Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Remaining King

We don't really understand what we need that well. I might possibly understand what I need a bit better. I have a good sense of what I want. The battle over the last couple of centuries between a system of central planning or devolving control to the individual has been about this lack of knowledge. In a devolved system the customer is king. The personal meaning of God is decided by the individual.

Although (maybe) watching a similar play to those surrounding us, we are seated differently and we are looking at different parts of the stage. It is tough enough figuring out what we need and want, and then we engage with others who have different experiences. In a world where there is not enough this can be very frustrating. Figuring out what people need and want becomes a battle of wills. Kings didn't work well so people got angry and mostly got rid of them. I am actually not that much of a fan of the customer being king either. Not from the perspective of choice. I agree that devolving decision making to the individual to make choices makes the most sense. Like a King though, I think education should then also include how to spend their time and money, not just how to specialise with a specific set of skills for a specific way of generating income. What bugs me is that being a king changes your behaviour.

Within the financial services industry, I worked in client facing/serving roles for most of my career. Anticipating, responding to, and delighting our clients was very important. The danger of focussing on world class client service in your job is you kind of expect that when you are in civilian clothes. Like a psychologist who over analyses their friends, you respond to every engagement where you are now King expecting the same level of service. Even in a corner cafe. This can lead to a rather petulant existence like a Monarch never pleased. Flipping the coin, I have seen clients treat incredibly smart, thoughtful, kind people who should be almost revered like whipping boys as they throw their toys out the cot. That isn't good for anyone's happiness - whipper or whippee.

We are closing in on the point where we do have enough to go around. We may have already reached that point. We are still struggling with how to equip people to participate, how to motivate, and how and what basic support to provide we largely know how to pick the low hanging fruit. Tyler Cowen discusses 'The Great Stagnation' in a short one-sitting book which looks at leading industrialised countries and how the nature of growth changes. If a wealthy person spends their day reading books, doing tai-chi, going for trail runs, growing their own food and sharing that with friends - their life will 'grow' but their effect on GDP will shrink. Also 'wealthy' may become a choice rather than a number if being rich is a mindset shift. Another knock on effect may also be the overthrow of the remaining king - the customer. If everyone has enough, and our interactions become about the extra, perhaps the 'currency' becomes respect and friendship. When I walk into a restaurant and someone I know is the waiter, my 'petulant expectations' disappear. I forgive little mistakes. They automatically treat me well too. I suspect we would smile more often if our engagements were able to get rid of hierarchy, and we worked with rather than for anyone.

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