The Shocking Change of Heart Needed for the American Workplace
The global workforce would do well to adopt a new outlook on how we view and respond to change. Given that we are barely keeping up today, consider that emerging technologies in artificial intelligence, life extension, virtual reality, and robotics will continue to redefine how we live, work, and interact with each other. Near-term innovations alone will pave the way for entirely new realities that determine what it means to be productive. And this is just the next wave in and endless sea of future change.
So, what does a “change of heart” actually look like for the American workplace?
Years ago, at perhaps the lowest point in my life, I saw a sign. It said, “Your best thinking got you here.” Today, I tend to walk hand-in-hand with Einstein’s explanation of the known universe. He once drew a circle on a chalkboard. In that circle, he wrote the word, “Known.” Along the edge of the outer circle, he wrote the word, “Unknown.” Then, he drew a much bigger circle and wrote the same words. He asked, “When our awareness grows, what happens to our awareness of the unknown?” That’s right, it also grows. Every time, I wall myself off from higher thought, my best thinking, which is deeply flawed, keeps me from ideal progress.
Perhaps the “change of heart” can begin with taking what we do know far less seriously, to introduce a possibility that our awareness might have little to do with our identity. Because knowledge is getting cheaper every day. Letting go and looking at the world with fresh eyes seems to be particularly urgent today. For centuries, every advancement of technology has created new freedom. But, after three hundred years of being chained to jobs, many of us have been conditioned to look at predictability and survival as King over all of life’s other possibilities. Shifting from looking at the past for something reassuring towards finding the opportunities in the future represents a radical yet vital shift in human potential. My business isn’t about getting people to leave jobs. It is about developing the freedom to choose one’s best options. Today, there are more options than ever. But, we cannot see it if we pine for the past.
For example, 3D printing is being demonized in many circles as another disruptive technology. Yes, it will wipe out many traditional assembly line positions. Shipping and distribution will be wildly impacted. But what about the new freedom? The ability to manufacture customized products, art, design one-offs, medical products, create high-end additive manufacturing lines, create emergency parts, even bio-designed food will open the door to an extraordinary array of new entrepreneurs, many of them coming from those same assembly lines…if they look and prepare. This is how it has always worked with change.
The biggest change of heart can open our minds and discover just how many options we have. In 1990, I left my last job. I had always been something of an outsider and from my vantage point, I reached the conclusion that when it comes to work, most of us settled for predictability and survival, which has nothing to do with freedom. In the years since, I’ve orchestrated new careers for thousands of people, led hundreds of seminars, worked with amazing people, and designed leadership programs for Fortune 100 organizations. I get to run my business at the beach. I work hard! Someone wrote me a note, “Your writing and your body of work is so prolific. How do you do it?” I responded, “I’m in a hurry!”
I believe that our culture and our country’s greatest threat is coming from the fear and discontent rampant in the world of work. Today, much is being made of the 200,000 jobs that were added to our economy this past month. But no one is addressing the scourge of underemployment. Currently, 46% of Americans say they are underemployed. These are individuals working in jobs well below their capacity and educational level. Most have been displaced by change. In my new book, The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press) I point out the belief that one cannot change and the lack of skills to change oneself has led to a great displacement of engaged workers. We don’t need leaders promising us jobs from the past! We need to be changing the conversation from jobs to the consciousness and awareness of American workers, which for many, is in the toilet.
America’s insecure, displaced, underemployed and disengaged workers are the single biggest reason we live in so much unrest today. No one is going to rescue them! We are responsible for retooling ourselves. We are responsible for finding ways to use our new freedoms, even if that shows up as un- or underemployment. We are responsible for becoming tomorrow’s workers, active learners, participants in a world filled with abundance unlike anything before. No one will do this for us. But, if we look, if we really look, we will find our way.
A change of heart doesn’t have to be dreary.
Years ago, I was discussing a leadership initiative with a client when she interrupted me. “Do I hear birds chirping?” “Why yes, I replied.” Her voice rose, “Where are you?” “On the roof of my home looking at the ocean.” “How do you get anything done?”
I laughed, “Let’s examine the philosophy behind these thoughts. You think that in order to do high-quality work we have to drive through miles of hostile traffic, go into a parking garage, get into an elevator with people looking at their shoes, walk down a hall to a small office with flourescent lighting overhead.”
It saddened me when she responded, “Yes.” Today, she lives down the block and telecommutes with her employees all over the world.
Life is good.
Go inspire someone!
Brought to you by David Harder, President – Inspired Work, Inc.
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