The Utter Failure of Politicians and the Future of Work
Before anyone runs to the outrage buttons, this is not a partisan post!
Last night, we watched the debates for 3 hours. In my home, we limit the viewing of news to a 1/2 hour-a-day because when we hit 35 minutes, that’s the moment when the facial ticks begin.
Last night, the war raged on about healthcare, tariffs, education, and immigration. While all of these topics are important, not one person brought up or introduced a smart conversation about work. A few months ago, entrepreneur Andrew Yang threw his hat into the ring. I heard him speak about the challenges of livelihoods being threatened by robotics and automation. His solution to the problem? Give everyone $1,000 a month.
Underemployment is the single biggest source of turmoil in the United States. 48% of America’s workers characterize themselves as “underemployed.” The symptoms include holding 2-3 jobs to keep a roof over their heads, serving coffee after earning a Doctorate, and desperately holding onto obsolete jobs. As we studied the phenomenon, we found many men and one unfortunate woman who established weekend work impersonating Elvis.
55 years of focus-group politics have given us leaders who make promises in how we will be rescued and taken care of. Rock throwing is the weapon of choice. On one side of the fence, any one of a certain color or outlook is evil. Liberals demonize big business and wealth. How can we improve our country when we demonize any one group of citizens?
Underemployment is the symptom from millions of people getting kicked to the curb by change. We now have a reality where far too many people look to the future and have real difficulty in envisioning a livelihood, relevance, security, and growth.
When we shift gears from the individual to the globe we find other countries were far more savvy and action-based in keeping their citizens up-to-date with change. Germany, China, and even India are examples of nations that recognize teaching, developing, and guiding talent could lead to winning World War III without firing a single shot. When we demonize immigrants and show the world children locked up in cages, how many of the best and brightest workers remove the United States as their preferred destination?
There is good news! The problem is, once again, our political leaders are not pointing this out. Of all people, Andrew Yang ought to know what I am about to share.
Work is not going away. Work is becoming smarter; more interesting, impactful and meaningful. Removing tasks from the culture of work is freeing all of us to make livings from many of the characteristics that make life worth living and better. The emerging work requires at least one of these qualities: Empathy, engagement, creativity, big-picture vision, story-telling, influence, problem-solving, leadership, knowledge, playfulness, and more.
The growth of entrepreneurism will continue. This time, an even greater spike will happen with blue-collar workers becoming business owners. There has never been a time where it is easier to start a business or change careers. One example of a natural progression towards a blue-collar worker starting a business is in 3-D printing. Just a few short years ago, the technology was dismissed as too expensive and cumbersome. Today, virtually anyone motivated can raise the money to buy a 3-D printer. The interface has become so simple that a graduate degree isn’t required to read the user manual. Home manufacturing is available to every home today.
Social entrepreneurism is the most promising explosion in business start-ups and it is also a hotbed for great jobs. Here, we find world problems are being solved with technology-based innovation. But, the solutions are also sustainable because the business models have to be profitable. The storied Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins and Al Gore are producing enormous wealth by making green energy more profitable than petroleum.
Why do focus-group driven leaders never bring this up? Because the focus groups identify that most voters are frightened about many different topics. The leaders no longer tell the people to fix it, they promise a solution. They invest in hope and hope does nothing to inspire action.
Culturally illiterate voters are angry about the 1%. Political leaders threaten to put them in their place. Just what is going to come out of fueling envy, jealously and outrage towards one group in our country? Immigrants will always be a critical source of talent and innovation in the United States. But, we can fuel anger and distrust by telling everyone there isn’t enough.
So, if half of our country’s workers are already getting impacted by change, what is going to happen when Artificial Intelligence hits the market? When virtual reality eliminates the need for many forms of business travel? When driverless trucks and planes dominate commercial transportation? The truth is that each wave of innovation introduces new work and new opportunities.
But, the almost glacial change in our educational and political systems is beginning to push our country towards a cliff.
The first half of the 20th Century didn’t use focus groups. Presidents took stock of the situation and told people what to do. John F. Kennedy, Franklin & Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Dwight Eisenhower told us to get off of our asses and serve the world. They told us to get fit, educated, contributive, engaged, involved, and become good citizens. They told us to become better versions of us.
How could one political leader initiate meaningful change on the topic of work?
- Find the truth.
- Tell the truth.
- Tell us why and how we must become successful participants in the future of work.
- Develop the skills that make all of us successful change agents in our own lives (consultative sales, effective self-inquiry, active learning, connectivity with other people, meaningfully skilled in building support systems and customized tribes, and becoming contributive members in our communities).
- If we have those skills, mentor those who don’t.
- Promote the new work, not the obsolete work.
- Instead of allowing us to become paralyzed with fear, develop the courage to take action.
Our country is in the midst of the real world war 3. It is the war for developing the world’s most nimble, effective, and capable workers.
Until we find leaders who understand this and rally the troops, the greatest talent pool on earth will lose its mojo and all of us will be impacted. Even the most powerful and wealthy members of our culture will be impacted by the menace of an illiterate crowd looking for a scapegoat. Oddly, that dynamic sounds like most of our current politicians.
If this is the case, I suggest that you look through this article and do it for yourself.
Do it as if your hair is on fire.
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