Quora.com is a question & answer site that frequently contains insightful commentary about 21st century business realities. I recently read a post that was so intriguing it was picked up by Inc. The article featured “3 Trends that will completely change the world by 2020”. I’m a sucker for such a provocative headline, and an even bigger fan of the theories provided by the article’s author, James Altucher. His belief in an imminent “Employee-Free Society” resonates with me. The trends he’s identified align perfectly with my own observations, and further justify why I’ve invested so heavily in Commun-o.com. Here’s an excerpt from James’:
“Before 200 years ago, we never really had employees. Then there was the rise of corporatism, which many confused with capitalism.”
I’m on the board of a $1-billion-in-revenue employment agency. It’s gone from $200 million in revenue to $1 billion just in the past few years. Why did we move up so fast when the economy has basically been flat? For two reasons:
- The Pareto principle, which says that 80 percent of the work is being done by 20 percent of the people. So a lot of people are being fired now, since 2009 gave everyone the carte blanche excuse.
- Regulations that are too difficult to follow. It’s getting pretty difficult to figure out what you need to do with an employee. Health care is a great example, but there are 1,000 other examples.
So what’s happening, for better or worse, is a rising wave of solo-preneurs and lifestyle entrepreneurs — exactly what happened for the hundreds of years that capitalism was around before stiff and rigid corporatism (teamed with unions) became the primary but fake “stable” force in our lives.
This is why companies like Uber are flourishing. You have a work force (the drivers), logistics software in the middle, and people willing to pay for that work force. Our GDP and our startups are going to start to drift in the Uber direction. Uber in San Francisco last month did three times as many rides as all the cab drivers in the city combined.
Corporate life was never really stable, and now we know that. The problem is, while we were all in our cubicles (and I’ve been guilty of this for many years as well), we stopped being creative, stopped having ideas, and just took orders from the gatekeepers: bosses, colleagues, government, education, family.
We let other people choose what was best for us instead of doing the choosing ourselves. If you let someone else do the choosing for you, the results won’t be good, and you’ll get resentful. Bad things will happen.”
The sharing economy + disruptive tech + the popularity of co-shared workspaces (i.e. check out WeWork’s recent valuation if you don’t believe me) all equate to massive disruption for when, where, how, and with whom talented professionals choose to work within today’s knowledge-based economy. I never took full advantage of the previous game-changers happening during my career — the rise of personal computing, dot coms, social networks, and I’m still on the fence about what (if anything) to do with Blockchain. But I’ve grabbed my surf board and am fully prepared to ride the wave tied to solo-prenuers and a new economy comprised of billions of independent contractors and small business owners. Most people should aspire to work for themselves, but no one should seek to work by themselves. A service like Commun-o.com curates marketing and creative professionals and provides a community that mimics all the great things about working for an entity bigger/better/faster/stronger than yourself, while avoiding all the annoyances of a “normal” 9–5 job. I think so anyway.