Sunday, May 9, 2010

Freeranging synopsis...

I've been meaning to start sharing some of the stuff I've been working on from the Freeranging book. Being that I've reached a bit of a writer's empasse I thought maybe now would be a good time to start. Conversation on these items would be most welcome.

What follows is the synopsis from the book proposal. Does it sound to you like there's a book here? What should I emphasize/de-emphasize? Your feedback is most welcome.
Synopsis: Creating work environments that foster greater innovation and creativity is a twenty-first century organizational imperative. Our economies have evolved to ones based on knowledge and information as the primary drivers of wealth creation. We are witnessing the growth of what former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has termed the “weightless economy”— an economy in which knowledge and technical capacity are contributing an ever greater share to GDP. Fully 40% of today's workers in advanced economies are involved in knowledge and other forms of creative work. Less than 10% are engaged in manufacturing, and yet we manage these knowledge workers as if they were still working on the factory floor.

This book details the issues surrounding our current work environments, and points the reader to a better way. It draws heavily on the the science surrounding ideation, and the emergent values of the open-source and social networking movements. It offers a vision for creating a world of work in the networked economy that is not only more friendly and natural, but that also results in greater effectiveness.
In a subsequent post I will share the Table of Contents, and we'll take it from there...


Peg said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your overarching theme: Creating work environments that foster greater innovation and creativity is a twenty-first century organizational imperative. I believe you have a good & useful book there.

But I've always had trouble wrapping my mind around the idea of a "knowledge economy," much less a "weightless one."

I also have trouble contemplating the idea of "work" only in terms of the system of standard national accounts (developed by the U.N. in the 1950s), which frames all economic activity in monetary terms and ignores/marginalizes essential work for direct use.

Somewhere, somehow, human beings must still perform essential labor in the physical world, producing food, transforming raw materials into meals, building shelters, changing diapers, carrying and delivering babies, laying hands on the sick and dying....

These workers need and often must acquire, sophisticated knowledge, but they deploy it in physical space to support physical beings.

A lot of this essential first-life work falls under the heading of nonmarket economic activity--activity that provides direct benefit but no exchange value.

A lot of the rest of it is provided by low-wage, marginalized laborers, or even slaves, in forgotten corners of the world.

We can't do without the work itself, and the workers I'm talking about often labor under either natural or authoritarian constraints that either uniquely limit or forbid freeranging.

This isn't a criticism of your proposal; we need a full exploration of the freeranging ideas you've articulated so well and so passionately the past few years.

I just hope as you write you'll bear in mind that not all work is or can ever become weightless, and probably less than half of it contributes nothing to any nation's GDP.

Kevin Gamble said...

Those are great comments.

I do think there are opportunities for freeranging to make inroads into the analog world. The commons of old, those ancient farming communities, the ones that the industrialists destroyed in order to acquire labor for the factories, were not all that unpleasant of places to live (in non-feudal societies).

Not all of these systems have to be framed around efficiency and scale as you know. :)

Peg said...

...or maybe opportunities for members of consumer societies to learn something about freeranging (including how to avoid Black Swans) from the older pre-industrial hunter/gatherer and agrarian economies.

Remember, industrialists needed not only labor, but also consumers to buy their goods and services (which in turn,led to our modern concept of school, the institution necessary for preparing young people to live in consumer societies. Illich called school "the reproductive organ of a consumer society.")

As for efficiency and scale, I have a book of my own in mind, entitled something like Too Small to Fail: Living the Inefficient Life.

P.S. In my last post, I meant to say, "...not all work is or can ever become weightless, and probably more than half of it contributes nothing to any nation's GDP.."

Kevin Gamble said...


Excellent comments.

I was very careful to choose the word "effective" as opposed to "efficient". :) I'm all about smaller and more sustainable institutions. I don't think large and humane necessarily play together well.