The Happy View

March 18, 2016

Smart organizations are preparing for the propertyless society.

by Manfred van Doorn

What if money no longer is a drive for organizations?
What if people only work for fun and / or to be useful?
What if organizations are owned by everyone and nobody?

0. Time to practice with ideas
Changes occur rapidly. As of lately I have been doing scenario and strategy sessions with management teams about topics that I couldn’t have suspected to become topical and urgent a couple of years ago. Smart organizations are preparing for a future that can bring us unparalleled beauty if we are able to get through the current painful transition. More and more leaders are practicing with ideas about such a positive future. Unfortunately, because the relevant leaders and organizations are still accountable to shareholders that think in old patterns, I am not at liberty to disclose the names of these organizations. But I am willing to bet that you will recognize them in a couple of years, simply by the fact that they…are still standing. Below a couple of themes and predictions that came up in confidential scenario sessions I recently held with management themes of three medium-sized multinationals.

1. Property will disappear
Property will disappear gradually. Already, people are increasingly paying for access instead of for possession. Less and less people own movies or music, instead they listen to it via Spotify or watch it via Netflix. Less and less young people want to own a car, they simply want to have access to transportation. This is the first phase of what Jeremy Rifkin calls the zero-marginal cost society. In time, we won’t own a refrigerator or lamps, we will simply pay for access. Because of this emphasis on access over possession, the necessity of planned obsolescence will disappear; durable quality will become the standard, instead of disposable ‘quality’. Planned obsolescence will become obsolete in itself. And because of the built-in intelligence, devices will not only start working better, they will start repairing themselves. Cars (or will it be passenger transport drones?) will not only be able to drive autonomously, they will proactively coordinate their presence with our schedule. We don’t even have to make reservations. And because of the increasing intelligence of production and transparency of the cost, transportation will eventually be offered with a zero-margin. After all, the pattern of cutting out the middle-man will apply to more and more processes. Because there is so little money to make, the devices, cars and maybe even houses and what not, will be owned by themselves (or by nobody or by…everyone). This is in line with the ecological idea that animals, rivers, forests etc. are not anyone’s property, but can only be shared to the extent that is responsible. Even organizations will no longer belong to ‘anyone’, they might only belong to people who work there or the customers that buy the services. The interesting part about this, is that the increasing intelligence of the internet of things, will also result in organizations without people. A related development is that more and more people are supporting organic farms, sometimes by offering money, sometimes by offering labor. In exchange for that, they receive food packages. This can be considered a barter economy or the beginning of the gift economy. You give your time, money or appreciation, because you are happy with the fact that a service or product is being offered. This mindset can also have great consequences for the healthcare industry. As a society, we can base the access to care on the same sustainability principles as those for cars and lighting: it would mean that care would consist of a subscription to prevention and advice. We expect doctors – out of gratitude for their – almost free – training, to contribute to a healthy living environment and healthy living patterns. In that vision, doctors will become advocates of a healthy lifestyle, living environment and: healthy healthcare.

2. Reputation will become more important than income or status
The strength of individual members of a community will depend on the reputation and the ‘karma points’ they collect. On internet forums, we already see how people who help others, become influential. In a gift economy, your reputation will partly determine how much money, energy and manpower you are given by others.
For organizations, reputation will also become more important than, financial reserves, for instance. When people feel more free and independent, for instance by the introduction of an unconditional basic income (see under 4) or the availability of interest-free money, they can afford to devote their valuable time and energy to the things that truly matter to them. For that reason, it will be essential for organizations to make clear why they exist, what they have contributed to the world and what kind of help they need from employees. In return, organizations must offer appealing and diverse work and opportunities for development.

3. Hybridization
Organizations will become hybrid in various ways. The basic income of many organizations, for instance, will cause a hybrid mix of a commercial organization and an organization consisting of volunteers. Other organizations start as a movement (for instance to make the neighborhood more sustainable) and then turn out a service provider (for instance after the successful completion of a collective solar panel plan).
Even the most classic vertical organizations (financial institutions, ministries, army, police) will have to start working with rapidly changing networks. And more than ever, seemingly unconnected markets and organizations will have to merge. In other words: where there used to be a clear purchasing / sales relationship, the teams will now create, market and deliver products together.

4. The revolution will come via the peer-to-peer and the share-economy
In said scenario sessions with management teams, it also frequently became evident that we are shifting from an experience-based economy to a society that focuses more on meaning, contributing and sharing. The economy is becoming more and more peer-to-peer.
a. As has become evident through Bitcoin, money can be created by anyone using the blockchain technology, and no longer (only) by banks or governments. Organizations too can start producing currency to exchange services with their suppliers and customers. Moreover, the blockchain technology allows money to be earmarked, so that it can only be used for, healthcare, food or education for instance (instead of for weapons, dubious transactions or unlawful labor). The blockchain will allow for full transparency. Payments can be tracked due to which corruption can be controlled much better.
b. A basic income will become inevitable. This can also be realized via peer-to-peer networks. As explained, the various societies are perfectly able to create their own currencies. If the government doesn’t move quickly enough to create a fair form of money creation, the initiatives for that will emerge bottom-up. This basic income might not be paid as ‘money’ but in value points for, for instance, food, housing, healthcare, education, information, art or energy. This will even free up the way for a money-less society.
c. In the future, organizations will only be able to survive if they have demonstrable added value. The peer-to-peer economy, combined with 3D printers and high quality online services, are making the middle men obsolete. That doesn’t just apply to the travel, hotel and taxi business, as is currently the case, but also to banks, accountants and lawyers. The video below shows that even certain profitable dentist practices are currently already unacceptable.

d. And the government too will have to reconsider its added value. It has been basing its legitimacy on old conceptual models for far too long, and due to tax levies and borrowing money on the private capital market, has grown dependent on destructive business models. Its real legitimacy is based on protecting the interests of society. If it continues to compromise this added value, even the government, as middle-man, will be eliminated.

5. Shareholders are called to account, even retrospectively
Because of the increase of direct democracy and better organized citizens, not only the government will be called to account to an increasing extent, like recently by Urgenda. Partly as a result of the growing awareness that ecocide should be criminalized, mainly polluting industries should start preparing for claims. There is a possibility that these claims will be honored retrospectively and that they will reach all the way to the level of the shareholders, who are deemed to be untouchable. Smart organizations will become radically more sustainable. Not only to prevent claims, but mainly to actively contribute to a healthy future for mankind as a whole. And to confirm their own legitimacy.

In conclusion: A couple of consequences at a glance
In conclusion of this impression, you’ll find a number of statements below that are important for organizations to include in their future plans …
1. Organizations will become hybrid in several ways: in their organizational structure and in their strategic alliances. Many organizations are likely to get the status of Cooperative (borne by a collective of committed employees) or a new organizational structure: owned by itself…
2. In addition to the fact that many organizations will not be owned by anyone, a lot of organizations will not own anything either (no office, no production facility, no computers).
3. More and more organizations emerge as a result of prosumer initiatives: the producing customer. Because of this, customers are growing increasingly responsible for products and services of the organizations, many organizations will be co-owned by the customers.
4. More than ever, the organization will owe its legitimacy to the demonstrable value it adds to society.
5. Some organizations will hardly be run by people at all.
6. Full transparency will result in sustainable policy and sustainable policy will provide protection against the imminent wave of damage claims.
7. People will mainly work because they find it useful and / or fun. Sustainability-driven scenario planning and designing positive pans for the future will become increasingly important methods to shape that same future.

The experiences described in this article are based on methods from the so-called narrative psychology, which we train and teach.

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