I am humming to myself as I check my books out at the library. I place my card under the red light that scans my card’s barcode, a put my books on the magical glass plate that somehow is able to read all of the barcodes for the stack of books that I’m checking out. Cool! Wait a minute, not so cool. Because my checking myself out is a sign of a bigger problem.
When I was in Australia I read a book called Eat People. I will tell you right now that I didn’t really care for the book, but I did learn one super huge piece of information from this book and I’ll share that throughout this post.
I have to be honest, I found the author a little arrogant. I didn’t really like his writing style-but I did LOVE what he had to share. So, I continued reading and learned that it was right to trust my gut about leaving my job and that everyone needs to pay attention to what’s happening with the division of duties at their work.
The premise of Eat People (in my view) is that the current business model is structured in such a way that people will become an afterthought to the business as tasks become more mechanized and removed out of house.
The library check out is just one example of this. A machine has been created so that we can check out our own books. As patrons it feels good because we are in control of a process. But, the addition of these machines accelerated after hiring freezes and that enabled the library to hire fewer people. I have been going to the library since I was a very small child. Part of the fun is meeting the Librarian!
I don’t want to go to libraries without librarians. The idea of that makes me feel kind of sad. So, I make of point of getting to know my librarians and I feel pretty lucky because the same people have worked at my local branch for the past 8 years. Really.
I travel a lot and just returned from a multi-stop trip using 3 different carriers. I had a similar experience with two carriers that I didn’t enjoy. I had to check myself in and it was confusing. I have 2 degrees and I was freaking confused. Now, I managed to get on the flights and I even managed to check in my own luggage that was precariously close to the 50 pound cut off for luggage (47 pounds) and received it upon arrival. But, why am I doing that work?? This is what I was talking about in last week’s post: Jedi Mind Tricks. By getting the patrons to do these tasks they airlines are able to hire fewer people. I should say that I didn’t agree to this process, it was forced on me and I don’t like it. What am I paying for??!!
There used to be parking attendants in every parking structure that we drove in and out of. Now, we can pay using a credit card. Fewer jobs.
In fact, there are so many ways we tacitly help the process of helping big business eat people and spit them out it boggles the mind.
So, I thought I would list them:
- Online banking
- Self-checkout…anywhere! LOL. (grocery stores and hotels come to mind)
- Ipad ordering-I think we will see this more and more often. Some kind of electronic means of ordering that would eliminate the need for a large number of servers and instead just needing food runners. I don’t like this one.
Eat People brings up a troubling and very important trend that everyone needs to think about and be aware of and it is this-the concept of scale. What in the world am I talking about?
“The trick is to find something where the price goes down and the demand goes up.” Eat People
So, think about that in terms of the businesses I’ve just discussed. Libraries became much more popular during the Recession. They had trouble meeting the demand placed on them by job seekers and people looking for inexpensive entertainment.
In fact, this was beginning to happen at my job. I was working at a university doing immigration work (a pretty specialized process). As time went on the U.S. government has rolled out computerized systems that enable us to do more work…and with the long-term emphasis on aiding the students in managing their own immigration paperwork portal. Making people in my position not as necessary. I should also mention that international students studying in the U.S. grew by quite a bit during the past 5 years.
I may not have like this book, but I would urge people to read it because when I observe what big business is doing-the author is completely right in his observations of what will make money, and how businesses can make money. The key is to figure out how their process affects YOUR job.
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