Most of us would say money. And yet money alone does not motivate better work or increase job satisfaction. Do we work for money because there is an underlying premise that people don’t like to work and must be bribed to do it?
That may have been true for the industrial revolution, but a key difference between the industrial economy and the digital economy is that the role of the worker has shifted from brawn to brain. Knowledge is now a key differentiator, so is it also time to revisit this most fundamental value equation?
A year ago, Seth Godin wrote about the passionate worker:
A new class of jobs (and workers) is creating a different sort of worker, though. This is the person who works out of passion and curiosity, not fear. The passionate worker doesn’t show up because she’s afraid of getting in trouble, she shows up because it’s a hobby that pays. The passionate worker is busy blogging on vacation… because posting that thought and seeing the feedback it generates is actually more fun than sitting on the beach for another hour.
A recent Businessweek article, “Will Work for Praise” describes how web entrepreneurs are making money through armies of volunteers willing to work for free to build their own personal brands. In a web 2.0 world, there is an implicit symbiotic relationship in place around resource exchange: entrepreneur(s) with money provide(s) platform and technology, volunteers with time provide relevant content to build a personal brand and help others.
Adam Smith, who is widely regarded as the father of modern economics, lived and wrote during a similarly challenging transition from an agrarian to industrial society. Before he published The Wealth of Nations, Smith wrote a classic treatment of ethics that laid the foundation for his free-enterprise classic. In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith proposed that beyond economic pursuits, there are moral pre-requisites to capitalism. Human nature isn’t just about self-interest but it also includes important motivators: sympathy, empathy, friendship, love and the desire for social approval.
The Wealth of Nations draws on situations where man’s morality is likely to play a smaller role — such as the laborer involved in pin-making — whereas the Theory of Moral Sentiments focuses on situations where man’s morality is likely to play a dominant role among more personal exchanges.
If people want to work and are willing to do it for free or some other value exchange in the digital economy, should businesses adapt to this new sensibility?
Bud Gibson had a great comment on my last post, asking how do you establish identity with out a URL? The simple answer is: you don’t. Here’s why…
The corporate or brand URL / website as a keystone for both information architecture (I/A) and content strategy has already passed its zenith.
First of all, the majority of site visits no longer begin on the homepage i.e. http://www.brand.com or http://www.brand.com/product. When was the last time you typed in http://www.amazon.com? What about the last time you visited Amazon, how did you get there? More often people click on a link and recognize the ‘storefront’ but not because of the URL. Similarly, search engines have been serving up deep links for years, bypassing the master brand URL entirely in some instances.
As human behavior has adapted to the navigation of the world wide web, we have gradually dropped inclusion of ‘www’ and ‘.com’. Even the reduction of URLs into a more convenient format via TinyURL or Bit.ly for Twitter. What is more important is the relationship between the referring party to the TinyURL – that the referring party is trustworthy and is viewed by the referee as an authority in some way. The result is based more on individual needs and desires and the brands, products and services to meet them rather than the URL.
Underlying all this techno-stuff is a more important fundamental shift in the movement of the value provided by content, more sophisticated users. The brand is being defined by the consumer perception of the capabilities of it to meet their needs rather than broadcast its own unifying message. As smart content strategy practices accelerate and the underlying semantic web structure develops, content will seek out relevant viewers rather than enticing users to seek relevant content.
Having pondered this for a few days, now I have a much larger question: is the web site dead?
More to come…