Richard Sennett addresses three challenges that he sees as the sociological aspects of the global capitalist workplace in developed countries. The first one, is how to manage short term relationships and how to adapt to a changing “life narrative.” Bennett suggests that people take pride in being good at something and need this to be happy. The second challenge is how to develop new skills as “reality’s demands shift.” This idea of learning to do many skills is short lived, one that has many skills Bennett feels are displaced with a loose narrative. The third one is about surrendering, every one is replaceable. No one is entitled to his or her position at an organization. Pass services do not mean that an employee is entitled to their position.
While Bennett views the capacity to learn new skills as being economically valuable, his lack of appreciation for the role of the “expert” is troubling. In cross disciplinary collaborations, success isn’t necessary achieved by teams being comprise of many people who are all somewhat flexible in their skills. Often times, it is the various mastering of skills across members that benefit the group as a whole. The ability for everyone to think outside their own craft’s “box” is important, but the skills needed for many complex social problems often require years of study and work. It is unrealistic to think that the same level of progress can be achieved by someone or a group that has to constantly learn a new skill and will not have the time to fully comprehend. Our ability to learn is important to our life’s narratives, and Bennett makes an interesting argument that an individual’s personal identity is deeply affected by one’s inability or ability to achieve success. However, there has been a strong movement in the DIY front as the internet makes it incredibly easy to access instructions for learning basically any skill.
Furthermore, it seems unfair to generalize that people define their happiness by how well they do a job, we would argue that it’s more about what that job is. What collaboration needs is passionate people from different backgrounds who all have something to contribute to the whole, and are able to be flexible with learning the skills they need to accomplish their goal. The ability to move between different worlds is more important for the role of facilitator in collaborative groups or workplaces.
Do you agree or disagree? Think about how you identify yourself based on your skills and skill level. Write down each skill you have, skill level, and level of happiness. Do you feel that these skills will be transferable to many different careers?
Joamir and Stephanie