The Gig Economy ISN'T Going to Change the Future of Work

'The Gig Economy is going to change the future of work.'

If you've been reading articles online (and offline), you will likely come across statements related to this.

You may agree, disagree, or be completely indifferent to it. Yet, it is worth thinking about.

To the above statement, I’d say ‘yes, in a way, but, mainly, no.’

The Gig Economy has been around since work became a means to support oneself and one’s family. There have always been informal work arrangements or contracts exchanged between those with desired products / services and those who desire them.

Think of the ancient scribes and, later, notaries, who were paid to put contracts and legal documents in writing.

Think of the independent travelling salesmen, who had to go from door to door or market to market to sell their wares, which may have come from different suppliers.

Think of the young, enterprising children who act as tour guides and offer to take tourists around for a small fee, to show them the sights, the sounds, and the smells of their local cultures.

Perhaps at some point, a group of scribes came together to form a ‘company’ of scribes, to take on larger, more elaborate projects and share the earnings.

Maybe it was an ambitious travelling salesman who took on a deal that needed practitioners of other trades and decided to permanently keep them together, the better to negotiate future deals of similar nature.

It may also have been a group of young unofficial tour guides deciding to team up to divide up the work, some attracting the tourists, others making deals with local businesses to bring tourists to them for a commission, and still others doing the actual tour guiding. The extra benefit to them? Each one gets a day off work per week.

Now, even with the formation of these ‘companies’, there will still be independent workers in each of these trades. They are still going from gig to gig, with no intention to be part of any one group. They may occasionally work with some of these groups for a season, or all of them, but never ‘settle’ down with any of them.

What was true then is still true today, and it will hold true in the future.

There will always be independent workers – Giggers – and some of them will come together to form ‘companies’ or join existing ones, and some in ‘companies’ will want to strike out on their own.

With technology, information flows more rapidly and easily. This makes it much easier and cheaper for Giggers to do what they do, and for them to sustain their lifestyles. As such, it’s easy to see how the number of Giggers will likely increase in the coming years.

That said, there has always been an ebb and flow of labour supply. When the number of independent workers goes past a certain threshold, competition may force them to band together and, once again, form ‘companies’. This trend will then take root again, until it hits its own threshold, when the opposite effect occurs.

Since this has always been the case, it’s hard to imagine that the future of work will really change from what it has always been, with or without technology.

That said, to those who aren’t yet on board with the Gig Economy, I can only say that it’s better to start learning how you can take advantage of this move before you are forced down the wrong end of its inevitable movement into your sector.

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I am Not a Toastmaster

I am not a Toastmaster.

I had considered joining a Toastmasters Club many, many years ago. I just couldn’t find one that fit my odd work schedule or be close enough to home that I would actually not mind travelling to.

It turns out that it didn’t matter.

I learned the hard way, through the cleansing fires of non-friendly, sometimes even hostile, audiences. In my opinion, that’s the fastest, surest way to learn.

Let me qualify that. Toastmasters clubs can be very helpful for someone who wishes to overcome his/her fear of public speaking. I have a fair number of friends who are Toastmasters, and I have seen them grow in confidence as they take the stage.

In the friendlier spaces of their respective clubs, there is greater safety, as well as the presence of potential mentors who can help. These are valuable. No doubt about that.

That said, the usefulness of these things stops once the speaker is past a certain point. Things start to go a little awry. I have listened to hundreds of speakers, both in-person and through the Internet, and I have come to notice certain traits that quite a number of them, who happen to be Toastmasters, have:

1) They have unnaturally exaggerated facial expressions and body language, all the while over-enunciating and placing too much emphasis on their words, often in a slightly off-beat manner that’s very difficult to listen to without getting distracted.

Nobody talks like that in real life. If they did, people around them would either raise incredulous eyebrows, politely excuse themselves, or run.

2) The content of their speeches is lacklustre.

I have heard from a few sources that Toastmasters are judged more on delivery than they are on content.

If that is true, I can only surmise that, in order to win contests and/or titles, they have no choice but to sacrifice substance for form. I certainly cannot speak for others, but that is a sacrifice I am unwilling to make.

Yes, there is a place for pretty speeches, but if the audience learns nothing from the encounter, what’s the point?

3) There seems to be an emphasis on telling personal stories that borders on idolatry.

Personal stories can be powerful and moving. IF they are used appropriately and for the right reasons.

I have lost count of the number of times I had to sit through an unnecessarily long, over-dramatised, poorly-executed narration of an inconsequential incident in the life of a speaker I happened to be sitting in front of.

For some reason, telling a personal story has become a ‘must’ and ‘the only way to start a speech / presentation’. It is not.

The audience doesn’t care about the speaker’s life more than they care about their own.

With that in mind, wouldn’t it make more sense to relate to the audience first, and then tell a personal story that they can relate to, in order to cement that bond?

No, I don’t hate the Toastmasters, nor do I think that they should dissolve. I simply believe that it’s time for them to update themselves.

Story-telling has no shortcuts. It is an art and a science, and needs to be respected, taught, and practised as such.

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Attending the 142nd Meeting of the Association of Professional Trainers (APTS)

The 142nd Association of Professional Trainers (APTS) meeting 2 days ago was quite a blast.

We had, for the 1st time, two emcees - Eugene Seah and Jude Lim - who decided to adopt a cross-talk style, to a... rather interesting effect.

Our President, Mr. David Lee, shared his experiences and thoughts with us during his opening address - something I always look forward to.

Then, we had our first speaker - Alvin Lim, who taught us about Risk Management.

He took us through the types of risks that we, as trainers, often come across:

Strategic Risks, Compliance Risks, Operational Risks, Financial Risks, and Reputation Risks

After that, he reminded us that we could do 5 things when it comes to risks:

1) Accept them
2) Reduce them
3) Share them
4) Transfer them
5) Avoid them

(5) is a common response, but never a long-term solution.

After a short break, we had Mike Li sharing what he suggested is The World's Biggest Problem.

Through an audience poll, and some research he had done, many people think that global warming is The World's Biggest Problem.

Well, it certainly keeps me up at night, especially during the past few sweltering days.

Without spoiling what I thought was an excellent TED-style talk, I will share just one key takeaway from it:

The Mediocre Are Always At Their Best.

Now, that's a statement for the ages.

Thank you, Alvin and Mike, for sharing some truly thought-provoking points.

I look forward to your next events!

APTS 142nd Meeting
Alvin Lim at APTS
Mike Li at APTS

Quietly Leaving Your Mark: Personal Branding for Introverts

[To my fellow introverts:]

Like you, I struggle with the dilemma of deciding between being known and having a quiet, private life.

Note the present tense. I still do.

What I learned is this: 
In order to have the quiet, private life that I want, I must first be able to provide for it.

Yes, I’m talking about the 3rd most taboo subject: Money.

Let’s get real.

You need a fair bit of change to live in the most expensive city in the world (according to The Economist Intelligence Unit - EIU). As do I.

Prime opportunities go to those who are at the top of their field. If you’re not up there with them, you’re getting second-rate projects that they rejected or were never going to enter their field of vision anyway.

What that means for you is that you are fighting with a lot of people for very little gain.

Is that really how you want to live out the rest of your life?

This is my perspective.

I’m done being passed over for meaningful projects that I know I’ll be great at, which instead got handed to the loudest person in the room.

I’m tired of being treated as if I’m slow or invisible during unnecessarily raucous meetings and ‘brainstorming’ sessions.

I have had it with people wondering whether I’m good at what I do just because I take time to think rather than talk constantly and offer information they may or may not want.

This is why I built my personal brand around who I am and what I wish to achieve.

It required a lot of thought and a lot of work, but I am on my way to leading the life I want to lead. It’s going to be a journey, and I’m glad that I have friends along for the ride. (You guys know who you are!)

If this is a journey you have heard of but haven’t embarked upon, I encourage you to take the first step and start building your personal brand.

If you’re concerned that you don’t know what to do or which direction to head, it’s alright. You don’t have to go it alone. We can be your guides and show you the way.

Join me and my friend Eugene Seah on the 10th of July (it’s a Tuesday) from 7 pm to 10 pm at Synergy Hub @ 45 Middle Road #06-00, a mere 5 minute walk from Bugis MRT station.

I will be showing you how you, too, can quietly leave your mark on the world and those around you.

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Arising New Misconceptions About Introversion

The impact of Susan Cain's book Quiet has been nothing short of impressive. Suddenly, introverts from around the world are proud of their identities.

However, as with all such shifts in thinking, new misconceptions have arisen.

With this newfound attention, especially through the media, introverts, who used to be viewed as 'weird' are now seen as 'cool'.

Perhaps in an attempt to seem like part of the 'cool' gang, many people have jumped on the bandwagon and declared themselves as introverts because they see themselves exhibiting certain stereotyped introverted behaviours, such as reading, taking time alone and being less-than-comfortable in social situations.

Of course, there are many other such stereotypically introverted behaviours, but let's for now focus on these three:

1) Reading

Reading is NOT the exclusive domain of introverts. I know plenty of extroverts who read - some of them, voraciously and I also know plenty of introverts who don't enjoy it at all.

This is a stereotype because reading is typically a solitary activity and concentration on the content is usually easier when it's quiet.

Nevertheless, enjoying a good book doesn't make you an introvert, and it certainly doesn't mean that you have to be an introvert to enjoy reading.

2) Taking Time Alone

Whether we are introverts or extroverts, we all need to take some time alone, be it to think, to re-focus, or simply to get away from it all.

Yes, introverts do generally need more time on our own because that's how we recharge so we have the energy to get through another hectic day. That said, we don't 'own' the alone-time space.

Just to clarify, we are all somewhere on the introversion-extroversion spectrum. Just because someone tends toward the extrovert side of the spectrum doesn't mean he/she has no introversion in his/her personality. There is no such thing as a 'pure' introvert or extrovert.

So go ahead and take time on your own. It really is the best way to clear your head and get things sorted.

3) Being Less-Than-Comfortable In Social Situations

Before you label yourself 'socially anxious' or 'socially awkward', try and figure out what exactly it is that makes you so uncomfortable about being in a social situation.

Are you concerned that nobody will find you interesting?

Well, then get yourself a quirky hobby. Also, figure out a new angle with which you can talk about what you do. This isn't about having a good elevator pitch. It's about seeing what another person may find interesting about what you find mundane.

Are you worried that you will get rejected by the people you try to talk to?

That's possible, of course. The good news is that many of them are worrying about the exact same thing and they will probably welcome your conversation, unless you are bad conversationalist or a terrible bore, in which case, you need to go brush up on your social skills. Attend a course and bring somebody along with you.

Are you, perhaps, afraid that you won't know what to do or what to say?

As above, brush up on your social skills. Learn to make small talk. As much as introverts hate it, it is a very powerful social lubricant. Also, practise introducing yourself with a twist so that others ask you questions. Then, you won't need to worry about what to say next, because you just have to answer their questions.

Remember that introverts and extroverts can suffer from social anxiety, which is based in fear, an emotion, not in personality.

Certainly, there are other misconceptions out there, but these are 3 of the most common ones that I've come across. If you have any to add or any questions to ask, feel free to drop me a message.

Red-eared Terrapin