According Alan Tovey (@batsub1) in the Telegraph, Freelancers are "buoying the economy" in the UK, via @davos. He credits their "free spirit . . . offering new ways for companies to grow while minimising risk and cost."
Business managers are forced to react to the many factors out of their control, just to keep the balls in the air. That's why a fresh perspective is valuable.
But fresh - as in naive and untested - isn't good enough. The difference between the inexperienced and professional using "free" tools is brought to life by Christopher Penn's (@cspenn) "Incompetent Holiday Music" video.
Practice, as my piano teacher "harped", is the unavoidable prerequisite to developing talent.
For example, Sebastian Thrun (@SebastianThrun), the "father" of the Massive Open Online Course company, Udacity, "no longer believes the hype." He openly admits that results have fallen short of his expecations, the percent of enrollees in open (read: free) education completing and mastering the subject is in the single digits. As a result, his company is shifting direction:
". . . building a company . . . requires compromises, humility, and, crucially, taking in more money than you spend. And it's why Thrun might be giving up the moon--free education for all! Harvard on a piece of glass!--in favor of something far more pedestrian. It will be, Thrun admits, "the biggest shift in the history of the company," a pivot that involves charging money for classes and abandoning academic disciplines in favor of more vocational-focused learning. In short, Thrun must prove that Udacity is something more than a good story." via @jen_mcfadden
Engineers talking about taking in more money than spent? Next thing you know, "strategy" enters design lexicon. In fact, Andy Cogdon (@cctcreative) goes so far as saying "If graphic designers want a seat at the top table, they need to have an understanding of business." via @CreativeBloq.
Here's the really good news: when tech and design worlds are concerned about business viability, reality speaks. "Whatever it takes to achieve scale" has a dark reality: low margins and low quality.
When margins are low, everyone feels exploited - from customer to employee. Emily Jane Fox (@emilyjanefox) reports that one Walmart store manager's answer is to promote a food drive for employees for Thanksgiving. Although the intention is to help employees with extraordinary emergencies this year, the story is drawing more attention to how low the average Walmart employee salary is - just above the federal poverty level. via @DruckerInst.
The unintended consequence of an eoncomy built on scale and low margins is that "For the first time in memory, adults in the United States under age forty are now expected to be poorer than their parents." Balaji Srinivasan (@balajis) makes an interesting observation that there are no new frontiers for today's youth to emigrate to, physically. But he points out that there are virtual frontiers to explore: "we may begin to see cloud towns, then cloud cities, and ultimately cloud countries materialize out of thin air." via @rossdawson
Virtual communities will thrive when they offer better economic promise. For example, developing products and services which employees are proud to deliver and customers are proud to say they've discovered. There are many such frontiers, for example, the Institute For The Future (@IFTF) asks: "How will we change our minds to change our collective economic, political, and interpersonal fortunes?" The 2013 Fellows of the "Future For Good Fellowship Program" offer 6 fresh perspectives.:
- Milton Chen offers a new vision of how people will use technology to personalize learning - both the context and how they experience learning.
- Gabriella Gomez Mont (@gabriella_lab) is exploring city government structures and infrastructures which facilitate creativity and vision.
- Sam Gregory (@samgregory) is exploring how real time video can empower individuals to share what they witness and influence change in civil rights and justice.
- Shannon Spanhake (@channelshannon) who is the San Francisco Innovation Officer is looking to understand the BadAss hacking culture of innovating for value creation, as differentiated from the entrepreneurs who are primarily motivated by making lots of money.
- David Thigpen (@Belbegofco345) is exploring the impact of art as a catalyst for turning around urban neigborhoods and galvanizing community.
- Ariel Waldman (@arielwaldman) is developing a science hackday where anyone can have access to scientific resources to prototype ideas.
Consisten with David Thigpen's premise that art can be a catalyst for urban revitalization, Catherine Clifford (@catclifford) references Ann Markusen: "artists are also entrepreneurs who bring in money, create jobs and give a boost to neighboring and related businesses, says Ann Markusen, director of the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs and author of the Kauffman report." via @shaherose