Posted on 23/05/2014
by admin | Comments Off on Are You Ready for the Naked Economy?
By Katie McCaskey (Google+)
In the “Naked Economy” all you need to wear to the modern office is a smile and some sunscreen.
Okay, actually, you’ll need more than that. A lot more. The phrase “naked economy” may sound titillating but, according to the book by the same name, “naked” defines our rapidly shifting economy. That’s because the emerging global economy is increasingly leaving workers “exposed” as health care, retirement benefits, living wages, the idea of “job security,” and other protections are “stripped away.”
Rising in the place of the workplaces, jobs, and careers we’ve known is a very different environment. The sooner you willingly “get naked” to this new reality the sooner you can successfully navigate this new landscape. We can either roll with the punches or be rolled over by them. Let’s peel off some clothing and look at some changes we’ll be experiencing as individuals and as business owners, shall we?
Among the differences between our former concepts of “work” and today include:
The ability to work anywhere and sell virtually means the world of work is changing dramatically. Physical space is still important, but more of our economy is increasingly detaching from office parks, factories, and other physical places of work.
Instead, more job creation is blossoming in a largely location-independent “knowledge economy.” Knowledge work — everything from developing apps to performing surgery with remote healthcare — is removing previous geographic barriers and constraints, notes Diane Smith in her book, TheNewRural.com, about the role of technology businesses in rural America.
The authors of The Rise of the Naked Economy: How to Benefit from the Changing Workplace contend that office space itself is changing to allow loosely configured, modular space that invites casual collaboration and inspiration between independent workers (notably, the authors are owners of a co-working space in the Northwest).
Short-Term, Freelance, and Startup Arrangements
Now everyone is self-employed. Increasingly more of us are working as entrepreneurs, freelancers, and in short-term, project-based work (or a combination of all of the above). One common thread to these engagements is that all are without the “protection” offered by yesterday’s jobs and careers.
Whether you consider protection to be job security (staying at the same job for many years), benefits (health care or retirement), or upward mobility based on organizational seniority, all of these are assumptions based on yesterday’s economic model. Get ready to regularly reprint your business cards. Most workers will change jobs, if not careers, at a regular pace over the course of her or his career. Those who can adapt, retrain, and explain their narrative in a meaningful way will be the winners.
Specialists and Generalists Both Thrive
Another important trend of the emerging “naked economy” is the idea that rewards will come to specialists and generalists, not exclusively one or the other. Specialists can increasingly narrow their focus of study and expertise if they are selling their knowledge globally — after all, it is easier than ever to locate and hire the person with the greatest knowledge in any particular area.
Generalists, people who can understand and communicate trends by parsing diverse data, will also find handsome reward in a workforce saturated by content. Some will even find success as hybrids of the two: generalists in a particular niche and hyper-specialists in one particular area of that niche.
As individuals, we’ll need to adopt a growing mindset. We’ll need to regularly retrain and expand our skills to remain competitive. We will need to choose an area of focus (as specialists) or refine our abilities to parse, curate, and make sense of disparate information (as generalists).
As business owners — and yes, we all are business owners of “Me, Inc.” in our new economy — we’ll need to look for opportunities to sell our skills and work on bigger platforms. We’ll need to accept that teams will assemble, disassemble, and reassemble as the market dictates.
As a result, we’ll need to understand that employees, partners, vendors, suppliers, and others won’t have as narrowly defined roles as before. Moreover, Millennials and more are choosing to integrate work into their lives instead of viewing work as outside or separate from their lives. Expect greater workplace flexibility as more people strive to integrate “work” into “real lives” rather than earlier attempts at “balance” between one and the other.
In conclusion, that gold watch your father or grandfather earned during his one-employer career is a relic of the past. Today’s emerging economy may make you feel temporarily exposed, but there are ways to prepare and adapt. Unlike the tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” yes, really, in the new economy everyone is naked. Pass the sunscreen.