A Soundbite From the Age of Paradox


I am deep into a Future of Work project that fuses automation and humans together in the workforce.

As part of my approach, I always dig into the classics and history — as current life is usually a recycled version from another point in time. The process and the framework may change, but the human part not so much. I dug these beauties out today from The Age of Paradox, by Charles Handy (1994). Seemed relevant for a hump day post.

“We all need something to do. It is hard to see why there should be a shortage of it, yet enforced idleness seems to be the price we pay for improved efficiency….The result is that some people have work and money but too little leisure time, while others have all the leisure time but no work and no money. Those who are idle do not see it as a privilege but as a curse because they tend to be at the bottom of the heap.”

“Work is society’s chosen way of distributing income. We will do even boring work for the money it brings.”

“Our organizations want the most work for the least money while individuals typically want the most money for the least work.”

This 15 year old paradox was surfaced last night by John Hagel at a DisruptHR event in the Bay Area discussing Future of Work and disruption, he asked, “ What should work be?”

The fear of automation is just that. Fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of losing our jobs. That is aided and abated by CEO’s who ask, “How quickly can I automate?” and “How quickly can I cut costs?”.

This points to motivation. The why behind the questions and the fear. If we only see through lens of Wall Street and shareholder value (cloak for profit and margins) and not the bigger picture of stakeholder value as espoused by 181 CEO’s from the Business Roundtable, then were are we heading and for what purpose?

What narrative lens do you bring this topic?

Spatial Narrative Era

We are wired to be spatial thinkers. We exist in a multi-dimensional experience when you consider your five senses - the faculties of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. As I have begun a deeper journey into the wine world, I have become more aware of the senses. The connections between your cognitive and emotional brain and how those entwine as well as collide when information or stimulus is presented.

The same is true in narrative. As we become a culture driven by screens and immediate gratification, our senses are becoming even more relevant to the experience again. The idea of expressing a narrative in only words, means we have merely touched one piece of the multi-dimensional equation. When viewing narrative as a meta layer to a brand experience, it requires us to see a bigger picture. A picture that when captured right, provides a rich context to the overall experience intended. A guiding or north star for what a company aspires to be. A way to make sense of things.

When I step back and open my senses beyond just looking at my screen, I remember the impact of a new car smell. The sound of the door closing on a luxury vehicle vs. an entry model. The white noise injected into a loud restaurant so you can actually carry on a conversation vs. shouting to be heard. The mouth watering senses triggered by the wafting smell of Garret’s popcorn being released across the Chicago cityscape. The smell of a freshly decanted bottle of cabernet or pinot noir and the provenance associated with that moment. The ribs cooking in front of a church parking lot growing up. The awe of seeing Cirque du Soleil for the first time and trying to explain it to someone who has yet to witness the experience. That moment when a singer gave you goosebumps.

Exponential technologies are accelerating our capacity to realize these spatial experiences in either a virtual or real world and or combination of both. I remember the distinct feeling I had when I watched Brainstorm right after graduating from college. Brainstorm is more known as Natalie Wood’s last movie (she passed shortly after its release in a boating accident), then the mind altering experiences achieved in the film. The ability to see, taste and feel the other persons senses really stuck with me all of these years.

The time has come for what I call the Spatial Narrative Era. We have pieces of Spatial Narrative scattered about. We have brilliant transmedia experiences that have been pushing on this subject for years. A project by BradField Narrative called Inanimate Alice was introduced to me 10 years ago when building a start up called Everloop. BradField continues to tell the story of Alice in an amazing use of transmedia as part of their life’s work to impact the imagination of school age children/teens.

My work in the connected car space at Aha Radio brought new dimensions to the combinations of audio + space + speed + place + connectivity to a whole new set of possibilities. As the connected car morphs into Level 4 and 5 autonomy, the idea of spatial takes on yet another narrative context. Perhaps we are now ready to add to the number of senses. We already have the notion of a 6th sense and a recent book by Joshua Cooper Ramo, entitled The Seventh Sense suggested a new Enlightenment in the age of networks. It seems as “things” are now able to tell stories thanks to the emergence of IoT (internet of things), we are now gaining a new sense - modality. Proximity tied to geo-spatial and ambient messaging have become common trigger points in designing for the spatial narrative era.

Is your organization ready for Spatial Narrative? Executing it is one thing, but being in alignment with it is where the real truth lies.

Spatial Shift is a Thing, Slowly then Suddenly.

When I first created the brand called Spatial Shift in 2007, the words “spatial” and “shift” did not really go together. In fact, for the next 11 years my Google Alert rarely, if ever delivered an exact match to that word combination other than mentions for my company. It was a lonely place to live out on the edge, continuing to believe that one day this edge will start to become the home of early adopters.

Slowly, I have begun to see new alerts becoming actual matches. Today an alert arrived in my in-box for a speech by Dr. Pritam Singh from Oxford school of Global and Area Studies, University of Oxford delivered in Islamabad, Pakistan. His speech entitled "Sustainability implications of the spatial shift in global capitalism: An eco-socialist perspective", was delivered to an audience dealing with the shifting dynamics of climate change and the social economic impacts across geo-political boundaries.

I have also observed several other “Spatial Shifts” starting to appear as we begin to see the true impact of exponential technologies. Peter Diamandis, a co-founder of Singularity University and founder of Xprize has been writing about the emergence of the Spatial Web and how that is going to drive the next era of work, humanity and creativity.

In 2017, CBInsights CEO Anand Sanwal gave a keynote presentation on the notion of Gradually then Suddenly to a room full of executives. This has now evolved into one of their product offerings as a way to look at shifting curves impacting industries, businesses and competitive evolution. It appears that Spatial + Shift is now becoming a candidate for the “gradual then suddenly” mental model.

Spatial Storytelling has emerged over the last decade as game narrative and exponential technologies have come to the forefront of the digital native generation. McAfee and other cyber security companies are now looking at gamers as a natural line of defense in managing cyber security breaches by building solutions using AR/VR constructs mapped to data leaks, as a way to navigate and protect cities and companies under siege from the dark side.

The original idea for Spatial Shift was born as a result of being a parent with a special needs child who was IDD (intellectual developmentally delayed). I was fascinated with how his brain worked. How we would create an environment where he could learn and become the best possible version of himself in a new normal world. That led to many books on neurosciences, cognitive and emotional sciences, behavior sciences, social sciences and narratives associated with his world.

Thirty years later, I find myself a Modern Elder. An individual driven by curiosity and thirst to learn more now, then ever before. Yet, it is also a period of great unlearning. Rewiring, as Chip Conley so eloquently states in his latest book Wisdom at Work. This has led me to connect dots between my youthful ambitions and dreams, my realities of life as a husband, father and provider, with the desire to see Spatial + Shift become a slowly, then suddenly phenomenon that leaves the world a better place then I found it.