We are all changing so fast and so much…
This is a wonderful time of the year, we all get ready to wish each other the best possible moments, to give each other gifts, to be with our loved ones for a few family events, to hear once again a number of Christmas carols, etc. But something feels strange in this atmosphere. No, not the too much debated fact that we have become much more individualistic, that we are all too consumerism driven, that our social solidarity is only a vague memory and that the Christmas Carol of Dickens will make us feel better, etc. What I feel is rather something more subtle and awkward. It seems to me that a number of forces are actually changing drastically the very “value” of an individual in our interdependent civilization, that our very sense of our own identity is challenged more than ever.
Which forces am I talking about? All those related to the fact that we are more and more parts of a collaborative world and that this very “belonging” questions the “value” we have as an individual, whatever meaning you put behind the word “value”. Let me take a few examples.
We “are” with our networks. We are more and more judged (valued?) on the quality and the size of our networks, professional or personal or both. But does the network reflect our value or does it become our value? Do we still have a value without our network? And the additional fact that we know that the network does not really need us to have its own value could be depressing at time. The impact of social networks on our lives is even subtler. We may have entered a world of continuous mutual adjustment. It might be great because we are more flexible, but doesn’t it also lead to a general consensus toward some conformism? We might influence others via our curation efforts and our tweets, and we are influenced in return; this is certainly most generally for good, but are we able to judge ourselves when, really? Are we clever enough or independent enough to safeguard our critical judgment?
We “are” Big Data. This is the dawn of Big Data but Big Data is often only the sum of a myriad of things we have done, along with others. In marketing, it will soon not be necessary anymore to have groups of real individuals being put together in a room for testing a concept; Twitter will suffice. Your opinion, or mine, will not really matter anymore.
Productivity and “us”. Productivity gains thanks to machines and to collaboration become so huge that we feel less like responsible players but more and more like Chaplin in the Modern Times, one among many within a large gearing where our chances of survival depend on the next technology gimmick or the next emergence of the “free” provision of what we do and are currently paid for (valued for) thanks to the Internet. If we have a job that is threatened by collaboration and free access, we might be worried, or enthusiastic, depending on which side of the fence we feel we are.
“You” are sometimes a robot. We interact more and more with machines, mostly via screens, with “whom” we actually talk, who thank us (we will soon thank them loud too I suppose) for an increasing number of transactions where we used to talk to humans. This “low-touch” world is certainly good for productivity gains but the very value of “us” talking here becomes quite surrealistic. In some cases it might lead to new forms of loneliness, even of despair. In some others we really win time via these new tools, can we learn how to use this time more intelligently?
The implications of this new definition of the self, the “me”, the “you”, are still unclear to me, as was not so long ago the definition of a “friend”. It is probably a more fundamental change than what we think. Good or bad? Hard to know but unavoidable and therefore requiring some thinking and some personal management. “Know yourself”, “manage yourself” have never been so difficult to understand and to apply. But if it is more complex it is probably also quite exciting, because thanks to all these ambiguity and changes I am a bit more you and you are a bit more me and after all it might be a recipe for peace… a great word at this time of the year.
Obviously what I am searching when I look for the means to make us Augmented Managers (my book comes out in January, look for it!) has something to do with looking for how to all remain responsible and loving humans.
Let me wish you a wonderful new year, and let’s wish we could become all better at recognizing the real value of each of us in each of us for each of us. The year will be tough at least from an economic standpoint, a social standpoint, a political standpoint, an ecological standpoint, let’s make it a great one from a mutual/collective/collaborative/solidarity human discovery standpoint.