09 November 2016

The Awkward Truth About the Fourth Economy

Roughly a quarter of a century ago I dreamed up the fourth economy. Since then, the idea that we're in an entrepreneurial economy rather than an information or industrial economy has become more plausible and it sometimes feels as though I've gone directly from incomprehensible to obvious in my claims. Still, there is so much about an entrepreneurial economy that we have yet to fully realize.

One reality that I've taken quite awhile to admit is that we're not going to find our next meal on the menu. We'll have to make it ourselves.

I still believe that within a generation employees will be more entrepreneurial in the same way that everyone over the last half century has become more reliant on information technology to do their work. It will simply be the new normal and most employees will expect to have the opportunity to create more wealth or revenue by taking entrepreneurial initiative.

What this really means, though, is that the systems you encounter as customer, employee, student, or citizen are less likely to have what you want on the menu. You'll have to create it.

What unified Sanders and Trump supporters in this election was a deep-seated frustration with the system. What does that really mean? Among other things (and there are a number of other things), it means that they aren't satisfied with the current options, with the choices they have now.

What are the responses to that?

The ineffectual responses include

  • Whining
  • Holding protest rallies
  • Writing blog posts

The effectual responses include
  • Creating an option that you do like
As it turns out, we have to create our way out of our frustration with the situation.

I follow a woman on Twitter who made a major break with her tribe in this election. I really admire her for that. She's a religious conservative who was appalled that her tribe embraced the amoral Trump. She broke away, which is not an easy thing to do. But I don't know that it has yet dawned on her that she may well have to create the party or faction or group that does express her sensibility. It's a ton of work to create a movement but she doesn't have the option to find a movement that fits her. She's take the first two steps in creating a life, the steps of realizing how the current system falls short of what she needs and then breaking away. That's hugely courageous. But she'll be adrift if she doesn't take the next step; at a minimum it means finding a new tribe or system to be a part of and at the most it means creating that tribe. To the extent that she represents a next step in evolution, a creative response, she will have to create what's next. It's so much harder to step into the kitchen and prepare something than it is to just say, "I'll take the No. 5."

What is the awkward truth about the fourth economy? As we become more animated by realization than basic needs, we'll find it more necessary to create our way out of present realities. If we're expecting the systems as they're now configured to realize those needs, we'll find ourselves increasingly frustrated.

Or so it seems to me.

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