We are in the midst of a period of cultural dissonance affecting everyone in America. Government, our education system, even employers are attempting to navigate through a period of radical transformation. If I had to pick a one word descriptor of this point in time, one bursting with possibilities, as well as misunderstanding, change would be that word.
When did change become such a big deal? Is technology solely responsible for the exponential nature of the seismic shift occurring around us, or are there other factors? Are people “resistant to change” as we so often hear that they are, or is it that our development as human beings doesn’t really factor change in, and as a result, when change occurs, we are ill-equipped at first, to know how to proceed.
I’ve been working my way through Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Pink won me over as a fan with his A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future, which I bought shortly after reading about it in 2007. It provided new ideas for me in the workforce work I had begun the year before. Pink, along with other thought-leaders like Seth Godin, Stephen Pressfield and Guy Kawasaki, challenge ingrained assumptions about success, work, and what it takes to get ahead in the 21st century. While they push the envelope and model a new path forward, many of our institutions are incapable of the kind of adaptation necessary to be successful in the decade ahead.
Instead, the carrot and stick (extrinsic) approach, which Pink indicates has become limited in its ability as a motivator across most if not all organizational structures, actually works against goals of increased productivity and creativity. Concrete rewards work best when applied to routine tasks. When tasks require flexibility, creativity, and are complex, concrete rewards such as money more often harm rather than enhance performance.
Take education for instance. The push right now is for merit pay, tied directly to student performance. This has resulted in teachers being forced to “teach to the test” instead of utilizing creativity and engaging students in learning. More and more students are leaving school lacking even basic competencies. This is a affecting employers, who now require a more complete set of skills, even in entry-level hires.
This is just one example how and why our systems are failing in America.
In order to succeed, as well as do what’s necessary reinvention necessitates unlearning so many of the scripts we were taught earlier in life, even in our prior employment. We must turn off the tape of all the voices telling us what we can’t do and venture out of the box we’ve been socialized to stand in the middle of. It’s a brand new pathway, one that doesn’t have a traditional road map and set of directions on how to get from point A to point B.
It’s the path we all must embrace, and now’s the time to start reprogramming. If you’re afraid, here’s Tony Robbins talking about developing the habit of courage and moving beyond your fear: “Taking action, even though you’re afraid, is how you become courageous—because courage, like fear, is a habit. The more you do it, the more you do it, and this habit—of stepping up, of taking action—more than anything else, will move you in a different direction.”
I’m here to tell you that it won’t be easy and it will cause some pain and discomfort. But a year from now, you’ll be glad you’re further down the path than others around you that keep hearkening back to a time and way of life that’s long gone.