Why Now?

5 ways workers have changed in the digital age: 

Employees want to be involved in the story! In old stories while a Hero was busy with personal growth and triumphing over evil the community was waiting around. People today are empowered in ways they have never been in all of human history. They don’t want to delegate their triumph, they want to participate in it!
Knowledge is everywhere. People no longer need to access knowledge through institutions and formal education. They now have the ability to access a collective intelligence to solve problems, create, collaborate, and innovate. Accreditations and training can be important measures of expertise, but they're no longer the lone source of skills and knowledge. (Nor do they equate to competence.)
There are multiple solutions to the same problem. In a global society it is no longer possible to assume there is only one “right” way to run a business or solve a problem and dismiss all others.
Diversity is Utilized. (Really.) We're learning that we're most effective when we combine different perspectives to solve problems. It's rare that a single expert or leader's knowledge will be more impactful than the combined wisdom of a multidisciplinary, diverse, and mutually respectful group.
The system is the problem. In the past, a Hero fought valiantly to defeat a villain. Now we understand that a system created these “villains” and until this is changed a problem remains. People need to feel like they can having a positive impact on the world around them. They want to collaborate and share ideas to create healthy systems in their workplaces, communities, and environments.

Hierarchies are less applicable in what is now a more diverse and interconnected culture, so why do we still use them? Because the way we organized our stories for generations informs the way we organized our systems.

Before the internet, the majority of popular stories and movies followed the “Hero’s Journey.” The Hero’s Journey informed narratives for thousands of years and these narratives inevitably formed our culture. Our primitive ancestors learned important rules from leaders' stories that helped them survive the hunt, find food, and avoid harm. For most of human history, obeying experienced leaders was necessary for survival. Over the past two decades something significant changed. People can access information and each other in new ways. Employees across the globe can work together to share ideas, create change, and solve problems. People can access research from university libraries, learn new skills from You-Tube tutorials, collaborate with with peers, or earn academic degrees - all from their kitchen table.  

Today's workers do not need omnipotent, authoritarian leaders. Instead, they can be empowered to be more engaged, flexible, and collaborative, viewing leaders as teammates and allies. 

There is a trend becoming increasingly apparent in current movies and television. Companies like HBO and Netflix are discovering that the Hero’s Journey, which entertained and informed generations, is no longer appealing to modern audiences.  People no longer have to sit back and wait for someone to come to their rescue. Instead, they are want to see themselves as part of the story. As one Netflix executive said“It stands to reason that some of our biggest and most talked about hits are Collective Journey type stories…. to see whether our characters can surmount their differences, however extreme, and repair their worlds. 

Empowered people are becoming empowered employees. Our organizations, and our leaders, will inevitably need to adjust.