Fun, work and success

There was an interesting article in the Guardian last Saturday the 8th (Nov) on what the net generation expects in terms of work. The net generation is defined as those in the 20s now entering the workforce, in other words, those who have grown up in the digital age.

Author Don Tapscott writes that ‘Net-geners feel that working and having fun can and should be the same thing. And that ‘Net-geners like to get things done through collaboration. He refers to observations by Tamara Erickson, a widely respected expert on organisations and the changing workforce,

…this generation is not turned on by status or hierarchy. They want to do challenging work, but they don’t necessarily want organisational responsibility. Their dream job, she says, is something like this: a job with a problem or dilemma no one knows how to solve and lots of great people to work with.

Isn’t that the ideal work situation? In fact, isn’t this 60s culture re-defined; a more corporate take, with the focus on work as opposed to dropping out? Bring it on, I say, and hopefully there’s room for an oldie in there somewhere.

Where I might show my age is in the net-geners apparent desire to hear from their managers constantly, on a daily basis preferably. I think I could do without that kind of scrutiny – or even praise. But one note in the article did grate: ‘To be sure … They [organisations] need to compensate people so they’ll be encouraged to work effectively…’

Where did that ‘compensate’ come from, presumably meaning (in the U.S. mould) pay. What are you making amends for, or recompensing? It’s an entirely individualist approach that sees work as taking something away from the individual, as opposed to an opportunity for the individual to contribute. Especially inappropriate in this context (of work as collaboration) and in light of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book on the nature of success – ‘Outliers, The Story of Success’ – as featured in the Guardian and Observer yesterday. (Ah. Topicality at last!)

Gladwell, a good example of someone who has put the fun (as well as hard work) back into work, in his new book debunks the idea of the solitary genius:

Gladwell’s contention is not only that success is the result of a complicated mix of social advantages but also that the insistence that some individuals have extra-special gifts and talents, are geniuses in particular fields, or pull themselves up by their bootstraps, is incredibly destructive to society’s idea of itself. ‘No one,’ he says, ‘not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses – ever makes it alone.’ (from Tim Adams’s cover story in the Observer 16.11.08).

It’s time to embrace the era of collaboration.

‘Outliers, The Story of Success’ by Malcolm Gladwell, published by Allen Lane on 27 Nov.

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