I remember being told as a young child that it was important to eat all the food on my plate. I later realised that this behavioural trait came from my grandmother. During the Second World War when food was rationed, my grandmother would have implored her daughter, my mother, to eat all the food on her plate because of the scarcity of supply.
Even though the war had been over for several decades, the behaviours learnt during the war were still influencing me, generations later. Research has suggested that this kind of behaviour has influenced the rise of obesity and the protection of farming subsidies in countries that don’t particularly need them anymore. Fear of scarcity past is promoting behaviours which are not relevant in today’s world.
Now we’ve experienced The Great Recession new adaptive behaviours will have been etched into the psyches of people everywhere. Moreover, those behaviours will be reflected in generations to come. They might not be all negative, just part of the overall transformation that is happening across all sectors of business and society.
Will banks ever gain the people’s trust again? Their facade as conservative bastions of financial prudence has been blown away, likened today to casinos being run by ‘Banksters’. No amount of legislation seems able to stop them finding ways around the barriers to business as usual.
Alternative media sources are highlighting many discrepancies within existing social contracts. Politicians gaming the system to acquire financial benefits, energy companies fixing prices, phony wars being waged to secure resource and security contracts in far off lands. And now the pièce de résistance, the latest economic bubble has tax payers paying for the privilege of having their own secret agencies spy on and lie to them. Is it any wonder that people’s perspectives and beliefs are changing?
In a recent movie about interns at Google, recently redundant salesmen, Billy and Nick, whose careers have been torpedoed by the digital world, try to prove they are not obsolete by talking their way into jobs at the giant search company. Whilst the two heroes make light of a project failure, one deflated but aspiring Google geek informs them that a quarter of the kids coming out of college can’t even get a job. Jobs of a lifetime are definitely on the endangered list:
“That whole American dream you guys grew up on, that’s all it is now, a dream.”
The movie doubles as a propaganda piece for Google and of course doesn’t touch on the downside of working within an ultra competitive environment but does portray the scarcity of such jobs. Relying on dream jobs appearing on the horizon is neither a long term nor clever career decision unless you’re connected to the right circles.
As a result, people are becoming accustomed to a new era of self reliance combining more meaning and freedom. Daniel Priestley, in his book Entrepreneur Revolution believes that we are leaving the industrial age and that:
“What’s about to take place is a revolution. Everything as you know it will change in the coming years. The nature of work, lifestyle and wealth is all about to change.”
A hundred years ago the majority of people we’re entrepreneurs, so in effect, with the huge loss of jobs to technological advancement and globalisation, the economy is revolving back around to having more entrepreneurs and micro businesses. In Wales UK, a recent piece of research found that 98% of businesses were small businesses and a vast majority of those were micro businesses.
Big corporates and globalisation is an evolutionary experiment, it’s brought some benefits and also some negatives. Knowing which is which and having the courage to act on that knowledge are going to be desirable skills moving forward.
How the Great Recession has affected behaviours and will impact us in the way we work and live going forward will be hard to determine precisely. But if you’re starting a business or promoting an existing business, it helps if your product or service is highly innovative, heroic, and principled or that you’re hoping to service the rich.
Being highly innovative makes your product a must have tool for making your clients lives easier or more entertaining. Heroic in that you’re picking a fight with the established, less ecological, less socially just brands. Or principled in that you’re able to promote how your products or services are healthier for the client and or the environment.
On the flip side, the expanding ranks of billionaires worldwide are creating a new market for servants for the super-rich who have remained unruffled by the recession but require overt displays of wealth and status to make them feel secure. Billionaires creating their own fiefdoms however, are not likely to create enough work for the majority so don’t think selling your soul is going to be easy either. Trickledown economics rarely happened and it’s less likely to today. Goldman Sachs, probably the most powerful investment bank in the world and much hated in some sections of society, received 17000 applications for its internship programme, of which it accepted only 350.
“For the first time in history it is now possible to take care of everybody at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. All humanity now has the option to become enduringly successful.” ~ Buckminster Fuller
To operate successfully in a way that is personally fulfilling, economically prosperous and socially just is going to take a new level of understanding of the complexity of the new world we’re creating. There is an increase in technologies such as mindfulness, compassion and wisdom being promoted in places like Silicon Valley. If you combine that with the growing popularity of the Wisdom 2.0 conference and with Google initiating meditation classes for its workers, (although as some have pointed out, not for the original reasons meditation was invented for), it gives you some idea of where to look for this new style of enlightenment.