There is a disconnection between the pace and progress of the technical achievements made by innovators and entrepreneurs and the ways in which those technologies have added to human happiness.
We have increased our technological powers many times and still we are not happier; we do not have more time for the things we find meaningful.
We could use our powers for making each other — and thereby ourselves — more valuable, but instead we are fearing to lose our jobs to machines and be considered worthless by the economy. The link between better technology and better lives overall has become so confusing that many people no longer reflect upon its existence.
We are co-founders of i4j — Innovation for Jobs, an eclectic community of thought leaders that has been exchanging ideas since 2012 about how innovation can disrupt unemployment and create better jobs. We believe we have found an approach for doing so that we lay forth in our new book, “The people centered economy – the new ecosystem for work.” The book presents a system of ideas, ranging from helicopter perspective down to details of scenarios. It puts theory in perspective with a number of relevant real-life case examples written by i4j members, founders of major companies, such as LinkedIn, startup CEOs, investors, foundation directors and social entrepreneurs.
The problem today, we suggest, is that our innovation economy is not primarily about making people more valuable; it is instead about reducing costs.
The main danger is easy to summarize: when workers are seen as a cost (which is now the case), cost-saving, efficient technologies will compete to lower their cost and thereby their value. The “better” the innovation, the lower their value. People are struggling to stay valuable in a changing world, and innovation is not helping them, except for the chosen few. The need to be valued and to be in demand are part of our human nature. Innovation can, and should, make people more valuable.
The economy is about people who need, want, and value each other. When we need each other more, the economy can grow. When we need each other less, it shrinks. We need innovation that makes people need each other more.
The purpose of innovation should be a sustainable economy, where we work with people we like, are valued by people we do not know and provide for the people we love
If innovation does this, we will prosper.
The present “task-centered “economy that sees people as cost is plagued by many symptoms of its lethal illness. We present several in the book, here is one of them.
The rise of the working middle class boosted by Roosevelt’s “New Deal” has been all but wiped out. People like blaming their political opponents for these kinds of things but the wealth gap has been growing steadily, since 1980, under Republicans and Democrats alike. No, this is beyond politics.
The root cause for all this is the very essence of our task-centered economy: placing tasks, products and other things at the center of the value proposition instead of people. It seems very natural to see it this way, because, after all, you want your house painted and there are painters who want to paint it – how can it work any other way? Yet, wanting things done better and cheaper, combined with innovation that makes that happen, is the cause of the troubles.