The job bubble

Formal education exploded as we moved into the industrial age one hundred years ago, with larger organisations demanding Taylorist job functions. As the industrial age gives way to a networked age, there is less need for well-defined, cookie-cutter jobs. With fewer standardized jobs, why do we need standardized education, or even standardized training? [I know that there are exceptions to this statement, but they are becoming fewer].

This was my concluding paragraph on a 2006 blog post, Informal economy; informal learning.

Thomas Friedman wrote this week in the New York Times that a job may be a thing of the past, which I have thought for a long time now:

Look at the news these days from the most dynamic sector of the U.S. economy — Silicon Valley. Facebook is now valued near $100 billion, Twitter at $8 billion, Groupon at $30 billion, Zynga at $20 billion and LinkedIn at $8 billion. These are the fastest-growing Internet/social networking companies in the world, and here’s what’s scary: You could easily fit all their employees together into the 20,000 seats in Madison Square Garden, and still have room for grandma. They just don’t employ a lot of people, relative to their valuations, and while they’re all hiring today, they are largely looking for talented engineers.

The job bubble may be over. It didn’t last long; about 100 years. Now we have to figure out better ways of getting work done and ensuring fair recompense. It doesn’t mean getting rid of social safety nets either, but our policy-makers had better catch on quickly. In Canada there’s some discussion about employment insurance for the self-employed. It doesn’t really work so far, but at least there is public discussion.

Digging through my old posts on jobs, I came across some interesting links:

If you ever have a choice, never have a job.

Jobs, which can be “filled”, turn people into commodities (human resources): Being a commodity is inevitably dehumanizing, no matter how much they pay you.

Our economy, with jobs as an important part of the social contract, is just someone else’s story.

Freelancing is still a difficult option.

In Let’s talk about work, I wrote:

In a networked, knowledge-based economy where initiative, creativity and passion trump intellect, diligence and obedience; being “at” work 8 hours a day makes little sense. The Internet makes “time at work”, an antiquated notion. It also makes many of our traditional management and personnel policies irrelevant. The recession has only amplified this trend.

Finally, this was my last experience in a JOB – I think that the construct of the job, with its defined skills, effort, responsibilities and working conditions, is a key limiting organizational factor for the creative economy.


7 Responses to “The job bubble”

  1. Howard

    Recompense is indeed a tough nut to crack when information, knowledge and their attendant value travels in flows with individual contributions only in the last mile so to speak. We need the value of open source creatives, but how to build a creative life is maybe not so clear.

  2. Jon Husband

    I think that the construct of the job, with its defined skills, effort, responsibilities and working conditions, is a key limiting organizational factor for the creative economy …

    A big BINGO ! to that.

    The Taylorist job concept, with its constrained set of objectives, skills and defined relationships to other jobs is by its fundamental logic set opposed to the dynamics of individuals and groups operating in networks. A job is like a part in a machine .. a spark plug, or a filter, etc. The machine is supposed to function the same way and do the same thing all the time, which is fine for mass assembly lines but less and less effective an a constantly shifting-and-moving environment.

  3. Jon Husband

    There’s a really tricky and little-know (IMO) aspect to all this for organizations.

    They are bound by federal and provincial legislation re: equal pay, and the generic job “measurement” or “weighting” factors of skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions are enshrined in EPWEV law .. so HR departments continue to have the position that they MUST use job definition and measurement tools to design and define the work that takes place in their organization(s).

    • Harold Jarche

      Good point, Jon. The job is linked to ‘salary for time’, and there are many groups (HR, unions, legal) with vested interests in keeping the status quo. Change will continue to happen at the edges, like hi-tech startups and social enterprises. We lack clear alternative models to corporations, standard employer/employee relationships, etc. But this may change as more people realize the limitations of the existing systems.

  4. Jon Husband

    But this may change as more people realize the limitations of the existing systems.

    Well, as Dave Pollard used to say, I am certain that many (and more & more) are well-acquainted with “work-arounds” in order to get things done.

    I am sure you are right .. but I just wanted to point out that employment legislation that applies across the land, is defined in generic terms, and strikes directly at a very-hot-button issue of gender equality is very well positioned to stay deeply rooted in the org’n landscape for some time to come.

    Having just spent a couple of months doing a lot of landscaping, I think of this kind of legislation as a very deeply rooted and ferociously defensive common garden weed.


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