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If Gig Economy V1 doesn't work so whats Gig2 going to look like?

I had a very nice lunch last Wednesday. My hosts Concentrix Europe were organising a great round table and lunch at Covent Garden Hotel, London (which is a great venue BTW) to explore the opportunities and the challenges presented by the gig economy. My thanks to William Carson who invited me in the first place but then I did buy him lunch in the Maldives so......

Julian Herbert, Everest Group and Alex Burke, CEO of Tigerspike led a C suite audience and discussed share their views about the gig economy and I was there to talk about my view of things too.I had a chance to listen to what people thought about the subject and to understand, what the thinking at the sharp end operationally is at the moment.

I wanted to put together my thoughts about where we are with the gig and share them before I move on to the next thing. But the first thing to say is that I am the (part) owner of a gig economy business that we have just launched but I have worked in the gig economy most of my life as an expert. Anyway lunch.......

Alex started of by setting the scene in relation to change. He is based out Singapore where innovation isn't a religion it's a way of life. As he talked about his innovation model I realised how much of the infrastructure for the gig economy was being delivered as a result of other innovation drivers. We are converging on a blended communication model anywhere that that will be a key factor in the drivers of the gig economy.

Then Julian talked through the data and there was one significant item that I latched on to immediately because I have been talking about the same thing. His slide below shows the shrinkage in the lower skill agent population of significant proportions.

In my other job (as a futurologist - yes I gig!) I have been expecting this pattern for the last couple of years but the spike downwards was bigger than I thought it would be. We are driving towards a model where the agent will provide the link between the customers experience and any system issues.

Put Julians thoughts together with mine add the world that Alex is talking about and the real concerns of the hard nosed executives responsible for delivering millions of experiences around the table and you get a good and bad picture.

You have requirement for emotionally skilled agents delivering higher value and many less lower skilled agents. Those top agents will naturally be scarce and will thrive in the gig economy. For the others there will be an uncertain future.


Across the world of work there are good and bad employers and we know the difference. We have uncomfortable relationships with the bad organisations as (rather like junk food) they make our lives seem better but we know they are helping us but at a cost to someone else. This impacts what we would call our core values but we live with it.

Just as there are good and bad employers - there is good gig economy and bad gig and the bad gig is the news.The cases against bad gig organisations who have misused the opportunity that the gig economy are 95% of the articles when I typed in "gig economy" into google today. Lets not pretend we don't know what bad gig is...we see enough of it.

Economic Impact - The number of people for whom, the bad gig economy makes life worse, is frightening. One of the ways that the bad gig can be described is, as a situation where its can be demonstrated that there is increased exploitation of workers to the point where they are no longer part of any demand curve**.

Real Lives - Paris Athens, Jo'burg, Alexandria in the last couple of weeks to mention a few. If you type the term taxi strike into a search engine news section you will see how much disruptive innovation disrupts real people lives all over the world. We talk about it in business terms to make it sound less unpalatable but being in the emotions business my view is there are good and bad outcomes and at the moment - the poster child for disruption Uber haven't yet found a model that works well for everyone. Some parts of what they do is great and has created positive change but some of it is more than questionable. They are not alone so it is now a question of if that approach will change as a result of public opinion and new case law.

Gig is GOOD

The good gig economy has existed for years. The building industry has been gig based for centuries and more recently the age of the IT contractor, Business Analysts etc. and increasing practice of having more than one job is common in most rural and some urban cultures. We have it at the senior level with directorships and young people are exploiting cool new app based platforms to find quick ways to find "gigs" to help local customers with basic tasks like pet care, cooking and cleaning. It's part of a new way that people communicate and part of the way the way that they define community.

In his fantastic book: The Power of Habit. Charles Duhigg says "Movements don't emerge because everyone suddenly decides to face in the same direction at once. They rely on social habits that begin the habits of friendship, grow through the habits of community, and are sustained by the new habits that change participants sense of self.

What is important?

He could be describing the groundswell effect seen in incidents like United "Breaks Guitars" Beats up elderly doctor" or "Dog dies in overhead locker" or any other of the major social media meltdowns when our sense of core value has been challenged. We don't want you to pollute, exploit poor people, children or anyone else and we want you to be ecologically sound as well. Please look after our data and stop spying on us...there are other core values and their importance changes with time. To often organisations don't express those values clearly enough.

Outsourcing has been one of the homes of the gig economy (good and bad) of course but as with the other examples perhaps we don't necessarily recognise gig when we see it. Quietly that natural transformation of our working practices, from office based to digitally empowered anywhere is leading us to a new way of life. It has been moving forward with each link of the chain that bound us to desks in centralised centres that is broken.

It makes more sense to create a digital organisation. Socially, ecologically economically and innovation is moving us to a new communication behaviour. This behaviour is continuing to change the way we work and will change the way we manage our social relationships. So it is therefore logical that good gig will continue to grow. We are already seeing the shift to home working and this is just getting easier every year.

Small steps in culture are inextricably moving us towards the expansion of the gig economy with platforms like and with hundreds of similar apps across different fields and geographies.

What is the conclusion from my point of view?

You are now in a race to provide emotionally resonant, personalised, experiences that are joined up and make the most of each contact with a customer because of the ability to self-serve is now a defining feature in how we think about effort/satisfaction/trust and the rest.

"It was easy to do on-line" is now as vital a recommendation as having a good package or product offering.

The gig economy means that you will have to treat staff like customers of your experiences because good staff will be more mobile and more able to leverage their value.

The feeling of effort is something that we find easy to describe which is why it has become such a powerful driver of change. Too hard, complicated and a verity of commonly used words that make the discussion of effort so easy for organisations and customer. Satisfaction is another common part of conversation.

Feelings like these will drive our customer and employee relationship. We need to get much better talking about them.

Organisations are going to have to start talking and thinking about different outcomes and metrics based around the way we think outside work. Emotion will be crucial as part as cost and differentiation.

Very soon any time that you talk with a customer or staff member you had better make the most of it because you may not get that many chances

Morris Pentel

Making the most of each conversation

*At several conferences I said: The challenge over the next 3 years is going to focus around

Self Service

Providing customers with personalised emotionally efficient self-service options woven into their customer journey to reduce complexity, cost, improve convenience, security and customer experience.

AI and emotional services are going to make a major change to our communication habits.

Empowered Agents

The emotionally empowered agent will have the ability to direct the next step in a contact situation through more and more connected channels and more complicated experiences moving up the transactional and emotional value chain.

**Supply and demand. What does that mean? Essentially, we have become so expert at keeping poor people, poor that potentially they can no longer fulfil one of their vital roles in the economic system to buy things. The economy is built basically on 2 forces called supply and demand and a large number of people in the bad gig economy (and bad employer too) who are simply falling below their ability to demand things. Thats why we have high employment but weakening demand. Of course this is not just a problem of the gig economy. There are a lot of people who are No JAM (not just about managing) everywhere on the increase globally. I explain this to economists but they don't seem to get it!

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