On my way to #LOTE, I serendipitously bumped into Patrick and Stephen who were traveling from London for the same. Being edgeryders, we dived into the topics that were being discussed on the platform immediately and a comment that Patrick made resonated with me in a profound way – “Should we treat ourselves as resources to be utilized by others (organisations, corporations etc) or should we utilize ourselves for our own satisfaction?” This I believe is the pivotal question in understanding some of the challenges confronting us when it comes to livelihood.
‘Making a living (paid work)’ session made a lot of the challenges apparent and the solutions that came about, heard unified voices. It also answered Patrick’s question and gave me the most valuable learning from #Lote – “I am my own resource”.
Now, let me dive into giving this a context.
Both, society and the individual are going through a shift – adjusting or adapting to changing needs and standards. While the individual is moving at a faster pace, society is stuck in a paradigm of old rules that it is trying to apply to the changes happening around it.
Some of the problems that stood out given this context -
- Unpaid apprenticeship – results in a learning curve and therefore will not be monetarily rewarded. While this is acceptable, today the standard has changed to using the apprentice for ‘donkey work’ with no learning and no pay. With a high number of graduates in the market, an unpaid intern is dispensable and can be replaced with another without changing the circumstances. In such a scenario, an individual is an asset only in the context of existing institutions.
- Specialization is good – Corporations find specialized employees stable and less risky. Majority of projects that require cross or multidisciplinarity are outsourced to consultancies. T-shaped employees or hybrids are therefore, not preferred within large corporations and the arena of consulting is extremely competitive – this was identified as one of the major problems in finding paid work as more and more individuals are or consider themselves hybrids. Hybrids are people who have expertise in one area and a general understanding of related fields giving them the ability to be inter- or trans-disciplinary. Society favours classical titles and hybrids fit none making it difficult for them to find a place in the traditional job market. Once again, the individual is an asset or resource in the context of existing institutions.
- Have we acquired new skills that don’t fit old rules anymore? This was a highly debated topic during the session. The answer still needs discussion but I do believe we found a starting point for it. The question is not of new skills – the skills remain largely the same. However, the issue is of competency. As mentioned in the earlier point, individuals are moving towards acquiring more than one skill. Hybrids are thus called because they work in between stratas. Individuals are moving towards inter or trans-disciplinarity while most institutions have not made this transition. In this scenario, individuals have started recognizing themselves as resources for their own benefit and not just as assets wrt an existing institution.
- The case of intrinsic motivation – Another point that stood out in the discussions was that most hybrids consider themselves intrinsically motivated. What drives them is continuous learning, passion for their work and creative/personal satisfaction. Money was not a driver but was seen as something that is required to sustain oneself enough to continue satiating the above-mentioned drivers.
- Dialogue – Most participants believed that starting constructive dialogues is the need of the hour that transforms hybrids from outsiders in the traditional system to insiders. What we need is a multi-stakeholder issue based approach.
- Entrepreneurship – The intrinsic motivation drivers are powerful for some hybrids to start their own companies or work as freelancers to satiate their creative needs as well as monetary needs to sustain themselves. However, not every hybrid is an entrepreneur and therefore a majority is still stuck without a way out.
- Network economy – the 3rd option that was most voiced is the idea of a network economy that connects dots in silos and creates a thriving environment to collaborate, share skills, create alternative methods of self-sustainability. In this scenario, the individual becomes his or her own resource and works to benefit oneself through collaboration. Within this idea of network economy, the exchange can happen is two ways – 1. Pure barter: e.g. “I will design your website for space to live”; 2. Create a new kind of organization that is multi- or trans-dsiciplnary thus changing the traditional models and create employment within this new model for the growing number of hybrids (this is also attached to entrepreneurship).