Archive | January, 2015

Hacking History (Part 2) The Internet’s Third Power Shift

In the previous post, we considered how mega change happens and pointed to the thought-leaders, technologies and demographics that worked in combination to shift power from companies to consumers. That’s not news, or shouldn’t be, for most of you. What might be news, however, is the fact that we are about to see an equivalent shift in the relationship between corporations and employees and the emergence of far more fluid organisational structures to get work done. I am not confident that the current industrial structure supporting mass tourism can reverse an opposing trend – i.e., declining wages, deteriorating working conditions, less security… Hence the need to focus on an alternative.


follow-your-blissThe workforce has divided into two camps – those holding onto a job (employees) and those who, by choice or necessity, broke free or were pushed into becoming self-employed, free lancers, sole traders and volunteers or who joined or started social enterprises, collectives, NGOs, not-for-profits and worker-directed companies. The Internet has been awash with sites encouraging and showing people how to “follow their bliss,” “make a difference”, find “meaning and purpose” and “financial freedom” by running their own business. It’s also become clear that anyone with a smartphone can potentially execute a bright idea by pulling together creative, talented but virtual teams, deploying software rented from the cloud and crowd fund it from micro investors.

The internet initially shifted power in the marketplace and is now enabling a major political shift. Social media is being used to mobilise people on an unprecedented scale with a degree of spontaneity and surprise unseen before. Occupy Wall Street was spawned by the Egyptian uprising and within two-three years we witnessed expressions of public dissatisfaction in Iceland, Ukraine, Brazil etc. Less visible but more impactful was the explosive growth in online petitioning and crowd funding. Now the shift is moving into the third arena: the workplace and the Millennials are the push force. The 2015 Deloitte Millennial survey, is a must read for all employers and it will be a subject of a later post. Right now, two paragraphs from the front page summarise the core message:

Millennials overwhelmingly believe that business needs a reset in terms of paying as much attention to people and purpose as it does products and profit. 75% believe businesses are too fixated on their own agendas and not focused enough on helping to improve society.

The message is clear: when looking at their career goals, today’s Millennials are just as interested in how a business develops its people and its contribution to society as they are in its profits. These findings should be viewed as a valuable alarm to the business community, particularly in developed markets, that they need to change the way they engage Millennial talent or risk being left behind.

key sources of economic valueIBM’s annual survey of CEOs around the world, Leading Through Connections, the corporate world appeared to have recognised that human capital had become its most important source of economic value but do they really understand the full nature of change going within their workforce? They spend hundreds of millions measuring “engagement” but from the company’s point of view.

Preoccupation with developing meaningful conversations with consumers has blinded many companies to the plain truth that customers and employees share one thing in common – they are human beings!

If companies are having to become customer centric, then why won’t they be required to become employer centric too?

Failure to recognise this power shift constitutes a huge opportunity cost and will soon become the factor that separates success from failure. The Manpower Group’s talent survey shows that 36% of companies are having trouble filling staff shortages now – the highest proportion since the pre-recession boom year of 2007. Bill Jensen in Hack the Science of Engagement! cogently argues that companies need to ruthlessly examine just how self centred (as in employer centric) they really are and how out of synch with the motivations and aspirations of today’s workforce. Just look again at how engagement is defined:

“the extent to which employees are motivated to contribute to organizational success, and are willing to apply discretionary effort to accomplish tasks important to achieve organizational goals.” (Source: 2014 IBM Smarter Workforce Study.)

Jensen’s team asked several truly employee centric questions. First of all they assessed the degree to which employees were optimistic, happy , hopeful and harbouring dreams for personal growth and success. Despite all the challenges of making a living as a “worker” the results were remarkably upbeat. 79 per cent happy

The workforce is NOT disengaged from working on what matters to them… They are very engaged in their hopes and dreams!


9.8 dreamsBUT – and it’s a big but, they are extremely frustrated with businesses’s lack of caring, desire and willingness to be a vehicle for achieving their dreams and goals. Only 29% said they thought they could achieve their goals where they currently worked. But it’s worse than that. When you subtract from the total those workers in executive or entrepreneurial positions and environments, the 29% figure drops to 9.8%!

That means that 9 in 10 employees have dreams that they don’t expect to fulfil by staying with their current employer!!

So what does all this have to do with tourism and hospitality? It is no coincidence that when you look at the Conscious Travel compass of its eight principles and practices, the foundational four are Purpose, People, Place and Power. They work with the principles of Protection, Proximity, Pace, and Pull  to support the goal of building a visitor economy that enables all its stakeholder to flourish – to fulfil their potential as passionate, fully alive human beings.

PEOPLE is positioned as the second most important Principle and Practice in the Conscious Travel Model to remind us that for, a visitor economy to survive and flourish through the next decade, we must shift our focus from moving “product” to growing people. That’s because consumers are not mere consumption units (passenger nights, revenues per room) but people and people that talk to one another, and try to help each other. Consumers are also employees, shareholders, voters, investors, association members, family members, lovers, friends and, in short, human beings – all steadily, uniquely, consciously or unconsciously engaged in a lifelong journey of experience and self-discovery as described in the 1950’s by Maslow as a Hierarchy of Needs from survival to self-actualisation.

Companies that help individuals – be they customers or employees – move up that hierarchy, regardless of where their customer sits on it, will be the winners regardless of the sector in which they operate.

We have examples of both worst and best practices to learn from. The revenue battering trend of commoditisation  has caused many instances of poor labor practices, labour unrest, low wages, high turnover, zero hour contracts and pitiful levels of engagement. Some parts of the industry have grown by deploying an extractive approache more suited to mining. This comment was made by an industry analyst within the airline sector:

What we have is a race to the bottom in the mass market segment – ever restrictive ticketing conditions; customers forced to pay for anything extra; the slow and inexorable reduction in in-flight catering…This has been dubbed the “Gotcha” economy – that successful companies go out of their way to create conditions in the fine print that lead to consumers paying extra fees and penalties. (1) (2)

peak bookBut the good news is that there are many excellent examples of leaders who have put their employees welfare first and as a consequence enjoyed higher profits and greater resilience. Pioneering leaders like Kelleher at Southwest Airlines, Chip Conley founder of Joie de Vivre and PEAK, Mike Dapatie formerly CEO of Kimpton Hotels, Danny Meyer successful New York restauranteur and creator of Hospitality Quotient, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Fairmont are all examples of live up to the definition of a Conscious Host – a host who cares.

Conscious hosts create places that care simply because the people at each place (be it a B& B, a boutique hotel, the site of an activity, tour or event) genuinely CARE about their guest, the environment on which they depend and each other. They also care about the vitality of the local economy; the culture of the host community, the viability and responsibility of suppliers, and the needs of shareholders to see a return on their investment. So yes, Bill Jensen, Chip Conley, Danny Meyer I am with you – let’s Hack the Science of Engagement and talk about Passion instead.

When all the stakeholders associated with a place share a common purpose and can express their passion for their place through their work, profits will follow.

PS. An economist I really admire is Robert Reich who offers a more jaundiced view on employee prospects here. Why Wages Won’t Rise. I think he hasn’t fully appreciated the change that is occurring in the creative economy. The jury is out as to whether or when progress there will spill into traditional manufacturing. Another analyst is Jeremy Rifkin whose Zero Marginal Cost Society is a must read and far more optimistic. The three of us are boomers so what do we really know – it’s those of you born after 1980 like the founders of Airbnb who will surprise and delight us all.

PPS Breaking News: The B Team and Virgin Unite have weighed into the debate by publishing a synthesis of latest thinking on the topic New Ways of Working. It provided authoritative evidence that Conscious Travel is on the right track.

See also: Conscious Hosts Create Place That Care

(1) gotcha-economy/ (2) stupid-consumers-deserve-hefty-fees?lite

Hacking History to Reach a Flourishing Future (Part 1)

Image courtesy of www.

Last week, a group of Earth Scientists published their second paper supporting the proposition that, as human activity is now the most potent source of environmental change on the planet,  a new geological era – the “Anthropocene”  – should be named to mark this historic milestone. Obviously given the geological time frames involved, it makes little sense to try to define the precise tipping point when Earth’s climate stabilised around a temperature that enabled humanity to flourish. (For background see: The Relevance of VUCA and Anthropocene to Tourism)

That got me thinking about a more recent transition from the Middle Ages to Age of Enlightenment, or the shift from an agricultural era to an industrial one. In that case, it is possible to identify four separate events, initiated by the actions of four very different and independent men, which marked the passage from one era to another.

In 1440 Johannes Gutenberg cranked up his printing press – an invention that did for medieval communication what the Internet did for us 550 years later.

In 1473 Niklas Copernicus defied the Church and its teachings by declaring that the earth revolved around the sun. In so doing he ignited a spark of rebellion that Galileo would later fan and that made modern science possible.

Just twenty years later in 1493, Christopher Columbus made it back safely from the New World having proven that the Earth wasn’t flat and immense riches were to be found in lands behind the horizon. That discovery unleashed the most deadly period of colonial expansion in human history but also released the capital that would indirectly fund the industry and create a merchant-middle class.

In 1517, a rather cantankerous rebellious priest, Martin Luther,  who had had enough of having to buy his way into heaven nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg and started the Protestant Revolution.

As history has a habit of repeating patterns, it occurred to me that if we move the dial on the clock another 450 years on, we’ll see another four events, associated with a few individuals, that stand out as triggers of equally momentous huge change:

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee figured out how to send messages between a HTTP client and server via the Internet and pretty soon the world-wide web (as it was called back then) changed everything.

Just ten years later, in 1999, a quod of IT “geeks” published the Clue Train Manifesto that was Copernican in impact and Lutheran in tone. Authors Levine, Locke, Weinberger and Searle scorned the captains of industry for failing to appreciate what Berner-Lee’s invention had unleashed. Customers would no longer be revolving around the sun of corporate largesse, control or whim. Customer centricity was the new rallying cry.

The market + the Internet would deliver unimaginable choice and power to “everyman” provided everyman kept in touch. Within five years young college graduate called Mark Zuckerberg delivered Facebook in 2004 and made those connections personal, colourful, universal and highly addictive. Customers switched from consumers to prosumers, and groups of customers could crowd, text, message tweet, swarm, fund, petition, vote and protest with one press of a button.

cluetrain1Business slowly realised the prescience of Clue Train’s warning that  “markets are conversations”  and spent much of the next decade trying to butt into the conversations their customers preferred having with each other. Corporate executives were so busy  trying to grasp the implications of social media and revive their relationships with customers that they overlooked one critical fact.

Customers and employees come from the same genetic stock. 

Having got a taste of power and freedom as a consumer, many realised they could take back control over their work lives. They turned up to work – well they clocked in – but very few, only 13% globally brought more than their bodies to work (1). Gallup had measured ‘engagement” in the global workforce and discovered that 87% of employees considered themselves disengaged to various degrees. Now bear in mind that engagement, which I think should be equated with passion or enthusiasm, had been defined as:

“the extent to which employees are motivated to contribute to organizational success, and are willing to apply discretionary effort to accomplish tasks important to achieve organizational goals.” (Source: 2014 IBM Smarter Workforce Study.)

For many employees, the only reason they checked in 5 days a week was the recession – a job was better than no job until it became realistic to risk looking for an alternative.

In the meantime, something else changed outside the workforce – a globally connected population of unemployed but talented individuals weren’t just in conversation, they were trading, training, blogging, tweeting, fb-ing, partnering, creating, writing, coaching, fundraising, hiring expertise and retaining talent from anywhere on a pay-you-go basis. Like the early rodent mammals circling around and between the feet of dinosaurs they are fleet of foot, amazingly agile and potentially devastatingly disruptive.

In the UK, for example, small business entrepreneurs increased by 117% in the worst recession years from 2005-2010 and by 2102 their number had risen to 4.8 million. Lord Young of Grantham in Growing Your Business attributes this growth to confidence. Personally, I put it down to naked hope tinged with desperation aided by a government determined to show unemployment figures in decline.  But whatever the cause, this trend towards fractional work, freelancing, micro and social entrepreneurialism is laying depth charges on the seabed of conventional workplaces.

The final actor in our contemporary change drama, Luther’s equivalent, looks too jolly to be cast as a modern “protestant” but don’t let appearances or his self-deprecating twitter name deceive you. @simpletonbill is committed to cause disruption and mayhem. Better still, he’s committed to help us cause mayhem and disruption before others beat us to it.

Bill Jensen’s sequel to the Cluetrain Manifesto and Luther’s 95 Theses is titled Future of Work- Search for a Simpler Way  introduced by an article in Medium, Hack the Science of Engagement. and contains a clear message:

not in control

Those companies which recognise that their future lies in helping the brightest and the best achieve their personal dreams, passions, goals and priorities will do infinitely better than those companies stuck thinking that the best and brightest should “be applying their discretionary effort to accomplishing tasks important to achieving the company’s organisational goals.” (Who writes this stuff?)

OK, this blog is supposed to be about a new form of tourism – one fit for our Anthropocene era. I wouldn’t have led you down history lane, if I didn’t think the change in workplace dynamics highly relevant. In a sequel post, I will link these changes to the core tenets of the Conscious Travel model. Meanwhile, what levels of disruption are you anticipating or about to cause?



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