whoever creates an organizational structure that bridges the individual-organizational knowledge sharing divide may have significant business advantages.
network era dance

Working in the network era is a constant dance