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The Network Economy: When Net Worth Is A Network

Change is like rain. We need it for growth, but too much at once can drown us. And its not just that the relentless pace of change these days is at times a flood and others a perfect storm of complications, its that for some of us the changes have come in the form of loss: of a job, a pension fund, of continuity. In today’s economy, we are all awash in a sea of uncertainty, and there is no end game of which we can be sure. Things are changing in our social and work environments: the rules, the process, and the structures, and with that the roles we play within them.
Time's May 25, 2009 cover story, “The Way We’ll Work” describes the parameters of the new economy as “a more flexible, more freelance, more collaborative and far less secure work world.” Among the values and abilities for navigating within it the article cites striking a balance between “doing well and doing good,” an more independent-minded approach to career advancement to replace the “corporate ladder” that often rewarded allegiance to the company over integrity, collaborating with co-workers with increasing diversity - including older people working long past conventional retirement age alongside and taking direction from Gen X - and environmental sustainability. For people currently out of work, or facing unemployement anytime soon, even the most forward-thinking attitude can easily drown in the fear and stress of right now. Feeling the pinch as well as the pain of current threats is unavoidable, but we cannot allow external events beyond our control to dominate our inner life. And there is good news: the tools each of needs to manage in these troubled waters are the same ones that make us better neighbors and citizens, as well as effective parents and partners. Where the old frameworks emphasized the capacity to sell our product, our service or ourself for maximum profit or personal gain, the emerging one will reward connections with individuals, organizations or communities in ways that reap enduring associational - as well as financial - capital. Being independent-minded about our vision and goals means going beyond reliance on an existing structure upon which to climb higher, focusing instead on creating sets of mutually-beneficial contacts through which we create ever-evolving opportunities.
Here is another way to see the challenges of this paradigm shift: we can create a future in which making a living is intimately bound up with making a life.


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