Back in 2012, I wrote a blog post, Time to create your own future – it referred to the gradual cultural change facing our global econonmy, in part due to the recent global recession but also moving away from the Industrial era and moving towards a more globally connected economy – it began to question how many more of us are beginning to change our working culture, how more of us are taking charge of our own destiny, or, even working for organisations, how you can change your mindset to make yourself more indispensible.
In the book Linchpin, Godin refers to a system used by corporations synonymous within the industrial era and a system that still exists today called PERL or Percentage of Easily Replaced Labourers – this phrase refers to how organisations treat their workforce and how easily replaced their workers could be. To make your workforce replaceable had it’s benefits:
1) By stamping out creativity, initiative and taking risks, it flushed out your remarkable employees and rather focused on getting as much as your workforce to simply follow instructions, follow a map and not to question the status quo.
2) This in turn increased the company PERL and with it meant you could reduce the cost per employee i.e. the salary levels as everyone become ever more replaceable. Companies that followed this criteria frowned upon: Creativty, initiative and collaboration.
Take the retail industry where a popular “strategic approach” championed by some has been to sell products at the cheapest price possible. To ensure retailer X is selling at the lowest possible price means it needs to cut down as many running costs as possible and that means their workforce i.e. they are really not interested in recruiting creative employees – rather, employees that are easily replaceable and that are not indispensible.
The era of creativity
The realisation millions of people are waking up to as well as thousands of companies is that we now live in a new dawn of an inter-connected economy and globalisation – it is becoming easier and easier to find a cheaper way, a cheaper alternative to race to the bottom. A recent article by Forbes discussed ways in which you can look to recession-proof yourself, in other words tactics to follow to ensure you remain in demand and beneficial to your industry.
Forbes mentions that around 8.4 mn jobs in the US disappeared from Jan 2008 to December 2009. The report also highlighted that: “…a structural change in the workplace that will affect many Americans. While companies’ investments in technology in recent years have complemented the work done by problem-solving creative workers, tools like computers did not replace what they do. Technology expanded their reach. However, that was not the case for workers doing routine jobs that entail following rigid corporate instructions repeatedly. Computers and other tech tools began replacing some of the work they do.”
In the field of digital marketing we are all competing on the same, global platform where your competitors are no longer ringfenced by what country you operate in but more on a global level. Gone are the days of having to employ web developers on fixed long term salaries, a quick browse on Elance and I can list my requirement for an iPhone App to be developed. Or wanting to user test my latest website, a usability test can be requested by posting this job on Mechanical Turk, or perhaps you have a presentation to do to your board of directors the next morning but don’t have the time to complete it? easy, just outsource it to a design company who will return the finished presentation whilst you sleep.
The world of digital means we all have access to the same tools, tactics, resource and contacts – what sets us apart is how creative you decide to become and whether you decide to create your own map.
An interesting extract by Thomas Friedman, in his book “That Used to be Us” mentions this change in demand for creativity: “As globalization ion and the IT revolution continue to merge, expand, and advance, the more they will destroy the old categories of “developed” and “developing” countries. Going forward, the world increasingly will be divided between high imagination-enabling countries, which encourage and enable the imagination of their people, and low-imagination-enabling countries, which suppress or simply fail to develop their people’s creative capacities and abilities to spark new ideas”
So what is it to be?
Whether you’re working for an organisation or freelance, the era of creativity provides the opportunity for us all to appraise our position and maybe change our thoughts and become more indispensible – we all now have access to the same tools, access to the same training and access to the same content – it’s up to us to take the initiative and be in charge of our own destiny.