Winning by Sharing™, by Léon Benjamin

Winning by Sharing™ is the first publication from Business For Good (BFG), founded by Anna Pollock and Léon Benjamin. As described on their website, Winning by Sharing™ is about the dramatic changes in the nature of work, the emergence of the network economy and its implications for corporations, employees and portfolio workers. It describes the emergence of extensive, global networks of people who want to work and conduct business in completely different ways, which are at odds with the traditional nature of the firm and its command and control organisational structures.

Consider this book as news from the front; for those who belong to upstarts, people who’ve lost their jobs to offshore lands, the talent that is being forced out of large companies and the risk-takers among the big companies, who are willing to bet more heavily on the future than they do on the past.

Léon Benjamin writes that, “The internet has caused a fundamental change in attitude towards work and the realisation that a ‘career’ has ceased to be a feasible way to organise working life. I now view work as an instrument of self-development and personal autonomy and entrepreneurship not as a status symbol, but as an attitude – an attitude that everyone is going to need.”

He goes on to say that “Winning by Sharingâ„¢ is a modern hero’s tale – the story of an individual forced to leave the shelter of the corporate world and transform himself from a well paid “techie” to creative strategist, earning a living in fits and starts by using his wits, his imagination and drawing on his innate curiosity and powers of observation. Most importantly, it shows how individuals are taking control of their own lives and creating their own supportive communities.”

In the section about “WHY YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK!”, we are told that “Employees, be they satisfied or discontent with their current job, need to read it to better understand how to survive outside the shelter of corporate employment. A complex and very different set of skills are needed to survive and thrive as an “emergent” worker. According to Spherion, this way of working – likely to involve over 50% of the working population by 2007, with 40% moving that way – offers its rewards but comes at a price.”

The latter, in addition to coming “at a price”, seems hardly credible: that 50% of the workforce will be “emergent” workers by next year, with 40% moving that way; incredible changes would have to happen tomorrow for this to come true. Unfortunately, it is predictions like this, and a – at times – naive optimism that detracts from another potentially excellent book on what we would all like to see the nature of work become. Living in Asia, I’m not sure how the lives of all the folks working in the rice paddies and factories here are set to change at all. My feeling is that this needs to be contextualized and moderated a bit for that segment of workers with the skills and inclination to go for it independently.

Finally, some chapters, while interesting and provocative, must be read to be understood and appreciated; e.g.:

The Future of Work: Chapters:

  • HR stands for Hardly Relevant
  • The unit of work is no longer a whole job
  • Feast and famine
  • Ki work – People on demand
  • The network is female

Perhaps I should know what “Ki work” is, and I’m not so sure we want to perpetuate the male/female dichotomy stereotypes into the new “Network Economy”, where I’m frequently unsure of the gender of those with whom I am working, nor particularly care. Which is not to say that all this is not good, right-minded stuff, but rather that, like many similar books emerging, the authors might be well-served by spending less time in heady cyberspace, and perhaps spend a year or two traveling through Africa and Asia, sans laptop.

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