Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Book Review: 'Thriving in the Gig Economy: How to Capitalize and Compete in the New World of Work' by Marion McGovern



The most important dos and don’ts in today’s “free world of work”

As I began to read this book, I was again reminded of two previously published books: Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock (1984) and Dan Pink’s Free Agent Nation: How America’s New Independent Workers Are Transforming the Way We Live (2001). Curiously, neither author nor their work is acknowledged by Marion McGovern as she explains “how to capitalize and compete in the new world of work.”

It was Toffler who observed in his classic, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” and it was Pink who observes in his own classic, “free agents are people who are working untethered from a large organization. This includes freelancers, e-lancers, self-employed professionals and proprietors of very small businesses. These are not necessarily entrepreneurs … they’re not necessarily startups that aspire to go big. They’re people who have either been cast aside by larger organizations or have broken away from large organizations to make their own way.”

I cannot recall a prior time when the “world of work” was more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than it is today. That is why I agree with McGovern that business leaders need to understand how and why companies now use free agents [in the Gig Economy], something workers [also] need to understand to thrive” in that economy.

McGovern covers a great deal of ground:

o She compares/contrasts traditional intermediaries and their digital counterparts.
o She also suggests each of the major differentiators.
o With regard to personal branding, she notes that the most successful free agents see themselves as a brand to be developed, strengthened, and leveraged.
o She offers a “broad discussion of building a digital voice.”
o Throughout the book, she introduces and then delineates a framework so her readers can create their own “mental model for how to thrive in the new world of work.”

NOTE: In their recently published book, Business Models for Teams, Tim Clark and Bruce Hazen introduce “The Business Model Canvas.” One of its most substantial benefits of is that it can be used to create a “systems view” of organizations at three levels: enterprise, team, and individual. “An enterprise business model shows how an entire organization creates and delivers value to customers outside the organization. A team business mode shows how a group creates and delivers value. A personal business model shows how an individual creates and delivers value…Think of the three levels as a stacked tier with the enterprise model on top. Viewing an organization this way reveals workplace interdependencies and begins imparting a sense of relatedness to people who may be accustomed to thinking of work in terms of proscribed ‘jobs’ that rarely transcend group or functional boundaries. This is where people begin discovering how an organization really works – and how they fit in.”

This is precisely what McGovern has in mind when rigorously examining the dynamics of all manner of worker/employer relationships in the new world of work.”

Earlier, I included Pink’s comments about free agents. Here’s what McGovern suggests: “Let’s agree that a gig is a job of uncertain duration in any field, whether it’s a driver, a freelance artist, or an interim CEO. ‘Gigs’ are what has historically been called contingent work, whether it is secured by the worker, through a staffing company, through a human capital company, or through a digital talent platform. The Gig Economy, then, refers to the companies and business systems that have evolved to support his independent work.”

Who will derive substantial value from the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that Marion Mc Govern provides. In my opinion, they will probably be within three major categories: those who retain free agents directly, those who retain them via an intermediary (e.g. Adecco, Allegis Group, Robert Half International, Manpower Group Inc., and Randstad Holding), and those who are retained directly or indirectly.


Estimates vary but it seems probable that at least 40 million free agents are now in circulation and they comprise about a third of the private U.S. workforce. My guess is that these statistics will rapidly increase, as will the value of the material in this book.


Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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