Halfway in my reading of Jeremy Rifkin’s « The Zero Marginal Cost Society », one thought struck me regarding the future opportunities for Human centric organization and businesses.
Rifkin’s framework in a nutshell
Rifkin has built up a simple yet powerful framework (as always with North American thought leaders) in order to analyze the major industrial revolutions humanity has gone through: every revolution is materialized by synchronous breakthrough in terms of Communication, Logistics and Energy
(by the way this framework sheds light on a forgotten, at least for me, major element of the commercial development from the 15th to 19th centuries: water and wind mills as revolutionary energy sources)
The core of Rifkin’s predictions about the outcomes of the ongoing industrial revolution is based on the exponential development of the Internet of Things. A massive Internet of Things will build a new version of his framework – in a nutshell –
- Communication Internet, based on social interactions and conversations, which we are starting to have a clear understanding
- Logistics Internet, goods dispatched in their digital format and personal production facilities like 3D printers and such
- Energy Internet, every individual producing his own renewable energy and carefully monitoring and analyzing his consumption
and eventually lead to widespread collaboration, extreme productivity, thermodynamic efficiency and ultimately « The Zero Marginal Cost Society » where the Internet itself is designing, manufacturing and marketing goods and services without the costly need of any intermediaries. All of us are thus becoming both producers and consumers.
“Creative Energy Tsunami”
First, I think I can say that I share at least 99,9% of this long-term vision, and this is due to two factors: 1/ from a purely rational standpoint, I think he is right and 2/ from a purely personal standpoint, this vision resonates with core beliefs I have
But then, thinking about it deeper, I develop another reading of his framework especially with regards to the Energy Internet (and the water and wind mills story has made me learn how important it is in the course of a socio-economical revolution!). We can actually look at this core element of Rifkin’s framework from another angle, namely from the people, the you and me, angle.
A society and an economical organization where widespread entrepreneurship, active collaboration and extreme efficiency are the norm will surely liberate a lot of people from the burden of their boring, meaningless and tiring daily occupation that we call work. This liberation will take the form of a tsunami of positive Creative Energy fueling the Collaborative Commons (Rifkin’s future marketplace) with ideas, concepts, projects, connections, … and leading to constant change, reinvention and value creation at the service of a greater purpose.
Sounds like pure utopia, here are 4 reasons why I am quite confident this « Creative Energy Tsunami » will happen and that its impact will at least equal the impact of the « Energy Internet »:
- As my friend Minter (@mdial) likes to say, « change happens when you believe why? ». If people are convinced of a specific purpose and confident on the fact that the right conditions are gathered for them to follow that purpose, they engage themselves and it’s when they engage themselves that their positive Creative Energy starts to boil
- People will be convinced of their own specific purpose because for the first in the History of mankind, they will have the power to define it themselves for themselves. Free spirit will become mainstream, leading inevitably to an overall happier society, carrying loads of positive Creative Energy
- The tsunami part is fact based! the famous Gallup survey on the state of Global workplace (2013) is edifying: on a worldwide scale, only 13% of employees are actively engaged in their job! As we also know that employee engagement and productivity are directly linked (http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/163130/employee-engagement-drives-growth.aspx), you can easily imagine the impact on global productivity of a significant increase of active engagement of people in the workplace.
- While Rifkin’s argues, yet with reserves, about ultimate thermodynamical efficiency, I don’t think it’s reasonable to challenge the second law of thermodynamics, socio-economical entropy will continue to increase, fueled by this Creative Energy tsunami, continuously leading any kind of human organization to further landscapes
Ok (or not), but what to do with that in 2014?
While most of these thoughts might appear far-fetched, remote or distant with regards to what our day-to-day life consists of, I’m pretty convinced that having that in mind could make us better initiative leaders.
- Collective intelligence is still the most powerful form of cognitive power, your job as a leader is to foster it not to control it, unleashing then leveraging the « Creative Energy » of your team.
- In a more and more changing, demanding and hardly predictable business world, it is the combination of creativity and fast execution, both fueled by « Creative Energy », that will allow organizations of any size to create valuable competitive edges. It will become a strategic capability.