Two decades ago I started researching The Future of Work because I felt like the conventional concept of work wasn’t working for me anymore (and so did many others uniting around The Cluetrain Manifesto). This evolved into researching Social Innovation and understanding what we call The Future of Work as just the next step in our collective evolution and growth. It wasn’t until I began researching Social Creativity though that I realized it is what makes this innovative journey possible from our Old World of limitations to this New World of possibilities.
No matter how hard I tried to encapsulate everything I was learning though and share it with others, nothing really felt right to me. I realized the reason for this was because my identity felt out of sync, as my background was in building online communities around video games but then I had made what might have seemed like a radical pivot to researching Creativity, Social Innovation, and The Future of Work. Yet from my own perspective, it had felt like a completely natural progression because I had realized culture was the primary reason for my communities being so successful in the past and culture was also going to be critical in evolving our organizations into communities of practice and inquiry within The Future of Work.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast.Peter Drucker
What finally helped everything coalesce together though and bridge my past and present identity into one integrated whole was realizing that Joseph Campbell’s Hero Journey is a metaphor for the psychological journey that will be required of each of us to step into The Future of Work. Because of this realization, I was now able to bring all of my past experiences playing MMORPGs like the World of Warcraft and use them as a familiar metaphorical language to understand The Future of Work as an “adventure” which requires us all to be heroic explorers, navigators, and storytellers of our own lives.
In effect, just like I experienced two decades ago, many others are also now receiving the same “call to adventure” today and beginning to question their world as the once stable foundations of it begin to crumble around them. This questioning will in turn lead them on a quest which will take them psychologically off the edge of the world they believe they know and into an unknown wilderness of uncertainty. Within this liminal space, they will encounter their fears as monsters blocking their way and overcome them, levelling up in the process and discovering treasures about themselves that will eventually help them help others in turn, especially in relation to the wicked problems arising in our world today.
Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness — an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.Brené Brown, Braving The Wilderness
In closing, I’d like to relay something I wrote back in June 2011 that profoundly altered the trajectory of my research, as well as my own growth and development. At the time, I don’t think I really understood the true depth of what I wrote, as it kind of flowed out of me as if written by someone else. Over time though, these words have revealed and relayed the deeper wisdom of the problems we face today, in that they often aren’t being caused by “someone else over there” that we can simply blame but are instead often systemic in nature being created unknowingly in the shadows of our own collective actions.
There is an epic struggle going on, a war if you will. This is no typical enemy though. We need to be real creative in fighting it. Why? Because this enemy can’t be seen. It lies within us, fighting for the very control of our hearts and minds.
We are our own worst enemies. We are our own heroic liberators. Action or inaction will determine our fate. The choice lies with us and is our responsibility alone, whether we like it or not.Nollind Whachell