The gig economy and after

The gig economy and after

He was a former bank employee, getting increasingly unhappy and progressively failing at work he really didn’t enjoy. Normal business communications apart he had never had to sell, himself or his business. He wanted out of banking but had grown accustomed to the wages and was qualified for nothing else. He had responsibilities that demanded a certain level of income. He was early middle-aged. How could he find and get another job?

The answer was that he couldn’t. At least, not the conventional 9 to 5 sort of job he had been accustomed to – although the hours were invariably longer than that. It was banking or nothing, at least until he decided he wanted to learn to sell. Shy by nature, retiring, back-room inclined he did not present a good candidate for salesman. And yet, within sixteen weeks he was running his own portfolio of jobs. He was independent, invigorated and free.

What changed that gave our friend such a break?

Need was the biggest driver. He had no resources except himself. His need made him aware that there was only one person who could do this – him. Openness to help and new ideas was his second biggest asset. “Can’t” was a word he uttered at the start. Now he never uses it. He sought help and soon realised that his greatest weakness was his lack of ability to sell. He took a demanding course and shed the arrogance that passes for shyness.

Once equipped to sell he weighed his strengths and soon discovered that his seemingly dull admin and distribution experience was actually a considerable asset. Selling is 25% sales and 75% organisation. He now had both. His got his first two clients within a month of being confident he could sell. Now he has five. He has a portfolio of jobs. He is a gig.

Increasingly more people will go this way. It is the corollary to outsourcing. It may appear to lack the security of a permanent full-time job, but how many jobs today are really secure? Running a gig is certainly demanding but the issues are genuine, not the phony procedural or regulatory issues that increasingly beset corporations. Your bosses are your clients and if you don’t like one you can politely drop him. Back to common sense.

Nothing lasts forever and the gig economy certainly won’t. Give it fifty or a hundred years and it will be substantially replaced by robots and AI, and you may well still be alive then. What happens post-gig? There are people who will tell you that the only way to run the world is to provide jobs for everyone. Laudable as that is it is not going to happen. From the moment we tried to reduce heavy lifting we have been set on a course of no work. That will happen. The steps we need to take to prepare for it are:

[1] Provide everyone with enough money to survive at a reasonable basic level. Everyone has a right to live; the question is ‘how comfortably’?

[2] Create things to occupy the body and mind. This will be the opposite of mass production. The individually crafted sculpture, the original story, the picture to stretch the mind will all play a part but so will an understanding of why we are here and what is our potential as a species.

[3] You cannot create this new society without being creative and thoughtful. Inventiveness and philosophy will become a central part of humankind’s being, once again. To educate a society to handle this cultural change is a massive task.

The gig economy is the first in a series of steps towards a world of leisure.

It is as scary as it is exciting. Let’s hope we enjoy it.