Saturday, 27 January 2007

The Very Ordinary Case of Anna Eagin

Peter writes...

This post first featured in Disruption City 2006 where it attracted some interesting comment.

Anna Eagin is aged 15 and a half: Top of the Pops is now dead. MTV and its like are the source of constant enquiry: Can they survive? Anna (favourite bands The Arctic Monkeys and Sandi Thom) is typical of the new generation that don’t need Top of the Pops or MTV. They have YouTube and MySpace. Anna is skilled in both. She communicates with school friends and family using these sites and a variety of others, including Flickr and her blog site. She also meets new friends through these sites. Tonight she is talking to fifteen-year-old ‘SydneyKid’ over in Australia. He turns out to be called James and is into English music and volleyball.

Aged 17 and a half: Anna has become a concerned environmentalist. She has an RSS feed to the BBC for news on this subject. She also uses sources from Greenpeace and other organisations. Her particular passion is campaign for the whale. She enjoys several ichat video conversations with Cath and Mike, two well-known environmentalists in their research station in Canada. She also writes very succinct, poignant messages about the whale on her blog site. She builds up a small but appreciative readership.

Aged 19 and a half: ‘Reclaim the desert’ is the name of a local campaign in Anna’s neighbourhood. The desert in question is a small area of open land that has fallen into disuse. Although it is just behind a row of shops, it features a pretty view to the local canal. It used to be a green site but now cars have started parking there and local market traders store equipment and trailers over weekends. It has become alternately muddy or parched (hence the name for the campaign). Anna can remember when she played there as a small child and joins the campaign, helping to create the website. She also uses her video camera & Mac to record and edit the recollections of elderly people. ‘There wasn’t a romance in the district that didn’t at some time find its way to the small bench there by the canal’ says Betty, aged 71.

Aged 21 and a half: Anna applies for and gets a management job in your organisation. What will you tell her? Will you tell her that her skills (writing for new media, blog, wiki, video) are no longer needed or that they should be confined to her evenings and weekends? Will you instead teach her the traditional art of writing papers and reports (black on white, stagnant paragraph after stagnant paragraph, token colour graphs to liven up the beleaguered reader). Will you encourage her to conform to a culture of formal meetings (the longer and more snooze-inducing they are then the more worthy they must be)? Or will you instead decide that it is the organisation that must learn from Anna? And what will Anna say? What will she think when she encounters staff who don’t know what’s happening in the next department, never mind across the globe? Do you think that she will tell them about Cath and Mike? Do you think that she herself will be bold enough to say that there are lessons to be learned & that she can teach new things to an old organisation? Do you think she will tell them about Betty?

I think Anna will speak up.

She will say, “I think there’s a better way of doing what we are trying to do.”

The next revolution will just walk in the door.


hmatt said...

I agree that Anna won't accept the status quo.

However, with her global network of friends and mastery of the net, I'd suggest she might well question the need to join such a company. Like moonlighting programmers open-sourcing in their spare time, will Anna accept being pigeonholed within a single limited job spec?

Her accomplishments online might well push her to demand more from life.

She will undoubtedly have much to contribute to a company willing to listen. However, the biggest trick might well be attracting her to your firm in the first place!

Peter said...

"The world is on the verge of another leap in creativity and productivity but the 'job' is not going to be part of tomorrow's economic reality. In its place is an emerging enterprise where workers will become more responsible for managing their own lives and will sell their skills to employers or customers across a globally connected market."

The above is a quote from William Bridges, author of Jobshift, writing in Fortune in 1994. I don't know Bridges's work, and I don't know much about this aspect of Organizational Development. Nonetheless, I frequently seem to find myself in the company of people who talk about "the job" as a relatively recent, and potentially short-lived, phenomenon.

As I say, I don't know enough. But I need to find out more.

Great point, Matt.

hmatt said...

I don't know Bridges, and will have a look about before Friday. Sounds very interesting!

Seems somewhat reminiscient of Handy's "portfolio worker" or Marx's fisher/hunter/crytic/etc.

It seems a lot of smart chaps have been writing about the concept for a while now!

Will the free access to audience and tools of production faciliated by the web make this [e]portfolio life more of a norm?

Peter said...

Yes, good point. And maybe this is what Shimon Peres is pointing to when he says we can each be an economic state:

hmatt said...

I think Anna is applying for a job at Sainsburys.

B1RDIE Num Num said...

Organisational Culture takes a long time to evolve, and most modern firms still adhere closely to founders beliefs and approaches.

Whilst newer firms have the opportunity to 'change the game' - with silicon valley boom firms showing the way of the free worker - older firms still impose a strong 'it worked for us, it will work for you' ethic.

There is little impetus for change here, unless of course the gorrila faces a fast rising threat. Though in the current era of leveraged buy outs, the established order tempt the small firms to sell up, and all thats left behind is the idea.

So Anna will most likely, like most of us, conform - or attempt to create/join a new firm. The other famous established brands of today will still creep around, huge behemoths of what was before.

butlimous said...

Thanks for the nice post!

Free PS3