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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

They Can't Take That Away from ME!

I was thinking the other day, after one of my daily personal setbacks, that there is one thing no one can take away from me or anybody else…HUMILITY. It seems as the trappings of the past, our ways of work, competition, organization, etc. change , the more opportunity we have to uncover our humility. And while humility may seem like the stuff at the bottom of the barrel, once uncovered, may be what has been covering it is more baggage than it is useful.

We are converging on new realities, as we move from a product to a knowledge to creative economy. Originally, the focus was on a tangible object where all our separate efforts, in lock step order, competed against other groups doing the same and all trying to get to the finish line first. Competition, besting your opponent, to the winner goes the spoils were noble slogans and efforts when the target of such efforts was to produce the tangible. Feelings and emotions, a sense of self and self leadership were all worthily sacrificed and frustration expressed through the back breaking toil of production when the product ensured our livelihood and long-term well being. Appearing educated, groomed and informed AND POWERFUL were the tools of an economy slowly draining away.

All that is different in today’s economy. The product is often the unseen or seen only in the experience. Try to take a good customer experience home. Try to put viral marketing effort in a Plexiglas box on your office desk (if you still have one) and you can see that success and productivity goes by a different reality. And while tangible product is still very much a part of our reality, it is not king. Building a better mouse trap won’t have people beating a path to your door to buy one, but it might have them flooding your website to find out how you did it.

So what does this all have to do with humility? Our efforts today are stuff of the mind, whereas the past was funneled down to things of the body. Engineering, assembly lines, time studies, all centered the physical act of turning screws, bolting bolts and welding joints. While one can have doubts and questions in a physical world and still perform, doubts and questions, being of the mind can severely hamper today’s knowledge based creative professional just as the hero of Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron was hampered by body weights and thick glasses.

Unhealthy competition, office politics, command and control, lock step measures fail horribly for the mind of today’s professional where the major muscle at work is the brain. While you can put your back into a hard physical job, putting your brain into it doesn’t fare as well. What’s needed is an open and unconstrained field, a place where things can come in and out without inventory being involved. Where time is not as important as results and potential is not managed but nurtured and emergent.

And humility is a natural practice in an environment that stresses an unconstrained reality. Lacking an overwhelming set of cumbersome standards, people are not judged by whether they are smart, but how they are smart. We all are. None of us ultimately stands above the rest. In essence: humility.

  • How do you see our future?
  • What are the prevailing attitudes and approaches we need to be successful in this new economy?

I welcome your comments?

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