5 Vectors of our Postmodern Economy

Post-truth, post-digital, post-capitalist…

With recent global political and economic events there have been numerous proclamations that we are entering a post-something era. It certainly seems like we may have gone past a point of no return and so it would make sense if we regroup and reorganise and embrace what now seems to be a thoroughly postmodern economy!

In many ways economics and politics are merely catching up with art and culture which embraced postmodernism in the mid 20th Century. In other words more self-referential, cynical and subjective which seem like apt descriptors of this liminal phase that we now find ourselves in.

Postmodern Economy

For over a decade we’ve been advocating openness and transparency as the predominant way innovation happens in a connected world. This principle has perhaps been challenged by recent events, and it has certainly brought into sharp focus the numerous problems a globalized and open world has presented to many segments of business and society. Tom Friedman described this recently as a battle between wall people and web people, in that web people want to connect and collaborate whereas wall people want to disconnect and compete.

“More people, sharing more resources, in new ways, is the history of civilisation.” Howard Rheingold

On reflection I don’t think it’s simply a case that the wall people have won the argument. Rather they have learned how to play the web people at their own game. The internet, whilst providing access to information for all, is now too often being subverted by tsunami of misinformation on all sides. And it’s up to the web people in particular to update and reiterate the case for connection and collaboration.

Perhaps this postmodern economy is merely a temporary insanity. A final spasm of the old world order. An inevitable backlash against the phenomenal progress that has occurred in the past half century driven by globalisation and the internet. A pause for us to catch our breath before the next stage of development and progress that we must ensure is more equitable and more sustainable for all.

Therefore please see below five principles which could form a platform upon which we could build:

  1. Beyond Certainty – You can prove a falsehood, but you cannot definitively prove a truth. This principle lies at the heart of the scientific method which has brought us so much growth and progress for centuries through creating and testing hypothesis by seeking proof. But it is one of the most misunderstood aspects of our modern world. Consequently experts are vilified as irrelevant and politicians are ridiculed for changing their minds. Rather we need to accept this uncomfortable reality and accept the certainty of uncertainty instead.
  2. Compulsive Connectivity – Everything that can be digitised, will be eventually. Everything digitisable will be shared, whether deliberately or not. This connectivity is a trend that will only accelerate as the economies of scale are exponentially greater than anything that has gone before. However privacy and secrecy are the price we have to pay for the benefits connectivity provides. Therefore we need each other more than ever and learn to love, or at least tolerate, this incredible interdependence. The world is far too complex and uncertain for any individual person or organisation to go it alone, so we can only exist in relation to our connections.
  3. Peripheral Power – Not only is it possible to access good ideas, talent and technology globally, it is increasingly necessary to survive and thrive. If you are not living on the edge you are taking up too much space. The future has always revealed itself from the peripheral so we all need to surround ourselves with independent and diverse perspectives with a mechanism to turn that into collective decisions in spite of imperfect data. This peripheral vision is at odds with centuries of specialization and segmentation, which is terrifying, but necessary. So move fast, expand your field of vision, and create your own reality.
  4. Story Supremacy – Stories are the fastest way to build and bond a community. Humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or tables, & the simpler the story, the better. In our smartphone addicted culture we all struggle with information overload so retreat to a more primordial state instead. Truth has, more than ever, become a relative construct and so we crave simple stories that help us make sense of the world and no longer matters if they are wrong or right. People listen with their gut not their brains so we all need learn to tell better stories.
  5. Reciprocal Relationships – We benefit most when we help others. It is never a zero sum game. And we only every work with people we want to work with. It can’t be forced and people always trust their friends and family first and foremost. They are our foundations and our safety nets. So needless to say do unto others, as you would like to be done to yourself. And make sure your actions always speak louder than your words. Learn how to ask for help as a sign of strength, not a weakness. And you are always much more likely to do something, and others are much more likely to assist you, if you vocalise it. So leap and learn and remain vigilant of the most persistent sirens of procrastination, analysis paralysis. The hallmark of the postmodern economy are those who learn to give to get.

In summary, the Postmodern Economy is real and we need to unlearn and rewire what we thought we knew in order to. And yet it won’t last forever either. It is defined in relation to what came before. It seems self-evident that we cannot go back to a simpler, bygone age. Instead the five vectors described above point to the direction in which we could build. They are, as ever, a work in progress so we would really welcome and comments and builds. It won’t be easy but our job now collectively is to reinvent out future and figure out and create what comes next. We look forward with a mixture of trepidation and excitement…

Comments

  1. Brilliant!

    Ironically people only really trust people they have met or spoken to on the phone. And the wise judge who to trust by what they do rather than what they say. So post modern will always rely on real world relationships, and the best decisions will always be intuition and data informed. That’s where I think we need the diverse thinkers- people with different perspectives have different intuitions. What is your view on AI and the ability to process vast quantities of sentiment data. Can this be used for good as well as ill?

    • Thank you Hilary. Really glad you liked it. This one has been brewing for some time. Yes to intuition + data. Can’t have one without the other. AI seems to be making big strides again, but we’ve been there before so I’m not entirely convinced the singularity will be here as soon as some futurists predict. But no doubt that the tools will be incredible useful but can be applied, as with any tech, for good and bad purposes so we need more politicians and philosophers and people to be holding the relentless rise to tech to account and steer it towards solving the right problems. Interesting times! R

  2. Stories: I am not sure it is about simpler stories. Perhaps we need stories that make us think and reflect? Stories that ask questions instead of providing answers? Yes, stories are important, however, things have become so complex, that in the last decades it has become hard work to form an opinion and understand. Look at Adam Curtis, who has hit the wall. We don’t need new stories but tell stories differently. And take our time to understand.

    • Hi Michael. Thanks for your comment. Yes I think I agree. We listen to those stories from those who we think can make sense of the world – but need to make sure these aren’t complete fairy tales either but routed in fact and data. Sometimes fairy tales can become self fulfilling prophecies but often they don’t. Separating fact from fiction is getting harder and harder but doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. R

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