The age of mechanisation, which we are about to leave, had as its central metaphor the wheel and the cog. The wheel was the steady and unflinching manufacturing of goods and services. The cogs of the wheels are those people engaged in this process of manufacturing. As the world of work became mechanised, so too the process of manufacturing was broken down and divided into its smallest possible pieces and tasks, which could then be carried out by people with limited skills and to all intents and purposes acting as automotives. What was required in these bureaucratic hierarchies, was hours of labour – not innovation, not creativity and certainly not the ‘whole person’. Personality, aspirations, hopes were to be left at the door of the departing home.
The five future trends work together to provide a unique opportunity to shift from the age of mechanisation to the age of craft. In this new age, people can put their stamp on their work with regard to who they are and what they choose to do. This has immense benefits as it enables each one of us to become more authentically ourselves. However, it carries with it the necessity to become more aware of what it is that is unique about us and to craft credentials in a thoughtful and energetic way.
The need to become a master of something and have some specialisation is crucial to the age we are entering. It could be a specific skill or competency; it could be a breadth of knowledge and insight; it could be particularly valuable networks and connections. The actual specialisation or mastery is not the point – the point is that to thrive in the future you have to have something.
Of course developing deep mastery and specialisation is important – but you will also have to demonstrate this to others. In other words, your credentials will have to be prominently on display. Professionals such as doctors and lawyers have historically relied on professional bodies to calibrate and label and display their credentials. A complex system of examinations, references and mentoring ensured that every medical professional had a set of credentials which they carry with them and which demonstrated their value and specialisation at any point in time.
Similarly, companies have often played the same credential role. I recall that the first job title I had, when as a novice psychologist I joined British Airways, was ‘Selection Methods Officer’ on Grade 9. This positioned me with great accuracy in the hierarchy. There was a Senior Selection Methods Officer to whom I reported, whilst my grade signalled I was not yet a manager. If the job title did not provide sufficient measure of my credential, then the size of my office (small and shared) and the power of my car (I did not have one) signalled just how far down the pecking order I stood. Hierarchies and bureaucracies are marvellous places for creating clear credentials – just as professional bodies historically have.
However, as companies become flatter and more project based and as work becomes more specialized, so too there will be a need for talented people to create their own verified credentials, which rapidly and accurately portray who they are and what they can do. This process of verification will place a premium on feedback and self authoring. Here are some ways to think about this:
* Think about creating the new ‘craft communities’, which like the old professional bodies act as repositories of member’s credentials.
* Work steadily and actively to build your personal credentials or brand using all the emerging social media technologies.
* Be sure that every project or task you complete has a means of verification so that your performance can become part of the credential package. This means you will have to have transparent and shared performance ratings.
Not sure how this will work? Well, be inspired by the thousands of physicists working on the CERN project in Switzerland. They engage in a collective task and yet are able to verify their individual contribution by putting each of their names on any of the outcomes of their joint work. Or think about how the programmers who use O Desk post their performance ratings, so that potential buyers of their work can assess their competence.
Stepping back, ask yourself these three questions about your current work:
* If I left tomorrow what could I take with me that demonstrated to others what I have achieved?
* How do people doing my sort of work show the skills they have learnt – particularly to others who are outside of this type of work?
* How successfully have I been able to create an accurate measure of what I have done and how others have measured the value of my contribution?
My guess is that this will be an interesting exercise for you – do tell me what you found out.