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Freelancing, future and collaboration

My first experience in freelancing was some 20 years ago as a photographer. Freelancing was not new then but it certainly was not the best way to make a living. Some professions were always more aligned with the practice of freelancing and for some people that way of working was a good deal better than the 9-5 norm. For older workers or workers with old thinking 9-5 is still gospel. The reality though is different.

Freelancing is mainstream now. In a decade’s time I think anyone unable to be an effective freelancer will be virtually unemployable. I am not suggesting that this is the best way forward. I am merely reflecting on what is quite plain to see. Big Work, as some have referred to the traditional 9-5 model, is past its prime. And with it the architecture of work practices, legislations, culture, etc., are visibly out of step. Think about this, how many HR managers can effectively get the best out of a team of professionals who are largely made up of freelancers? Right now most western economies suffer from an unprecedented level of losses due to abysmal levels of employee engagement. The HR industry is almost comically out of solutions and capacities to resolve the problem. Thus the even further march to irrelevance of the of the traditional work arrangements. Instead the modern worker who is prepared to embrace a mosaic, or as it is more commonly referred to, a portfolio career as a freelancer will lead innovation and competitiveness.

A recent article in Fast Company, which was also included in a recent ROADMENDER Recommends listing, makes the point very clear, in particular to millennials; a generation that is not waiting for miracles but is fast developing a way of life through freelancing work. This alone makes them the number one candidate for the most competitive workforce emerging globally. The shift away from the stability found in 9-5 work is not sudden by any measure. However, it has become much more visible with the adoption of practices that are embraced by new entrants to the workforce. In such a new environment, collaboration is not an anomaly but a basic logic necessary for value creation.

The wide ranging, freelancing work profile of the emerging worker is fuelled by the realisation that consumer trends, tastes and needs are shifting fast. It is also becoming clear that a sense of possibilities that once lay in future is no longer speculative, but in fact a realistic scenario. This sense of possibilities thus creates an opportunity for workers to think about many careers being not just an option but also a necessary carriage in life.

While there has not been a definitive study, circumstantial evidence points to the fact that collaborative capacity is far from fulfilled in most workplaces. People who have spent years in training to execute their specialist job and get rewarded for it are not easily convinced that they should change. On the other hand, freelancers and entrepreneurs who have not gone through that particular drill are bewildered, as they don’t see what the fuss is about. Collaboration is good for all.

One final challenge for future work, as many can see simply, is the end of the stability that was guaranteed in the 9-5 universe. In my opinion this is an overstated if not outright dangerous proposition as it falsely assumes that jobs, good satisfying jobs, jobs that people desire, are not possible unless the old architecture is preserved. In reality the very value of a job is not intrinsic to the nature of work per se, but to a range of many other intangibles associated with a particular job. The value of jobs and work can be best understood in the context of a particular market. That in itself can only mean one thing: jobs will emerge as we innovate and find new problems to solve. A collaborative approach to work will create new opportunities.

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