Reader profiles and what to expect from the book
Stories from the future, the case studies developed in the book
About the research. The gig mindset traits explored in the research
Checklists: questions to consider (pragmatic and strategic)
About myself–scholar and practitioner
Part 1. What is the Gig Mindset?
Why does a new breed of employee help make the organization thrive in volatile times? Who are they and how do they work? They are usually unseen and unrecognized for their impact. Does this sound familiar? If so, what does it mean for you and your organization?
Gig-mindset people are a new breed of employee who dare to challenge the traditional thinking and ways of working in order to make the organization more resilient and successful in volatile times. They are in effect a secret weapon because they are unseen and not yet recognized for their impact on organizations. This section includes:
- Four questions to answer to see if you have a gig mindset
- Why people react in 3 ways when faced with the gig-mindset in people or in work practices: ignore it, fight it, or embrace it
- How the gig mindset has slowly emerged inside organizations over the last few years
This book is a compass, not a map. It will give you a vision of how you can be instrumental in your organization’s evolution—strategically and practically. At the same time, you will be developing as an individual, learning and bringing greater value to the people you work with and opening new opportunities for yourself.
You will find a walk-through of the topics and goals of each chapter as well as practical suggestions for 3 reader profiles (which may overlap in some cases): the individual, the team or department manager, and the senior manager.
Part 2. The Future is at Stake
What is the outcome when civil disobedience and willful blindness collide? Gig mindsetters act in ways that benefit organizations but go against traditions and hierarchy, much like civil disobedience. Management rarely acknowledges this because they suffer from willful blindness.
We look at the potential influence of gig mindsetters, where they act in ways that are good for organizations—often through a kind of civil disobedience—but appear to be against the way the organizations traditionally function. They serve valuable roles in organizations:
- Border crossers
- Inside outsiders
- Carriers of new skills
We will see how management misinterprets these behaviors through willful blindness, not seeing the value they bring, and interpreting them as negative rather than positive deviance. This comes from traditional attitudes such as:
- Pride in past success
- Faith in best practices
- Fear of losing power
- Fear of speed
- False sense of safety in silos
- Living in filter bubbles
Because gig-mindset behaviors trigger negative reactions in most organizations, management tends to control or repress them. Ironically, the more management resists, the more they lose control and the less resilient the organization is. Numerous firsthand quotes from interviews show how civil disobedience and willful blindness conflict in real life and are eventually resolved for better or worse. Ironically, the more management resists, the more they lose control. (Read more here.)
Part 3. Proactive Resilience is Business Critical
Proactive resilience is a state of mind, enabling an organization to face uncertainties with confidence. It requires horizon scanning, adaptive capacities and reachability. How does the gig mindset strengthen resilience?
We see how the gig mindset builds proactive resilience—increasingly important in our volatile times. Resilience is more than just being able to get through a crisis. Making it through once is not enough. It is highly likely there will be more and greater disruption in the short- and long-term. Resilience is a state of mind.
Horizon scanning and adaptive capacity–two key components–are weak points in most organizations. They are, however, inherent in the behaviors and attitudes of people with a gig mindset, because they are highly situationally aware and ready to act when faced with a new situation.
Reachability is also key for resilience. It means everyone is able to reach and be reached, thereby enabling organizations to mobilize and act effectively when faced with unexpected events.
Throughout this section, there are firsthand quotes describing what people are doing inside organizations to manage risk and strengthen resilience. The section finishes with how specific gig mindset behaviors reinforce 5 requirements for building resilience. I call them “openers” and they are developed in detail in the following section.
Part 4. Opening Minds and Organizations
Building a gig mindset is both an individual and an organizational challenge. It means reducing old barriers, opening new doors, and transforming ingrained ways of working that have existed for decades. How?
This section goes into five openers in detail. I call them openers because they are the starting points for building strong and resilient work cultures. The following points are illustrated by real-life quotes and examples:
- Reverse leadership: wise ignorance, encouraging a spirit of contradiction
- Accountable decentralization: freedom within a framework
- Fast learning: interacting, sharing, openness
- Improvisation: deliberate, extemporaneous action facing a crisis, using what you have at hand
- Work-life balance: resilient people make a resilient organization
Part 5. Investing in Movers
A person working with a gig mindset is a mover because they move the organization to new ways of thinking and acting. How do you recognize and keep movers in your organization?
The following points are developed, starting with the why and followed by the how. There are real examples of what organizations are doing today:
- Rethinking what a job is
- Going beyond the CV
- Recruitment and evaluation in the gig mindset era
- Ways to liberate talent
Part 6. Defining a Perpetual Balance
How can you reach the appropriate balance between gig and traditional mindsets? In volatile times the answer to ‘what is right for us now’ shifts. Discover a way to define, adjust and fine-tune while keeping people involved and engaged.
This section describes a method for defining actions, and negotiating agreements with colleagues and managers about how to reach specific outcomes—taking into account the upsides and downsides of the traditional mindset and a gig mindset.
The method was originally defined by Barry Johnson in Polarity Management. Finding the optimum balance between two apparently opposing approaches is, in reality, a moving target. This is exactly what organizations face when striving to become more gig-mindset in their work cultures. This method offers a way to navigate the gig and traditional polarities through shared, structured thinking rather than endless debate and conflict.
Part 7. Owning Your Personal Strategy
You have a choice. Will you choose an advocate path, or a compromise path? Or will you choose the exit path? Before deciding, you need to understand the pros and cons of each. Regardless of your direction, you need to put a personal knowledge management strategy in place. See how it will benefit you–in the short term and in the long term.
The gig mindsetter may choose to follow one of three paths based on their experience and perception of the situation in the organization. Each path has pros and cons, and this sections offers advice, warnings, and examples.
- The advocate path: Live the gig mindset way of working inside your organization and inspire people around you. Very tough to do, sometimes. Requires internal credibility, endurance, communication skills and lots of will power.
- The compromise path: Find acceptable solutions for how you work in order to fit in to the work culture while not sacrificing too much integrity and sense of self. Requires accepting a feeling of resignation, realism, and the ability to put your energy elsewhere.
- The exit path: Leave the organization and look for other opportunities, either a salaried position in another organization or set up as an independent free-lancer. Numerous challenges here, along with opportunities.
The section finishes with recommendations to start a longterm strategy now, regardless of your context and path. This includes practicing a personal knowledge management strategy and identifying communities from whom you can learn, and to whom you can contribute.
Conclusion: Living the Gig Mindset Advantage
Today work cultures are primarily based on the traditional mindset, with small doses of the gig mindset. Tomorrow we will see workplaces that primarily reflect the gig-mindset way of working, with doses of the traditional mindset, but only where it brings value. Organizations that live the gig mindset advantage will be more relevant and resilient.
Uncertainty is the way of life. We will not move back to an age of stability and certainty in our work lives. The reality is that our organizations have long been unstable; we just did not see it. Confusion, sometimes chaos, resulted from repeated efforts to restructure the company, re-engineer work practices and implement change programs, most of which did not work.
The stakes are higher now as we are forced to create new working conditions in response to the pandemic which has come on top of a host of other global factors. This volatility has been hard, but the good side is that it has both forced and stimulated people to discover new ways of working, of which the gig mindset is one.
I predict we are moving from “paradox to wholeness” over the coming years in three areas:
- From the group vs. the individual to a mutually beneficial balance with a new focus on we rather than me.
- From leaders vs. followers to an understanding that leadership is an outcome, not a position. Top-down and bottom-up are phrases we will no longer hear.
- From the inside vs. the outside to a new type of operational structure. People are identified by their skills and expertise rather than by their company affiliation. The distinction between internal and external will no longer exist.
When organizations become more gig-mindset oriented in the work culture, they will be more relevant and resilient. The only way this can happen is through individual people taking the lead. What do I say when people ask me what to do? The book offers a 10-point manifesto, to be personalized as appropriate by each person. The 10th point is the most important:
Trust yourself, believe in your capabilities.
A. Six appendices with more detail about the gig mindset research (2018-2019), including feedback from 11 workshops around the world and the survey questions themselves
B. Five appendices from ten years of annual research about the organization in the digital age (2006-2016). The details include a 20-year perspective on the workplace correlated to how organizations work, the foundational framework of the organization in the digital age, the emergence of the individual and four organizational capabilities over a 4-year period.
C. Recommended reading includes a list of “pioneers of the gig mindset inside” from the last 50 years, and articles and books to read about resilience and improvisation.