Master Artisans Are Back
Gianpaolo Barozzi

I cannot agree more that we are at the dawn of a new age of working which — at least at the outset — will be exciting for few (the creative class that is already investing in personal branding, has vision and purpose, and is actively seeking employability) and scary for many (the lower skilled, unskilled, and risk averse who are rather forced into the gig economy than embracing it).

Having said this, after some painful societal learning process we may well end up in the renaissance master artisan world you are describing so aptly, Gianpaolo. The beauty of this vision is that it leads us back to Marx’ notion of “identity through work”, which lets us recognize and realize ourselves in the products we create. And it leads us to a new level of connectedness as humans, both to ourselves and to our guilds or tribes.

Artists and artisans never ceased to enjoy this ecstasy of creation; however, for the vast majority the industrial revolution took much of this away, and “scientific management” (and its henchman HR) only exacerbated alienation.

Yes, the new realities of work require a radically new paradigm for HR and Talent Management, as you point out very well. They also require new ways to organize, strategize, and create value. But most importantly, we will need new institutional frameworks, such as universal basic income, a new type of social security net, and a constitutional framework that enables the new way of work. We are facing a massive learning process for individuals, organizations, and institutions which includes not only the (relatively easy) re-skilling but — more important and much harder — the reshaping of mindsets and attitudes towards the meaning of work on a societal level.

Exciting? Yes. Scary? You bet.