Paradigm Shift II

The effect of Templotion and Free Agency on the way we work and collaborate

In an earlier post I’ve been writing already about the paradigm shift that we see happening in our working world. I’ve talked about the idea that the Dutch people are pre-destined to be front-runners in making the transitions into a new way of working. With their heritage of being a trading nation (which asks to be fast, agile and innovative in response to customer needs) and always in touch with the volatile nature of water (they’ve been successfully keeping the ocean out of their country for centuries) they adapted some key virtues that help them to take a leading role in transforming the way we work and collaborate.

Now, living and working in the Netherlands a bit more than 1,5 years I’ve had some time to dig deeper into what exactly the emerging trends are and what is asked in these days of us. But before I come up with my guess of an answer to that, I invite you to follow me on a journey of what I discoverd about the paradigm shift and what it holds for us in store.

Templotion – the idea of ever faster increasing change

Edie Weiner from the Future Hunters puts brilliantly into words what we all know or at least feel: Over the last 4 thousand years we have witnessed an ever increasing pace of change. From Agricultural Economy over Industrial Economy over several other economies until now, the paradigm in which we lived in have become shorter and shorter. While the Agricultural Economy lasted thousands of years, the Industrial only lasted for a few centuries. And the last shift from Post-industrial to Meta-space Economy only took about 12 years. It’s not the change itself that has changed, it’s the pace of change that is continously increasing. Edie Weiner calls this effect Templotion.

Templotion is the implotion of time.

Edie Weiner

I asked myself: where else can we see that effect? Think about the idea of generations. While we are talking about the Baby Boomer Generation beginning shortly after World War II and going up into the late 70s, Generation X had more or less 15 years until the beginning of the 90s before Generation Y started to take the stage. Now, we already talk about Generation Z as the ones who were born around the year 2000. Do you read between the lines the ever increasing pace of change of generations?

Free Agency – people being increasingly determined to brand themselves

Another trend that emerged in the past years is the one of Free Agency. Stephen covey introduced the term of Free Agency in his book The 8th Habit. I cannot put it in better words than he did. So let’s just look at how he describes the idea of Free Agency:

People are becoming more and more informed, aware and conscious about options and alternatives than ever before. The employement market is turning into a free agent market and people have more and more awareness of choices. Knowledge workers will resist management efforts to label them and they are increasingly determined to brand themselves.

Stephen Covey

I guess we all recognize this trend. Especially those amongst us who are busy with attracting and keeping the right worforce cannot escape it. While it might have been sufficient to promise a safe job and a good income in the past, today this is certainly not enough anymore. If employees see no fit between them, the job and the organization they are fast to quit. They know: the next job opportunity is just around the corner. And not only that; they hate it if you make them feel that you think you know what they want while you don’t. And don’t you want to be able to tell your truth yourself, too? They also want to be heard, seen and valued for the unique human beings they are. That’s a challenge for every recuiter and employer but I think that’s a foreward-looking and valuable demand.

How SDGs and Free Agency link to one another

Why do I think that this is an important and valuable trend that people want to brand themselves? To answer that question, let’s have a look at the world we are living in – not as leaders or managers but as citizens of this planet.

We more and more come to see that there is no planet B. We realize that we are exploiting the resources of our home planet in a irresponsible manner. That’s nothing new. Already in 1992 some smart leaders from around the world have gathered and formulated the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). They all consider that we live in an interdependend world where every action has an effect on us as global community and the planet we inhabit. Short and drastically: Letting your products being fabricated at the other side of the world and then shipped back, not only impacts you (lower production costs, less strict environmental regulation, higher margins etc.) but ultimately everyone around you and even your children and grandchildren (global warming, polluted oceans, etc.). Why do I remind us of that: because it shows us that our decision-making is increasingly complex and ambiguous.

In an increasingly complex, ambiguous world we cannot make corporate decisions top-down in a hierarchical order. While that way of decision-making might work where your frame of reference can be easily overseen and where you don’t have to take care of all consequences of your actions. It doesn’t work in a globalized, fast changing world. To become aware of the consequences of our (corporate) decisions and actions and to find the most sustainable and smart solution, we need to use as many brains and hearts as we can get hold of. I would argue that Free Agency forces us to make that important transition. It asks us to move from a hierarchical way of collaborating into another one, where we use the thinking and feeling capacity of everyone. The steps towards this shift might feel uncomfortable but we are – as far as I see it – on the right track.

What does that mean? – Tapping into the potential of everyone

So where are we standing here? We see the effect of Templotion (the ever faster increasing pace of change) and Free Agency (people asking to be heard, seen and valued for the unique human beings they are). And we also see that the idea of Free Agency might actually help us in facing the challenges (SDGs) of our globalized, complex reality. We just don’t know exactly what we have to do in order to connect these two challenges in a constructive way. Or do we?

I actually think we do. We just need to listen closely of what these Free Agents are asking of us. To start with, have a look at this LinkedIn Post of Jort Verhage, a young emerging leader of the Generation Z. I translate a part of his post for you:

Actually we (the Generation Z) are not understood; nearly nobody understands who we really are, what makes us tick, why we reason the way we do, what we want and what our dreams are.

A lot of people are talking about us, but not with us. (…) I am here to talk with you.

Jort Verhage

Ahaa…. So it’s about listening and engaging in a real conversation. It’s about understanding why people do what they do, what they want and what their dreams are. It’s about taking the time to slow down and really make a genuine connection with your (future) workforce. To tap into their potential the way they want you to do it.

Sounds simple but not easy

So here we are with a simple answer to a complex challenge: take the time to connect with and understand the individual in front of you. Try continously to listen to and see the potential of your employees. Create the space for them to discover their dreams and give them the possibility to strive and accomplish their dreams. Ideally through the work you do together.

This sounds fairly simple, doesn’t it? But it’s not easy at all. If we think about the ever faster changing world and what it asks of us in adapting to these changes, then taking the time to slow down sounds like a contraproductive idea. I’m aware of that. I’m struggling with the balance between slowing down and speeding up every single day. I try to keep in mind the wise words of Joep C. de Jong from his presentation on Appreciative Leadership. He makes the point to slow down from within while the outer world will keep on speeding up. It would take too long to describe that, maybe you just follow the link…

In the meanwhile I will keep on listening, observing and making sense of our reality. And I’ll keep you posted on my findings.

If you have an intersting finding to share, I wholeheartedly invite you to do so in the comment section below!

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