The old adagio that our parents followed as a religion doesn’t apply to our reality anymore: if you work hard, follow the rules, go to university, you will be successful. For generations it was expected that the next generation would overpass in level of success the previous generation. For generations it was believed that life is a straight line of progress.
Now more than ever we see that that rule doesn’t apply. Now more than ever we see that radical innovation was made by people who dropped out from high school: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Einstein, to name few. Now university degrees do not secure financial success. While you see unemployed university title holders, you also see title-less millionaires.
This is having an interesting impact on our new generations. They have stopped to believe in the old mantra of straight live/success line. My nephew started his life as a singer and dancer at age 12. Now at age 19 his videos can be seen in YouTube and he receives grants from his anti-Aids events. He’s not going to university. He’s not working for any big corporation. He’s earning already decent money to start planning his next tour. My nephew is what I call the New Hero.
Take the phenomenon of book of “The 4 hour work week”. Tim Ferris, its author, is the best example of what I call the New Hero. He is younger than 30; speaks 6 languages; doesn’t have an MBA; has a “money making machine”; doesn’t work for a big corporation; travels around the world learning how to enjoy life: dance tango, martial arts, eat exotic food…
From Bill Gates to Tim Ferris, from David Beckham to my nephew; they all exhibit the same characteristics that makes them successful in this new ever accelerating world.
They are their own brand. They are their own masters. In these famous figures; it is easy to see this. However, it might not be that obvious to see the quiet revolution of millions and millions of people around the world starting to own their very own brand. They haven’t become a Gates or a Ferris, but I can assure you, they are changing the world as we know it.
Now it is not uncommon to see in Amsterdam taxi drivers who own their own tourist agency. They pick you up at the airport kindly talk to you, in almost any language you can imagine: English, Dutch, German, French… Plus others less obvious Punjabi, Arabic, Turkish…. Many of them have their own website translated to different languages. They now only show you the canals and the old houses, but they can go shopping for you, while you attend your business meeting.
Corporations worry about talent retention. They acknowledge they are in a talent war. They continuously lose talented staff who go to run their own show. Imagine, if a taxi driver can successfully run his tourist company in Amsterdam, what could a Russian lady, ex consultant, MBA, with good command of English and Japanese (don’t forget Russian and Ukrainian) do?
I believe that we are experiencing a social shift as big as that of the middle ages. Then it was safe to live in the castle of the feudal lord. No one went out of the walls of the castle because it was deemed dangerous out there. Just the outlaws and crazy would live outside the walls. The belief in the dangers of the woods kept you in: where fairies, witches and wolfs would make your survival chances very slim.
Let’s remember our history lessons. Life in the castle was anything but safe. The first night of womanhood of every single girl belonged to the lord of the castle. You were not allowed to travel. Books were reserved for the few. You were not allowed to do crazy things; well I mean you had to conform to the rules of the closed society of that the castle. You had to dress in a certain way, eat in a certain way, walk in a certain way… Your life was determined by the rules of the castle.
The first people who left the castle had a difficult time at first. They didn’t know how to survive outside the castle and particularly during winter. Their own life as at stake. They were forced to use all the creativity they had. So they came up with innovation, with all kind of new ideas and solutions to new problems. They didn’t have the restrictions of the castle, but they were confronted with new problems that challenged them in unsuspected ways.
Our new heroes, left the corporations, just like the old heroes left the castles – some forced and some on purpose. Our new generations are no longer seduced by moving into the castle.
What does the shape of corporate life need to be?
How is going to look like corporate life after the collapse of Lehman Brothers? Is the castle structure falling in front of us? Is the new heroes way of life what corporations being substituted by? Do corporations need to continue battling the war of talent retention? Or would it be a good idea to give in and have good relationships with all the new CEO’s of the Me Inc.’s the world?
I never imagined that what my history teacher once said was actually going to happen: We make history. History is happening just right now. I didn’t understand it! Now I’m starting to grasp what she said. Now we are making history. Now our children will change how our pension will be paid; how our cities, how business life, how money will be… Don’t think that this will happen one day in the future, 10 or 20 years from now. It is happening today, right here right now. Yes, I mean here. Yes! Where you are: Mumbai, Sitges, Marquelia, Santiago… This change is global. Creativity is inundating everything we are, we eat, we do.
Why should corporations need to fight a war on talent? Fighting wars don’t help anyone to succeed at anything. All wars generate more problems than that they actually solve. Why don’t corporations stop thinking on their war on talent and give in and learn how to negotiate with the Beckhams, the Ferrises, the taxi drivers of this world. Stop retaining people. It hasn’t work. Why continue doing so?
What works? The recipe of the new heroes is to do what they want to do, what they are called to do, where they want and most importantly what makes their heart sing. They consistently generate value to their customers, suppliers, partners… and best of all to themselves!
Is the castle still needed? It’s falling into pieces!
Are you still in the castle? Quit!
Did they kick you out of the castle? Don’t get back in! Use your talents and change the world!