As a treacherous coincidence, my second exit from the corporate world coincided with the Corona crisis. I should be justifiably frightened, unsure of home and hearth— yet actually, I am deeply enthused by the future. Just as each of us should be, as long as we play by the codes of the Bridge Economy.
Before deliberating further on the Bridge Economy, it is worthwhile to dwell on the terms of the new land, as they constantly evolve. Especially the notion of skillset security replacing job security, telling differences between the two. Job security is the quality of affiliation to an organisation or at most, an industry — defined largely by a notional correlation between experience and worth. Skillset security is instead the quality of a monetisable professional asset — a tangible outcome of education, exposure and application.
Now imagine a Creative Director in an advertising agency, grievously concerned whether her job will survive the scathing business scenario. The source of attachment is clearly the corporate entity, she is constantly evaluating her relative equity in the ensemble of characters. If performance and destiny stay true, then she stays else she returns to the job market. Now again imagine the same person doing a self cum peer audit of her writing skills in comparison to similar fellows, a differing perspective does emerge. The job may be dying but the demand for great writing will never die — as long as that thread can be established as employment.
In a sense we are witnessing the comeback of core competence, as articled by Prahalad and Hamel many decades ago. "A harmonised combination of multiple resources and skills that distinguish a firm in the marketplace" and thus becoming the foundation of companies' competitiveness. Replace company with people and a logical pattern quite comfortably appears — as individual workers it is necessary to build on individual skills as the springboard for corporate achievement. As opposed to sub-letting our pedigree to the employer’s musings fulltime — the stature of the latter often undermining the influence of the former. Make no mistake, you can still be a great team player, without compromising on cognitive self-sufficiency.
A recent American recession gave rise to the Gig Economy, educated freelancers willing to participate in any form of activity to sell time, from standing in queues to baby-sitting. While the Corona crisis is set to give rise to the Bridge Economy — the unification of demand and supply through focused aggregators with sharply defined value propositions. This may well be the traditional multi-faceted corporation, imaginative skill consortiums or even solo candidates — long as the two ends can meet efficiently and inspiringly. One truth plainly apparent post this disruption — non value-adding intermediaries are past expiry date, impetus for resurrection both criminal and futile.
Some of the earliest signs of the Bridge Economy are apparent as short-term tactical inputs — ITC selling its commodities through Domino’s or Swiggy and Bigbasket doing a similar alliance with Uber, or was it Ola. Credentials of manufacturing, procurement, delivering and commuting clearly diverging on skillsets and not uniting on experiential synergies. Buoyed by tech-enabled white label partnerships, companies had ventured beyond the sustainable core, difficult to defend as both investment and prowess when the momentum is shallow. When the flights ply again, this is one serious course alignment that is logically imminent.
But then we were discussing people, so let us not digress to the corporation — instead draw the connects between the Bridge Economy and Skillset Security. Call it audit, term it analysis or cloak it as personal branding — time is now for every economic actor to figure out their justifiable monetising skills. It can be sharp strategy, elegant execution, lofty leadership, pleasing people, incurable imagination, curated creativity, persuasive professorship, erudite engineering, meticulous marksmanship and so much more — we need to map this aspect of our skill with a scalable demand imperative, not necessarily the confines of a business. Just as a skilled public speaking trainer can be magical for every industry, we must identify and market skillset impact and not job experience. There can be many imaginative reconfigurations, challenging but surely inspiring.
The staffers of the lifestyle supplement in a leading daily, rendered redundant, must consider themselves to be luxury experts, thus seeking remuneration from the fashion and liquor industry. Care-givers in airline cabins may do well to consider an alternative career in high-end nursing — as the health care sector senses a boom. In events, the large number of last-mile fixers will be adequately absorbed by the financial inclusion business or even as NGO workers. Corporate high-skilled employees, under the scanner, must define their precise poison, lawyers profitably compelled to return to direct advice. Pilots, doctors (non-contingency) and other Uber-specialised cadres must obviously bide their time as exceptions, while the vast majority conforms to Bridge Economy rules.
On bridges though, engineers will be familiar with some of the many formations —the fidgety pontoon bridges, the permanent cantilever span and most exceptionally the Bailey bridges. The last-mentioned a portable, pre-fabricated truss bridge developed by the British during the second world war, requiring no heavy equipment or special tools to assemble, yet strong enough to carry tanks. Metaphorically, driving the point home about the Bridge Economy, a set of nimble and agile actors, mightier than rational perception yet lighter than prevailing reality. Supply needing to urgently unify with demand, be it war or business, enabled by a tangible yet customised adhesive.
Like many others, I too am technically jobless in a Corona world — truthfully everybody will be compelled to relook at their jobs seriously whether destitute or millionaire. A simple prescription is surely skillset security, leading to vibrant new opportunities independent or entangled, in the Bridge Economy that is looming near. I am not scared any longer and neither must you be.
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