Back in the day, you could say things were “just business” because business had a different set of rules from the rest of life. Back in the day, you could compartmentalize your work, home and social lives and expect them to stay separate. Back in the day you could “fake it till you make it” and no one would know. As we all know, those days are gone.
But how, exactly, are they gone? What has been disrupted so significantly that we will never be the same? We know how Uber changed our driving and Amazon changed our buying, but what about how we, personally, have been disrupted? And what about the disruptions yet to come?
Below are six reasons, for better or worse, our work lives are no longer “just” business and how they are creating a personal disruption that we all are adjusting to.
1. Relationships – There was a time when real relationships were frowned upon in business. We were expected to be cordial and permitted to be casually friendly, but beyond that, there was a line and everyone knew not to cross it. While it was nice if we liked our boss, coworkers, and clients, it was hardly a valid reason to change jobs if we didn’t.
As our work-life becomes more and more our life-life, we now expect to find meaningful connection with the people we work with. If we don’t, there’s another job in another city with another set of people more in line with our interests, values and ideals. With enough economic freedom to choose, we won’t stay solely for the paycheck and we’ll work around relationship rules that don’t make sense to us.
While it is unlikely that all workplaces will eventually condone all types of relationships, there is a very real shift toward expecting meaningful working relationships to be a part of the “package” that keeps us happy.
2. Creative Expression – Nearly anyone, anywhere, can create just about anything with a smartphone and an internet connection. I’ve got a 3-D printer at my second office just begging me to give it a spin. I can create videos direct from my home while my post-walk sweat is still shining on my face (yes, my followers seem to actually like me best this way – go figure). I can create audio files with a mike and a few clicks.
In fact, we are in danger of falling behind the curve if we are not already hosting our very own live-streaming video show on a platform such as Blab. Even data entry is getting a facelift with elaborate graphics for your spreadsheets.
Now that the creative world is our oyster, the only thing holding us back is a shorter and shorter learning curve and the confidence to put ourselves out there.
This means we are increasingly able to expect the opportunity to create through our work and business endeavors. In turn, we want creative authority and autonomy to the furthest degree it is possible. With those, we’ll do our best work. Without them, well… what can you expect?
3. Personal Growth – Somewhere in the not so distant past we realized that our creative expression, our talents, and our true voice can and does matter, even in our work life. We ask ourselves the bigger questions of life and actually expect answers.
Am I personally growing through my professional work-life? Am I making a contribution I believe in? Will I leave this job better for having had it? I don’t just want a paycheck - I want meaning. I want to build confidence. I want a mentor to get ahead, sure, but also to understand what getting ahead means to me. If my work and business life don’t offer this, is there other work that will? We may not speak these things out loud, but it is a big part our job satisfaction – or not.
4. World Culture – More and more, we are citizens of the world. My list of clients includes people in Dublin, Berlin, Dubai, and Vancouver. I could drive from Portland to Boston and, through my social media contacts, never need a hotel. My co-host for “It’s [NOT] Just Business” on Blab will be at the Arcabs Research & Innovation Centre in Waterford, Ireland even as I broadcast from the Eastern shore of Maryland. I’ll be speaking in Zurich and Geneva (and of course online to anyone in the world) to kick off 2016.
This is business-as-usual to some, but it creates an entirely new set of skills to learn for others, especially those who have yet to leave the town they grew up in. Politics blur. New cultural norms must be learned. Time zones have to be accounted for. Products and services don’t all work the same for all people. Also impacting, our colleagues and customers are now in potential war zones and areas of natural disaster, and there seems to be a catastrophe somewhere in the world on any given day.
This is changing who we are and how we relate. It’s no longer us and them, it’s us as them, and them as us. This is a bigger change to navigate than most of us were prepared for. But we are learning, growing, and rising above our previous prejudices and cultural fears. We are increasingly embracing the world-wide-web as a way of life and not just a business tool. As a result, we want to have an even greater audience, customer base and impact.
5. Transparency – Most people I know get really weird when the word transparency comes up. It’s even worse when new terms of privacy get thrown at us. Honestly, we like our curtains drawn tighter than we can draw them anymore. What we say can and will be held against us, even if we were stupid and only fifteen years old.
We are not even sure what the word transparency means in the new lexicon. Are they asking us to air our dirty laundry? What is full disclosure? What if we lie? Or flip-flop? How do we backtrack when we make a mistake for all the world to see? Taking it further, are we really supposed to post what we earn every month as some startups do, and is that a badge of honor, social proof, or just plain bragging? Is it okay to be on video with my fuzzy slippers on under my suit pants? Do I have to wear pants at all, so long as no one knows? The questions are endless, and we spend a good amount of time and energy trying to figure it all out.
Yet when we actually do learn to be authentic in public (hopefully still in full attire), all that has held us back disappears. If we can be truly transparent – which is to say who we actually are – we can drop the energy we were wasting on playing the games put upon us by a culture that no longer interests us. We are free to explore and create and grow on our own terms. Business has never afforded us an opportunity like this before, and it is a true game changer for the brave and the bold.
6. No Gatekeepers – With the right set of skills, there is nothing to stop us from making what we want and then selling what we make the way we want to, when we want to, to the people we want to serve. We can publish a book. Create a food product. Invent a new way of farming or distributing our produce. We can be virtual assistants or made-to-order cobblers.
Never before have there been so many easy and intuitive systems to support us. With every possible need met, from bookkeeping to worldwide advertising at pennies per click, all we have to do is find a need, get a good idea and garner the confidence to go out there. Of course, that is easier to tout than to live, as any new solopreneur knows. Even so, with enough of the right relationships, creative expression, and personal growth – not to mention a world audience and a willingness to be transparent - we’re in. The gatekeepers are gone.
What this all means is that…
…when it comes to how we do business, and what we expect out of it, we’ve all been disrupted. It’s not just business, but we are not fully sure of what it is yet. The only thing I personally feel certain about is that the systems are only the beginning of the sea change. We, ourselves, are on the very next wave.