Elinor Ostrom, in her Nobel Prize Lecture in 2009, shared: “Humans have a more complex motivational structure and more capability to solve social dilemmas than posited in earlier rational-choice theory. Designing institutions to force (or nudge) entirely self-interested individuals to achieve better outcomes has been the major goal posited by policy analysts for governments to accomplish for much of the past half-century. Extensive empirical research leads me to argue that instead, a core goal of public policy should be to facilitate the development of institutions that bring out the best in humans.”
There is no universal guide for how we should each live our lives. It’s personal and requires some of the most meaningful work we ever do. As a futurist, I am here to share with you that despite our current challenges, there are vast opportunities that appear when we understand why we are each here at this point in history.
More and more people of all ages are starting to feel a need to have more meaning in life rather than traditional success. Careers have been mostly ingrained in us from an early age as our ultimate goal of leading a successful life. And the traditional “labor” market placed us in one job at a time. Twenty years ago it was frowned upon if we were in a job for less than three years. But all this is changing at the edges.
In the mainstream, the current system—from choosing a major in high school to university recruiting to profiles on LinkedIn and tax returns—is designed around each one of us having a career. The system is not geared toward the creator economy and people not choosing the 9-5 life. Today, we are having conversations about remote work and hybrid work but we no longer know what work actually means.
The need to generate an income and not only feel fulfilled but to follow a deep desire to make an impact will open up pathways that will drive the next decade. We will witness people questioning retirement. As we are living longer, is retirement still relevant? Why stay in a job that depletes one’s energy?
People are questioning why they work so hard and only get to truly have time for life, at the end of the road. One’s life may end up being about choosing to make a life, where work is part of it as we define ourselves less by how we make a living. And then, there are also many who have reached early retirement and have become serial entrepreneurs who are hungry to make a deeper meaning than accumulating more and more stuff.
Organizations will need to adapt to people who have multiple interests that they want to apply and a lot will need to change when people are in the driver’s seat and are no longer seen as liabilities on a financial spreadsheet. Why? Because more and more people are choosing life over working for someone who seems them as disposable.
People are wisening up when they get laid off and told their role is no longer needed and then see their company post in the local business journals that they are hiring the best people for six-figure salaries. It’s always amazing that so many companies claim to hire the best and the brightest and then treat them like they are disposable. And this only happens when we allow it and in a human future, what’s most important than how we treat ourselves and each other?
What can happen when job interviews shift to the candidate figuring out if the company is worth their life investment? It’s not here yet, but it’s definitely coming when we become aware that we have choices and practice discernment.
Albert Einstein, for example, was not simply born a genius. He had to work extremely hard to develop his depth of mind, passion, and creative intelligence, and he was especially critical of the educational system he had endured along the way. In contrast to the overemphasis on specialization found in this system, he believed that students must aim to ‘acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good.’
This noble goal is something that he himself lived by. He writes that ‘the ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time has given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth.’
Some predict diversity is the mantra of our times but today’s increased focus creates greater divides and separation. We have a crisis when it comes to teen boys choosing to leave the planet and it is a silent pandemic spreading around the world. Replacing the patriarchy with matriarchy will not break the cycles of human suffering.
This belief that if only x because it’s better keeps us stuck in old stories and beliefs. When we give attention to a problem, we create more of it. When we only talk to people who share our beliefs and unfriend those who dare to think differently, we fragment ourselves. There is no way we can agree with everyone but this insatiable conditioning to be right decreases our ability to truly listen. Our divisions are getting wider and more dogmatic. The more we refuse to mingle outside of our social circles, the more we’ll continue to stay stuck in the same belief systems and build the same ineffective infrastructure and unhealthy blueprint models.
For one team or one person to win, the other must lose. That is how the current game is played. Everyone is a “warrior” today in their battles, their adversaries, their camps—spreading more fear, greater division, more anger, and more pain, making us all a little bit blind. We teach our kids to win at all costs and to be the best in the world, often at their own expense.
Our opportunity is to create healthy ways to have open and honest conversations to explore what youth need today, for example. And help each of us to come into balance with our own feminine and masculine elements. Allow for diversity of opinions, which will help us understand that we are more similar than different. Listening becomes a major asset in the coming years. Imagine a world where we take our biggest problems and transform them into our greatest opportunities
This is true at an individual and community level. Wholeness, harmony and balance are all-natural systems that surround us. It is humans that divide, label and create stories and beliefs. And we are each being called to address where we are divided and why. It is not an easy road as there will be many traps and seductions that test us along our path.
Our individual and collective stories of suffering and struggling shift when we make healthy choices and choose to no longer fight for our lives. More of us are becoming aware that we can thrive just as much as entering the battles of right and wrong, even though we may feel the magnetic pull to do so.
As more dare to step out of the conflicts and angst, we will find ourselves gravitating towards people, places and things that encourage dialogue, connection and true collaboration. More and more people want to dream together and live in communities where we grow food and laugh together with people and land we care about. And when it comes to business, the days of siloed departments and cross-functional interlock processes are numbered.
When we pause, we will make time to become aware of what is calling us. And we will be surprised by people we assumed were “happy” with their life also wanting to make choices that impact well-being. What if suffering, struggling and misery can shift into a desire to simply thrive?
This happens when we begin to ask questions like why are we fighting? And what do we actually win at the end of the day? The future is calling us to become aware of the importance of wholeness not only at an individual level but organizations will need to heal the rift between divisions and create living systems that support their true purpose.
What will happen when customers and employees become owners who are community-driven and interdependent? There is a lot of talk already about DAOs (distributed autonomous organizations), which are online communities owned and managed by their members. Can collective ownership of small companies force big companies to take a look at how they are conducting themselves?
When every stakeholder of a DAO is deeply incentivized to help build, share and drive their brands, would that become a threat to the big brands? What will happen when more and more people with a common goal get together, pool their resources and collectively collaborate to achieve a shared purpose? What can happen when more of us become owners in the businesses and marketplaces we frequent, including our local cafes, restaurants and hardware stores?
We are only starting to experiment as new ways of living and working are being created by us. We can give our trust to algorithms (likes, favorites and predictability) and people who have proven to be untrustworthy, or we can tap into our own intelligence and live like never before.
What is happening overall is that we are each starting to understand that we no longer need to be passive participants but it is up to us to hold companies, governments and ourselves accountable for the choices we make.
The future is here. It’s always a choice. Health is everything.
You can find Part I here https://ayeletbaron.com/forecasts/
By Ayelet Baron
Keywords: Business Strategy, Future of Work, Leadership