to see uncomfortably

‘If you’re seeking to create positive change in your community, it’s almost certain you’ll be creating discomfort as well.’*

‘Data – that which we can usually measure – is supposed to make us smarter, and maybe it can, but I’d argue that it doesn’t always make us wiser. […] We don’t (or can’t) know the significance of things we have no information about, or haven’t yet thought to measure, or can’t possibly know for sure.’**

Little did the occupants of Smartworld know they were being observed.

Far away, with the most advanced technology possible, the residents of Wiseworld looked on.  Would Smartworld citizens make the same mistakes they had made long ago in their past?

They watched as the flow of automation and robotics reached the traditional building industries.   Smartworld was on the cusp of seeing building robots replace traditional workers – maybe there were twenty or thirty years left.  It was happening in the same way.  Wiseworlders had once seen this kind of technology progression of technology firstly come more kindly from within an industry – the industry would see what happened elsewhere, be inspired, and make changes.  Now the skill-machines were being thought up elsewhere; they weren’t asking for them, and they couldn’t be ignored.

Many of the Smartworlders with traditional skills had sold themselves to companies so the decisions weren’t theirs any longer.  Instead one or two people, or maybe a handful at most, made the decisions that were intended to please their stakeholders, not their employees.

As the Wiseworlders looked on, they realised this species on a far off planet were driven by the same things as they were: to be autonomous, to have mastery, and to live for a purpose beyond themselves.  The problem was, as they themselves had experienced it, selling their skills to the companies meant they were now living for someone else’s autonomy, mastery, and purpose when it came to the workplace; they too knew what it felt like to have the three motivations pushed out of the workplace and into their family and leisure lives – it never seemed so satisfying.

The Wiseworlders hadn’t demonised their bosses.  Time had shown them that their employers were like anybody else: they just couldn’t see very well.  They saw their businesses in terms of “countables” an “uncountables.”**  The countables included the number of products produced, how many hours this took, how many sick days were taken, and suchlike.  The uncountables included the ideas their workers had for improving things, how they interacted to help each other during the working day.  The thing was, because these were difficult to measure, the emphasis was invariably placed on what could be counted.

The Wiseworld bosses, when they were going through their own smart-era, thought that the difficult things to count would be covered by good wages and holidays, most finding crossing the invisible line to saying thank you an uncomfortable thing to do.

Smartworld was becoming more connected, the average daily wage was rising, age expectancy increasing, but also anxiety and depression levels were going up and it was baffling to know why.

All of these things played out on Wiseworld, too.

Until they made some breakthrough decisions.

Over a generation or so, they’d revamped their education system to include the triple focus of autonomy, mastery, and purpose, removing artificial learning barriers like upper age limits.  Now education was seen as a process of life.

Children grew up in a world where their curiosity led their learning.  First attempts at new systems were clumsy and many educationalists were for throwing in the towel, but they realised that their thinking and practices had to develop together.  They become more adept and children were brought up to identify their own work in ways that were not fixed but allowed for changes of direction along the way.

They’d come to realise that latitude was critical to success, including those who weren’t sure about which path to take to connect with others.  It had led to all kinds of confederacies of artisanship.

Wiseworlders knew, if their own history had taught them anything, it was that this was not the only or best way.  But they had come to believe openness to the future rather than being shackled to the past, was their best hope.

Their greatest dilemma was whether to leave Smartworlders to figure things out by themselves, or to send some subliminal messages which could be picked up as weak signals: dreams and hunches by those willing to face the discomfort of their curiosity on Smartworld.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: Creating discomfort.)
(**From Bernadette Jiwa’s Hunch.)

(**Terms taken from Dan Ariely’s Payoff.)

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