Monthly Archives: November 2010

The 4.0 Career Is Coming: Are You Ready?

Originally published in The Huffington Post

Even in the midst of our economic disaster that’s hitting all but the wealthiest Americans, a transformation is continuing within people’s orientation to work. I call it the rise of the 4.0 career. ??This growing shift concerns how men and women think about and pursue their careers. It also defines the features of organizations that they want to work for and commit to. This shift that I describe below transcends its most visible form: Generation X’s and, especially, Generation Y’s attitudes and behavior in the workplace. Those are part of a broader shift whose origins are within men and women at the younger end of the baby boomer spectrum.

I first encountered this while interviewing yuppies (remember them?) in the 1980s for my book Modern Madness, about the emotional downside of career success. I often found that people would want to talk about a gnawing feeling of wanting something more “meaningful” from their work. They didn’t have quite the right language back then to express what that would look like other than feeling a gap between their personal values and the trade-offs they had to make to keep moving up in their careers and companies. The positive ideals of the 60s seemed to have trickled down into their yearnings, where they remained a kind of irritant.

Flashing forward 25 years, those people are now today’s midlife baby boomers. Their earlier irritation has bloomed into consciously expressed attitudes and behavior that have filtered down into the younger generations, where they’ve continued to evolve. Today, they’re reshaping how people think about and pursue their careers within today’s era of interconnection, constant networking and unpredictable change.

I’ll oversimplify for the sake of highlighting an evolution of people’s career orientations:

Career Versions 1.0, 2.0, 3.0… And The Emerging 4.0

The 1.0 career describes  Continue reading

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Is Serving The Common Good An “Un-American” Activity?

One likely spin-off from the recent election will be a creeping redefinition of programs and policies that serve the common good as “un-American.” Some of the Tea Party’s most vocal members, including Rand Paul, Michele Bachmann, and others have already suggested having a “conversation” about privatizing or phasing out medicare, social security and even abolishing the Department of Education.

So I’d like to move the “conversation” along and state outright that, yes, promoting the common good is, indeed, un-American. And, that recognizing it as such is a good thing. Here’s why: The Republican/Tea Party’s stated vision for “taking America back” is a doctrine of extreme self-interest and greed. It both reflects and fuels what I described in a recent post as a “social psychosis” in personal and public life.

This “pro-American” vision is maladaptive to the realities of today’s world and our own changing society. Self-interest and the pursuit of individual power are twin agents for subversively undermining a healthy, thriving society. But that vision is likely to be with us for some time, with potentially devastating consequences.

However, there’s also a rising shift towards serving the larger common good throughout our society. I described the evidence for this in a subsequent post. And it is, indeed, un-American, with respect to the extreme Republican/Tea Party doctrine.

That is, serving the common good goes against grain of thinking that Continue reading

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How Positive vs. Adversarial Relations Help Solve Problems: Politicians Should Heed New Research

Some interesting new research indicates that when people are faced with solving problems — and those facing the country right now are among the most severe — their “executive functioning” capacities improve after they engage in sociable, positive interactions.  But they don’t improve after competitive interactions — those likely to generate adversarial feelings.  Politicians would do well to learn from this, as an aid to building the kind of mentality needed for solutions to our current problems.  But it’s unlikely that they will.

Here’s what researchers at the University of Michigan found.  They looked at the impact of brief episodes of social contact upon the capacity known as executive functioning.  That’s the capacity for having an overview of the elements of a situation or problem; seeing how the parts connect, in what relation to each other; and what kinds of actions lead to effective outcomes.  Included are the abilities for self-regulation, for staying on task, for focus and keeping relevant information in mind – much like the “memory” in a computer program that holds the information while you’re using it or working with it.

The researchers found that after a period of positive conversation and connection with another person, the participant’s performance on cognitive tasks improved.  Performance on these tasks reflected the degree of executive functioning capacity of the participants.  However, participants whose interactions were marked by adversarial, competitive engagement did not improve on the performance of those tasks.  According to Oscar Ybarra, the lead author of the study, forthcoming in Social Psychological and Personality Science,

“…simply talking to other people, the way you do when you’re making friends, can provide mental benefits…”  And, that “…performance boosts come about because some social interactions induce people to try to read others’ minds and take their perspectives on things…trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, there is a boost in executive functioning as a result”

In other words, when people build empathy towards each other — seeing the other’s perspective  from the “inside” of the other person’s world, so to speak, their capacity for more effective thinking and problem solving increases.  If only our politicians could recognize that reality and use it to create the collaborations that enhance their own brain-power for finding compromise-based solutions, rather than perpetuating adversarialness, all of us would benefiit.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear very likely now, in the aftermath of this week’s election.

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