The Medieval gig economy? @HistoryToday

History Today has a piece by David Long on the employment status of the average priest in Medieval times.

As various professions like Law were emerging, the Church was well established as a career of choice, easily overlapping power in the secular and spiritual worlds. A young priest from a well-heeled family could afford a good education and a professional role as a prince (or at least senior manager) of the church.

The average priest-in-the-street, however, had more of a portfolio career, picking up priesting gigs in the neighbourhood and mixing those with other consulting and “enforcing” jobs.

Long parallels this “hollowing out” of the front-line parish profession with today’s “ever more casual and commercialised” professions.

I think it’s simply another reminder that our perception of work as a solid, predictable, 9 to 5, 18 to 65, activity is a relatively modern (and fleeting) construct of the Industrial Revolution. Work wasn’t like that before, and it won’t be like that after.

 

Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Competence and humanity – @thisisseth

Seth Godin makes an interesting observation on the meaning of “competence”:

It doesn’t take a genius to see that competence is no longer about our ability to press certain buttons in a certain sequence. Far more often, competence involves the humanity required to connect with other people, in real time.

The wider point is that the more that AI and tabloid-terrorising robots accomplish, the more important will be the “human” skills that technology can’t offer. As Seth says,

It requires emotional labor, not merely compliance.

And, of course, that is where the sovereign professional – whatever his or her particular field – will add value and earn the rewards.

 

Photo by Simon Wijers on Unsplash

 

 

How to manage people who are not employees – @FastCompany

Sound advice for the other side of the equation: how to manage a sovereign professional.

Before you hire a freelancer, be crystal clear on your needs,” advises Jon Youshaei of the comics site Every Vowel. “I always ask myself: Do I have a vision of what I want? If I don’t, I can’t effectively communicate it when giving feedback to a freelancer, and it’ll just end up wasting time and money.”

Vision is critical, but it’s also where a freelancer can add real value to the client … as long as the early stage relationship isn’t abused. How often does the sovereign professional feel their just being milked for free consultancy?

Read the full piece, here.

 

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Affluence without Abundance

The Economist reviews a new book: Affluence Without Abundance: The Disappearing World of the Bushmen, by James Suzman.

The book is more than an ethno-biography of the Bushmen, it explores an alternative view of life and a possible path for human development. As the Economist puts it:

Farming teaches people to accept inequality and to valorise work. But for the vast majority of human history there was little point in accumulating, since most of what was needed could easily be got from the surrounding environment. Nor was there anything heroic about work; spending time getting more food than one could eat was a foolish waste.

it also concludes:

Having created countless problems by turning to agriculture, rich societies have little choice but to press on: working, striving and inventing, even as this progress creates more problems in need of solving.

It definitely sounds worth a read.

It reminds me, in its description of the pre-agricultural life, of Richard Donkin’s excellent book The History of Work.