What will modern life look like when we don’t need to spend so much of our time working?
I will begin with a parable:
The investment banker on vacation was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the fisherman how long it took to catch them.
The fisherman replied, “Only a little while.”
The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?
The fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The banker then asked “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my friends: I have a full and busy life.”
The investment banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”
Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to the city where you would run your growing enterprise.”
The fisherman asked, “But sir, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15-20 years.” “But what then?” asked the fisherman.
The banker laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.
“Millions, sir? Then what?”
To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your friends.”
Depending on which side of the coin you fall, you’re either more of the banker or the fisherman; with the above illustrating modern life as we know it.
But that’s all about to change.
According to Maslow’s pyramid of needs, the foundational layer of human needs is formed of ‘basic needs,’ things like food, shelter, safety and everything needed for our immediate survival. Above that sit ‘social needs,’ comprised of things like love, acceptance, and social connection. In the very top part of the pyramid we find our ‘self-actualization needs,’ or that which brings us fulfillment, gives us meaning, and allows us to live up to our highest expression of self. Making up the smallest and highest point of the pyramid, our self-actualization needs come last because we don’t have the luxury (or time) to consider them until our other needs have been first met. But today, technology is changing all of that. As machines become increasingly more intelligent, machines will soon do everything machines can do. That means addressing and solving all algorithmic and quantitative tasks possible, so people don’t have to, to such point that GDP will become intrinsically ‘unlinked’ from how and how much we, as people, work.
In connection to the above parable, people will seek to find purpose and meaning because they’ll have the time and luxury to do so. All this being said, even if machines do everything machines can possibly do, there are many jobs that can’t be quantified by algorithm, and for those jobs (the types of qualitative tasks that require human judgment), people will always be required. In my view, the result of this will be two fold:
1. Companies whose stated mission is addressing the self-actualization needs of people will emerge to prominence (ex: this occurred at the level of social Needs via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter; these companies created new ways of connecting people, addressing the human social need of connection). And here’s an example of a company doing it at the level of self-actualization: Social Coin
2. People will only choose to work in companies where they feel they can self-actualize and thrive. Thereby, to attract and retain talent, companies will need to consider the ways in which their environment meets the self-actualization needs of their staff. Firms that don’t will lag in innovation and talent, and ultimately fall to the wayside.
With this in mind, what kind of people will your company attract and why? How will you create a company environment, that:
• Delivers the most value to clients, delighting them;
• Increases returns for investors; and
• Cultivates loyal, engaged, and happy employees.
Communication is key but it’s secondary; what is primary is the essence of what’s to be communicated. This originates in intention. It originates with you (and me if you’d like some help).