The second hour-and-a-half session on Saturday, March 23rd, was called "Reimagining Work" and it focused on work in the future. In fact the write up for the session was this:
"What will work look like in the future? How can your work benefit both your wallet and the world? Is success best measured in dollars and cents? These questions and many more will be answered by Chris Anderson, Rasanath Dasa, and Jay Parkinson, MD, MPH."
I can't lie, I was really excited for this session. I wanted it to be magic and inspiring and I ended up having mixed feelings. I really dug Rasanath Dasa's presentation. I also enjoyed Jay Parkinson's, MD, MPH, presentation as well. Chris Anderson's session though left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I'll start off with what I didn't like about the session.
When I think about re-imaginging work, I don't think about technology. In fact, I think we've plateaued when it comes to technology. I know you're rolling your eyes or thinking "why?" And the answer is that we're simply not innovating. In fact, when you look at market places like Etsy, we're regressing not innovating. Don't worry, I don't mean your art isn't innovative, or different, or unique. I mean that the tools many of us use, are not space age, technology tools. They're tweezers and glue, or metal and paper, or recycled objects and fabric. Nothing that we're really using is the next device that is suddenly going to change the food industry, or provide clean water to Africa. Now, don't get me wrong, what makes your products and my products so awesome and worthy of selling is that it is a piece of you and me. Our creative processes are different from those of large companies who have money and mass consumerism on the mind. You and I, want balance (which I think is attainable and possible, if that is what you want), and income security with the ability to help the world at large. I hope I'm not making assumptions of you readers, but I think that you and I are the same. It's what lured us to Etsy and what keeps us even with their policy updates and changes that we aren't quite yet comfortable with.
Last year, at this time, I was enroute to Japan to study Washi, Japanese paper making. I can tell you all about it at a later date (and I will!). My reason for going was simple, I work with paper and while everyone can be a designer, people in my field rarely know their medium. They just know design. So I went the other road, the paper road, because I've loved paper since I was a child and horded it. I decided that in order to understand my medium and to eventually build my medium, again a later topic, I needed to go to the root of my medium; I needed to understand it's history. Understanding it's history and root led me to Japan, one of the 15 countries I plan to visit to learn about handmade paper making.
I believe that many of us Etsy sellers are like this. We want to know, learn, grow, and share. Many of us will take an easy road if it saves us time, but we won't always be happy about it and we may not build it into our business model, or future plans. Even though many of us may be impatient to finish a product to make a sale, we will take the time to make sure our craftsmanship is 110% above what our customer can find in say Macy's or Papyrus, or from a reseller. That is what brings customers to our shops and to Etsy, too. It is the spoken and unspoken agreement.
All of this leads me to Chris Anderson. I know he's got an amazing resume and is forward thinking, and some may say innovative, but he left me unsettled. He started off talking about his grandfather who as an inventor, created a tool for farming (I forget what now). His grandfather designed and built the tool, but allowed other companies to actually make the tool and sell it. Because of this, Chris decided at a young age to stop visiting his grandfather because he was embarrassed by him and as an adult has decided to go out and make things even without the knowledge, or the skill. He simply makes to make and because of that he's a huge fan of the 3D printer. He discussed three revolutions to hit our culture: Industrial Revolution, Digitial Revolution and the Digital Manufacturing Revolution.
Now, that's great and he's right, I can't fight 3D Printers, and I won't. It's the wave of technology now. But I will say this, people have always had a skill and have used that skill to create items that could be bartered, traded, or sold. The implementation of 3D Printers not only removes that ability, but also removes our history from these skills. No longer does it matter if you don't know how to build something. You don't have to pick up a book, or find a mentor. All you simply have to do is design it on a computer software and then print it 3 dimensionally using corn-based biodegradable plastic. Huzzah! The future!
I think the other thing that struck me wrong about this session was that we should be promoting a sustainable and purposeful consumerist economy. 3D printing allows anyone to say, "I want X" and it's done. That to me is not sustainable at all. I won't even go into the cost element because those who can afford 3D printers, will have and those who can not afford, will not, but the reality is that I don't see the advantage of 3D printers. Chris gave an example of how he has helped his daughter furnish her doll house with furniture printed via 3D, that a Broadway designer designed for a show and sells the patterns on a website. I think it's great that this designer has found a way to increase her revenue stream and share her talent, but I don't think that this is innovative or useful. I found it wasteful. In fact, it reminded me that even if we revolutionize the world with 3D printing, countries that still don't have running water, will not benefit from this, until we collectively alter our thoughts on consumption, money, and need.
Which brings me to the last presentation in the session, Jay Parkinson's, MD, MPH. Dr. Parkinson talked about the medical field and his personal experience as a doctor post-residency. He founded a medical practice, Sherpaa, where he uses the internet and text messaging to communicate with patients and then places house calls.
I have to say that I enjoy seeing my doctor personally, but I really found Dr. Parkinson's reasoning sound and inspiring. The truth is, Dr.'s offices are annoying. The waits are too long and the Dr. is too busy trying to move through patients that they barely listen to them. Now, of course, my reasoning for liking my Dr.'s visit is because I can show my Dr directly my ailments. I don't need to snap a picture and send an email, but I get how it can be useful and helpful to others. What I like even more about his tech version of "visiting the Dr." is that it allows patients and doctors to remain fluid, instead of constricted. I don't go to the Dr. regularly and I've been caught in the system where it takes forever to get an appointment and be seen. Ultimately, we can choose how we respond to these changes in the medical field, but I think the more disruptive the better because our current system is exhausting, trying, and in efficient.
This finally brings me to the presentation that I really found the most enlightening - "Being Human at Work" by Rasanath Dasa. Rasanath is a former Wall Street Banker, and a Bhakti Monk. He talked about the unspoken expectation in most companies that you refrain from bringing your emotional life into the office and how dangerous that is to the employee and the employer. The Etsy Blog posted a video of his presentation and I listened to it as I wrote this post. I highly recommend you watch it.
He talked about his experience with failure of an exam that was necessary for his position on Wall Street and the sense of relief he felt after looking internally for the reason behind his embarrassment. He then went on to discuss the idea of "hiding behind the mask" and how all of us as working individuals, hide behind masks allowing jealousy to take over and stop us from fulfilling our true roles.
A few years ago, I got caught up with making my boss like me at a job. I wanted her to like me so much that I would get upset and cry when she criticized me or hurt me. I took everything she told me personally. I spent months in therapy trying to understand and it wasn't until last year as I faced my reflection in a mirror where I admitted, "Sara, you want people to like you, even when you say you don't care. So realize that this situation, this person doesn't matter. Some situations do, and you'll know when, but for 95% of the others, you have to forgive yourself and her for behavior and move forward appreciative for the opportunity and the lesson." It was a pivotal moment for me and one I greatly appreciate.
I am someone who has never really done well hiding my "authentic self" in any situation - school and work. The past few weeks I've been pondering what my core values are and the one word that keeps popping into my brain is "Free". I require total freedom to be happy. I want to be able to do what I want, when I want. Work from wherever I please, on whatever I please. I want to make beautiful things for my customers at any time. I don't want to be required to show up and sit at a desk and ask to take vacation. I want freedom of love and compassion. I want freedom to get dressed up or down, or even to not wash my hair and not be questioned. More importantly, I want freedom to live my best life and not worry about others thoughts and opinions. I'm doing fairly well, but you know, as with everyone, I get caught up. This is what Rasanath, Chris, and Dr. Parkinson all talked about. They've all managed to break free of whatever constraints were holding them and find their release. By doing so, by finding this freedom, they've removed the masks and the idea to seek attention or putting themselves on exhibit to hide limitations. They are proof that you don't need unlimited external validation for self-worth. Once free from this, you can go and live your working life in a way that is authentic and radiates to others.
Many times, when we go into work for ourselves it is for this reason. We want to truly be ourselves. We know our strengths and weaknesses and we're tired of keeping the mask on. We want an authentic workplace and we believe with our entire heart and soul that we can create that workplace for others, should our fortune turn in favor and we hire employees. As he ended his presentation, he offered the four following ideas for creating and fostering an authentic workplace:
- Where an individual's strength and inspiration is truly celebrated;
- Where there is a holding space for expressing vulnerability (where someone can say, "I don't know" and not be shamed)
- Where the individual is personally and professionally integrated;
- Where there is proper mirroring
We've all been in this type of situation and we all have an idea or opinion on how we will reimagine work. I challenge you to review these three different and distinct ideas and really get to the core of what you really want work wise. People say there is no such thing as work and life balance. I think there is. The key is loving what you do and doing what you love. If you can honestly say that you don't love what you do, then you should find what you do love and become so good at it that you can create the work environment you need and share that with the world, along with your amazing talents.
I've rambled quite a bit in this post, but I'm curious to hear your ramblings. Please share in the comments your thoughts on reimaging the work place, or just your work place. Whatever! I'm all ears, as are the wonderful Etsy NY artists.
//Sara Stroman S2 Stationery & Design