Working amongst a group of strangers.

This is a modern phenomenon.

I don’t mean total strangers. I mean you didn’t grow up around these people your entire life. You have no idea what they were like as children. You have no idea all the people they dated. You don’t know what awards they won in school, or their grades necessarily.

You only know the work they do.

If you contrast this with the agriculture economy of a couple hundred years ago, this is a significant shift. Those people lived, worked, and knew each other their entire lives. Then factories developed, and organizations started to develop around skillsets. Rather than a group of people who was in a certain area geographically, people started to rearrange around skillsets. The right set of skills, in the right building, and the production of an amazing amount of quality goods became possible. Today, we’re continuing the trend of nimbleness, which is the ability to reorganize “on-demand”. That may not mean instantly, but with remote technologies and automation, if you need to change an organization to produce new goods, you can rebuild with new skillsets at low costs since relocation isn’t necessary as often as it was in the past.

This is an inflection point. We’ve lifted several constraints off of what companies were capable of even a couple years ago. People can now quit a job in Atlanta, and start a job in California. In a day or so after they are released. Think about the logistics of that previously:

  • Get your house in order (Painted, fix issues, etc.)
  • List house for sale
  • Find place to store your stuff
  • Find new house
  • Drive/have stuff delivered across country
  • Move-in/Unpack

That’s a lot of things to do. Things that take a lot of time. I didn’t even include possible flights back and forth to find the place to live. This was likely a months long endeavor and you really couldn’t be effective for the company until you were done with the place you were currently living and in the location they needed to be in. Now, you can start working remotely, even if long-term they need you in the office.

This is going to up the pace that people switch organizations as geography becomes a smaller reason to stick with where you’re at. Working amongst a group of strangers will feel even more true.

If that scares you, here’s the opportunity:

Strangers don’t have a prejudice of your skills based on your history. Think about your parents, it’s likely they don’t see you as smart, as capable, or as successful as you actually are. Mostly because they were around every time you did dumb things in your life. Those memories of moments of stupidity hold them back from seeing you as you are in the current moment. Same with your current company, you’ve been there for some years, and done some great work and developed in your skills, but you definitely made some mistakes, misspoke a few times and possibly angered people on occasion. While you may be respected, those past issues still hold them back from seeing the current you who is better than the past one.

Working with strangers brings a struggle of communication. No one knows how to talk as well when they haven’t worked together for a period of time, but it also brings the amazing opportunity of no past prejudices, just the skills you have today and the work to be done. I’m interested in what the future holds and how products and services will change based on this phenomenon. One thing is certain, the opportunities we all have are different today. It’s worth recognizing and thinking about.