Die, Or Community

As a child I led a very lonely life because we moved every year and best friends became increasingly hard to come by.
Plus we were a weird family, as far as families go. A little of this, a little of that, but we didn't really belong anywhere.
I found refuge in dolls and later in reading, performing and art and eventually (as you can probably tell), writing took over my life. Also, eventually, family.
"To love and to work," Freud said is the balance required for mental health.
He wasn't a great fan of community. For him in fact it was just the opposite - a contributor to mental illness, a gigantic thicket of rules that functions like a restraining order against mature thinking.
But Freud was incorrect. A person needs a community in order to function. At work, for example, innovation is increasingly driven not by the lone genius but by a creative team that plays off each others' strengths. And for the individual, community is a source of meaning, fulfillment and service regardless of the state of one's personal relationships.
Social media is actually an expression of community. People need it - it is only going to grow in importance - because it enables anyone to participate in community.
If Web 1.0 was information, Web 2.0 was interaction, and Web 3.0 is community, Web 4.0 is going to be the extension of virtual communities into the physical world. As we confront one another as people, recognizing our shared stake in a mutually safe place for humanity, social media will bring the world together, very literally.
I do believe it will bring about world peace. 
We have a choice: It is either die, or community.
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All opinions are my own and do not represent those of my agency or the federal government as a whole. Painting: "Color Study: Squares In Concentric Circles" by Wassily Kandinsky via Wikiart.org

The Federal Workforce & The Federal Brand (A Comment)

Many argue that the presenting problem is a talent gap, i.e. the Boomers are going to retire, soon. There won't be Millennials waiting to replace them, because they've lost patience with the system. Presumably the civil service will fall apart absent a solid talent pipeline to back up the Gen Xers who will need to take over when the Boomers retire.

I disagree, even though parts of the problem are presented in a way that I agree with (e.g. the part about Millennials not having patience for the system.) 

--For one thing, Boomers frequently want or need to work beyond retirement age, sometimes well beyond. So I am not convinced they're leaving as quickly as people may think.

--For another, some aspects of the system work well for Millennials, who are highly team-oriented, and prefer clear-cut criteria and expectations - defining characteristics of the civil service. 

The real issue, I think, is that a variety of external forces are combining to change the nature of work rapidly and permanently. These changes cut across all generations. And the federal civil service has trouble understanding or keeping up with them.

An article in Fast Company sums them up well. Briefly:

1. Work is more remote than on-site.
2. Employees are expected to be on-call 24/7.
3. Work is expected to be "a calling" not just what you do from 9 to 5.
4. Work/life boundaries are increasingly nonexistent as friendship is being replaced by "networking."
5. Work is increasingly project-to-project (i.e. temporary) rather than long-term or even permanent.

("These Are The New Rules Of Work," URL: http://m.fastcompany.com/3046127/the-new-rules-of-work/these-are-the-new-rules-of-work; May 18, 2015; Ross Perlin)

Related trends:

1. Nomadic living - you set up shop in a remote area and telecommute
2. Communal working/workspaces - you find other freelancers and co-rent space with them
3. Full-time job + side work - you have a hobby or two that you do for money, while keeping a steady income flowing (yes, this is supposed to be your passion, ideally...I suppose)

In the federal civil service, a related major issue is the relationship between contractors and federal employees - because work culture is not manual - in order for it to be productive there has to be seamless collaboration - one team, one culture, one mission.

Given all of this, in my mind, the real question is how we define civil service as distinct from non-civil service. If it is fair to say that a key distinction is the desire for an "inherently governmental cadre of dedicated employees" then a more robust model might be a federal-wide approach, where we recruit people into the civil service in an agency-agnostic way, and then deploy them across agencies in a manner that builds a core set of skills as appropriate.

Looked at in this way, you hire for dedication and you train for skills, and you start people right out of high school. Because you want a permanent workforce with institutional knowledge that is specific to government, not a disposable one that can pretty much work anywhere.

Which would make Pathways incredibly important.

As well as employee assistance program type programming.

...a lot of other implications. 

But it goes well beyond retaining Millennials.

Once you define the structural problem and then the desired solution you're ready to start defining that solution in terms of brand.

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All opinions are my own and do not represent those of my agency or the federal government as a whole. 

An Unlikely Brand Maestro

Strong brands are a polarizing thing.
And so it is literally impossible for me to bring up the Kardashian Klan as a form of brand brilliance without somebody yelling "boo."
As in: "They're trash!" "I can't stand them!" "You're kidding me!"
But I have long said that the Kardashians, and in particular the "momager" Kris Jenner, are a stunning example of success in creating brand equity where there was none before.
  • Most reality show stars earn a pittance. The "Krew," in contrast, earns $10 million a season for their famed show, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, which is really nothing more than the cameras following them around as they do...not much of anything.
  • Kim Kardashian alone made $28 million in 2014, again for...not much of anything other than her body and her notoriety. 
  • And Kendall, aside from inking a monster deal with Estee Lauder to be the face of their makeup, reportedly earns $5,000 just for a single (140 character or less) Tweet.

But the real star of the show, one who has remained hidden in the background for a number of years, is Bruce.
Bruce represents the emotional heart of the family - what is real and honest and true. Not the image.
It is his approach that encapsulates "authenticity" and it is his style that will dominate corporate brands in the future.
I remember when Kendall and Kylie were very young. Bruce wanted to shield them from the limelight.
He didn't like Scott.
And he didn't like Kris pushing everyone around.
It turns out that Bruce had a secret all these years. But he kept it to himself until it was appropriate to share it.
And so he did, on national television. And completely stole the show from Kris and Krew in the process.
He was simply honest. He wasn't trying to get attention. But he was speaking up not just for himself, but for others who have been marginalized pretty much all their lives, for no reason other than that they represent a "threatening authentic self."
Being transgender is a very personal experience, and yet has been interpreted socially as an unjust and even shameful thing. 
What Bruce said, when I saw him on TV, was that he thought his message was much bigger than his narrow experience. And I agreed with him.
He said that the world needs a lot more tolerance. And it starts with adopting a live-and-let-live kind of attitude. You do your thing, and I will do mine.
On the same show, which was an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kris broke down in tears at the kitchen table. We saw her thick black mascara streaking down her cheeks.
Superficially she was a woman whose marriage had fallen apart, and I felt bad for her. But as a cultural text she was a brand whose image had not just fractured, but splintered, no - actually it shattered, it shattered into a thousand pieces.
All her carefully scripted moments of "being real," the episode where she had to get Depends for urinary incontinence - they were supposed to show an authentic Kris, but they were a lie.
What we really wanted to see, what we needed to see, and what brands will now need to aspire to, is the encapsulation of the most private of human experiences, packaged in a way that others can understand, tolerate, and value.
The brands that succeed at "being Bruce Jenner" are the brands that will succeed in 2015 and beyond.
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All opinions are my own and not those of my agency or the federal government as a whole. Photo credit: "Bruce Jenner" by jla0379 - . Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.