In pursuit of a new work culture

I woke up today morning thinking about this. Work, the way modern society has defined it, has changed from what someone had to do to make their living. So in some sense, work has evolved or is in the process of evolving beyond its primitive survival stages. Work today can and should be avenues in which we can fully engage in our creative pursuits.

This in my opinion is going to be among the most significant differentiating facets between the previous generation and this generation; our dad’s generation and our generation. Work in our dad’s generation was akin to going to the farms when we were almost entirely dependent on agriculture for our means of food and survival; which by the way was fairly the scenario during our granddad’s generation. It wasn’t necessarily fun or interesting to do. Nor did it potentially provide us with a platform that fully leveraged our creative capabilities and talents as human beings. But it was something we had to do in order to ensure that we had food to eat and keep us healthy. And even those who really enjoyed farming were limited by what they had to do as against what they really wanted to do with their passion for agriculture.

So yes, our parents were right. Work was required to provide for need and leisure; for food and entertainment. They key term to understand there being “was”. Not so much in this time and age. The world has changed. As a society, we are now entering into an era of surplus and abundance aided to a large extent by the strides made by technology. To cite a simple example, with a YouTube and Chrome (both of which are free) and a 750 INR a month internet connection we have better access to entertainment and informational content than what the best of cable TV channels could have ever offered. And hey, this is even without considering torrents in the equation!

The breadth of content is also limitless. I dont think we would have even known about the awesome Gangnam style song had it not been for YouTube! :) And the best part is that we can watch our favorite song or serial / sitcom when we want and not at the consensus time that the producer and the advertiser choose for us. No need for an 8am wake up alarm to catch GI Joe on Star TV, 715pm reminder for our 15 minutes of Chithrahaar or an 8pm fight between dad, mom, sister and grandparents to decide who gets to watch what. The choice need not be between stay back at school to play cricket or rush back home to watch Small Wonder and Captain Planet. I loved both, I wanted both. But in an age and time, it was not quite possible to be able to do both. I had to choose one or the other but not both. Not so much in this age. From a society where compromise was the norm we are moving to an era where choice is going to be the norm.

The memory that comes to my mind is that of an aunt of mine. Every evening, she would rush to complete her work and finish her household chores so that she is free by 8pm. Why 8pm? That was the time when the next episode of her favorite Mallu serial comes on TV. Well, not anymore. What changed? Let me affirm that, to this date, her love for the serial still remains pristine. What changed was her discovery of the joy that YouTube offers. And she loved it! She learned that the very same episode appears on YouTube within a few minutes after it appears on TV. No ads, no rush to manage your life to an artificially imposed time schedule, ability to watch her favorite episodes as many times as she pleases, no more fighting with her son for the remote coupled with the ability to catch up on all those episodes from the days she missed her 8pm deadline.

We need to start looking at work opportunities as a means to learn and have fun as against just a means to earn. The information age calls for new thought processes, ideals, tools, technology and role models to navigate todays economic landscape. Its time that we start rethinking the definition of work from what one had to do to something one would love to do. And sometimes I wonder whether startup is just the alternate term that we coined to be able to convey precisely this point. And fortunately, large sections of society today can afford to move to this stage of societal evolution thanks to the foundations in terms of economic and social stability provided to us by the efforts and sacrifices of our earlier generations. It’s time that we start rethinking the definition of work from what one had to do to something one would love to do.