Systems Need to Change: The Future of Work, College, Education–and the Future of YOU?

What is the future of work? How about the future of education? Across the news, education reform and the way we learn seem to be undergoing a slow overhaul--or it still desperately needs one.  The future of work is constantly shifting as we untangle ourselves from the traces of our industrial past and figure out the implications of a mobile, wired, location-free global society. People are debating whether or not going to college is worth it; especially since the work landscape post-college looks fairly bleak.

Many of the systems and structures we're using are broken. Not all of them are broken, and not everything needs to be redone, but I agree with the sentiment that innovation is desperately needed.

Innovation doesn't come from a specific age, place, or group of people. We like to glamorize the entrepreneur as a college-dorm-room drop out, and Inc's 30-under-30 lists sometimes make it seem as if you're 31 or older; you're toast. I disagree, and I think there is good news: innovation is popping up all over the place--New Orleans, Silicon Prairie, Start Up Weekends, etc. and Under 30 CEO's recent (unofficial) reader rankings listed places like New Orleans, Kansas City, and Austin, Texas as great for entrepreneurship.

As TIME Magazine wrote in the 2009 special, The Way We'll Work: "Who knows what jobs will be born a decade from now? Though unemployment is at a 25-year high, work will return eventually." How it returns, however, has yet to be seen. In the report, Time suggests that managers and management will have to be rethought, women will rule the workforce, baby boomers won't quit, and sustainability won't be a fad--it's here to stay. The topics of education and employer reform are too long for this post, however--and I've got some thinking on this topic that I'm expanding for other publications--but I'm not going to go into detail in this post. Beyond the aggregate, I wanted to share projects local and broad from friends and people I admire as a way to inspire you and as a way to get involved.

Want to get intimately entrenched in understanding how the landscape of work is changing? Want to change the world yourself? The best way to make something happen is to do something. It doesn't just matter what's written in Time. It matters what you do, both for your own career, as well as in changing work and education for everyone. Here are some of my favorite projects happening right now, by people all around us:

The Bold Academy - Amber Rae

Want to change the world, but not sure how to get started? Amber Rae is shaking things up by creating a new experience for college grads brimming with talent but confused "about what to do with their lives and how to contribute something meaningful."  Rather than do the traditional coursework lined up in college semesters, the team aims to focus on skill sets like Self-Awareness, Integrity, Confidence, Risk-Taking, Resourcefulness, and Strategy. To apply, head over hereApplications for the first installment are now closed, (update: Applications are open until April 5.) and I'm excited to see what shakes out with the inaugural class. As they say in their opening line:

"The landscape of higher education is about to change."

Encouraging Entrepreneurship: StartUp Weekend, Fix Young America and the YEC

Entrepreneurship is a buzzword these days, and new organizations such as Start Up Weekend, Three Day Startup and more are capitalizing on creating new companies, products, and executing ideas within a limited time frame. People travel from all over to join a small group of people interested in creating something new (I did it last August--StartUp Weekend, Los Angeles. I highly recommend it). In addition, the new campaign to Fix Young America by Scott Gerber and the YEC team looks to use youth entrepreneurship to tackle unemployment. In a recent article by Mashable, the#FixYoungAmerica campaign explains their mission to turn around the "twin epidemics of youth unemployment and underemployment." Fitzpatrick writes:

"With youth unemployment at a 60-year high and student-loan debt nearing the $1 trillion mark, can anything be done by the technology sector to help young Americans struggling to find work?" 

The Future of Work - Lane Becker and Thor Muller

Lane Becker and Thor Muller are on a quest to document the "the stories of the obsessive makers, innovators and entrepreneurs that are leading the way to a new wave of business." They launched a campaign just a few weeks ago to raise money for their cross-country RVIP trip to scavenge the country in search of people with the following character traits: "irreverent, adaptable, purpose-driven, and unattached to conventional categories."

Part documentary, part exploration-adventure, and part innovation in itself, the pair will "bring together these doers in every town through the one-of-a-kind RVIP Lounge & Karaoke Cabaret [to] capture the larger movement, still in its early stages, that is transforming our fading industrial economy into something vibrant and more human."

The project has 6 days left to raise funding, and they're nearly there - two thirds of the way! Yes, I'm telling you to put your dollars behind this cause. 

Best of New Books

I'm really excited about a few books coming out very, very soon (stay tuned for book reviews!!). Each of the following books is related to the idea of entrepreneurship, the future of work, and developing your best self.

  • The $100 Start Up -- by Chris Guillebeau, coming out May 18th. In it, Chris identifies 1,500 individuals "who have built business earning $50,000 or more rom a modest investment (in many cases, $100 or less)," focusing on 50 case studies. As Pam Slim wrote in her review, the book "delivers exactly what a new entrepreneur needs: road-tested, effective and exceptionally pragmatic advice for starting a new business on a shoestring.”
  • Need, Speed, and Greed -- by Vijay Vaitheeswaran.  I heard about this on NPR earlier this morning, in a conversation about globalization, Googlization and the new innovation revolution that is "more powerful than any economic force since the arrival of Europeans on North American shores half a millennium ago."
  • The Fire Starter Sessions -- Danielle LaPorte's book comes out in just a few weeks, a collection of "soulful wisdom" to inspire and shake you up, helping you re-frame the way you approach your career, your life. As Martha Beck writes: “Danielle LaPorte is scary smart, yet so kind and practical that she kindles the fire in you without causing you to feel consumed by the flames. She has the knowledge you need to succeed. Lean in and listen close. What she has to say is what our spirits need to hear.”
  • Get Lucky -- the precursor to their kickstarter campaign (tagline: "Go Luck Yourself"), Becker and Muller co-authored the book, "Get Lucky: How To Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business." Can't wait to read it.
  • Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit From Global Chaos - by Sarah Lacy. I'm a few pages into it at the moment; it's about "that top 1% of people who do more to change their worlds through greed and ambition than politicians, NGOs and nonprofits ever can."
  • Overconnected: The Promise and Threat of the Internet -- by William Davidow. What are the luxuries and pitfalls of the connected age? And, are smartphones and mobile internets making us smarter--or dumber?
  • The Work Revolution -- Julie Clow's first book comes out in three weeks, and I'm excitedly awaiting my copy for review to show up here in a few days. So far, I completely agree with the premise: "The Work Revolution is about changing the way the world sees work. By making simple changes to improve our relationships with work and each other, we can systematically ignite a work revolution everywhere."

So What's Next?

I don't know about you, but I'm excited and inspired by all of the changes happening. There are a lot of systems that we've built over centuries that need to evolve; things that are outmoded, outdated, shifting. The pressures of an uncertain economy and the need for creative destruction can be difficult on an individual and community level, but it's through hardship that true genius and innovation are often created.

Take a cue from these people above, who've created campaigns, ideas, books, essays: they're just people like you and I, who have worked towards building something important. If you feel strongly that things need to change, then change is up to you. It's not other people who are going to do something. It's you.

What are YOU going to do?


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12 Responses to Systems Need to Change: The Future of Work, College, Education–and the Future of YOU?

  1. Ralph says:

    Very inspiring post Sarah.

    I agree that there is a myriad of great stuff out there to learn from and be inspired by. I am guessing here and this is not based on any research but my gut tells me that the new “revolution” is going to be small collaborative interactive business is going to grow out of the current economic climate and start to challenge the status quo.

    What am I going to do? Not sure if it’s cool to do this but my thing is here at http://theviewfromhere.ca which is my passion.

    Thank you for the wondeful insight.

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for sharing, Ralph! I’m fine with you sharing your work :) I think the more, the merrier (as long as it’s not blatant spam, I approve it). You’re doing exactly what I outline as the underpinning of this post: a revolution isn’t about a mass of people or a dogmatic approach, but people collectively doing lots of micro actions that together result in quite a change. The fact that so many people aren’t sitting around and are getting involved, getting engaged? This is the most important part.

  2. Matt says:

    These are some very cool projects. I think these show that in general, higher education is kind of “getting it”. While Colleges and Universities as institutions want to preserve their role in society, they are more apt to adapt to a changing world than elementary and high school education is. That is where the change is really needed. *begin rant* We are so entrenched in a testing mode, with a system designed to prepare youth for a life in a factory based around an agrarian calendar. None of these things are what today’s youth needs to be successful in jobs that probably do not exist yet. Solutions are out there, there just needs to be a willingness to change. *end rant*

    I am encouraged to see so many people trying to change the structures of the world that we grew up in.

  3. kara rane says:

    Being .. Lucky to be You .. All are One .. Our hearts know the way~ Love.

  4. […] The landscape of work is indeed changing. Some food for thought here. […]

  5. I really enjoyed this post and how it touched on so many interesting topics. It also got me thinking, however, that we so often shine the light on entrepreneurs and do-it-yourselfers when there are so many people doing good within corporations and organizations. I’m definitely attracted to the former, but feel like it’s the people in the latter group that make the world run.

    • Sarah says:

      I couldn’t, couldn’t agree more. The next two talks I’m giving (one in which I’m coming to your side of the country!) are about intra-preneurship and innovation within existing companies. I actually wrote a letter to the YEC about this topic precisely, which I’ll forward to you in a moment (hmm, should publish…)

  6. Susan says:

    Great post Sarah. The need for change in the university system and the need to consider what the future holds for young people in regard to the world of work are burning issues for me too. Another issue to consider is the outsourcing of white collar jobs (e.g. accounting and market analysis) in Western economies to the growing number of graduates with business degrees and MBAs in developing countries. This is already happening in the financial sector and is set to increase due to the much lower wages earned by a person with an MBA in India, for example, compared to a country such as Australia. University education is becoming more and more expensive and is leaving graduates with a great deal of debt and less certainty of working in the profession they qualify for in the future, due to the changing nature of work globally.

    I am currently completing a PhD in Organizational Behavior focusing on the stress experienced by employees in a work environment that is increasingly demanding and unstable due to changing work patterns in the global economy. The frustrating part is that, in my opinion, the models and frameworks are outmoded and the academic literature is several years behind, which is always going to be the case since getting work published is such a time consuming process.

    I believe people at the cutting edge of these changes are out there in the world working in organizations that are innovating and doing things differently – not just doing research in academia. I’m impatient to get out there myself, although I’m now leaning more towards working with individuals, in my capacity as an organizational psychologist. I envisage helping individuals discover and develop their strengths and transferable skills so they can find work that is rewarding and adapt to a constantly changing work environment, which is the way of the future.

  7. […] how and where you can make changes. If the structure isn’t working, ask yourself why: Is it the people? The assumptions? The processes? The […]

  8. Phil @TechnoAngina says:

    I think that we’re right in front of a major transformative change to economics. Production is finally at a point where it easily outstrips demand, bringing most items to very low cost for consumers and even lower costs for businesses, that will allow for a lot of great niche cottage industries. With all of the worlds large major economies populations both aging and peaking, we’re going to need to fundamentally change the way we think of finances, risk and communities. Millenials especially are going to become more intelligent risk takers and more creative problem solvers who are concerned with group welfare more than the baby boomer/gen x culture pervading our culture right now.

    If you’re seriously looking for entrepreneurial advice I’d highly recommend you pop over to Revision 3 and check out the series “Ask Jay” it’s got some great advice for startups. There’s also a show there call Foundation which looks pretty promising.