I wanted to call this article “The end of professions: consequence of prize models in design and beyond”, but it seemed a bit stuffy. That’s what we’re talking about though: job loss as a result of prize models.
Let me start with a context relevant to my blog and to me: 99designs, a community of participants that compete to design logos, brochures, websites and everything else in-between. If you’ve heard of it, you might like how 99designs works, but then again you might hate it. Most professional designers hate it, most startups love it. But wherever you fall in line is irrelevant: what matters is your future bottom line. Why future? Because the model of 99designs is being foisted across many business spectrums, under a different name: contest.
Contests are cool, but they sure don’t place a lot of value on the participants. As a contestant, you are likely to lose, statistically speaking. But for the creator, they get a nice piece of action to the tune of LOADS of FREE WORK, under the guise of “competition”. It’s like dangling a piece of meat over a cage of animals (or carrots over rabbits if you prefer.)
Make no mistake, companies don’t hold contests because they think it bolsters some meaningful value system. They do it because it’s the best damned free labor model out there, besides slavery. Slavery is illegal though, duh.
"So what? Why should I care?"
You might be asking yourself that question. Perhaps your job doesn’t fall into this category and you think you’re in a magic realm of security and prosperity.
It does. You aren’t.
And if it isn’t now, it will be later, I can guarantee that. All employees at some point felt they had job security, and now look at our economies. If it’s not outsourcing it’s automation through software or robots. If it’s not MBAs looking for a McDonald’s job, it’s swathes of small-town communities being swallowed up by corporate overlords.
In light of all this, how could anyone ever deceive themselves into believing they’re completely safe?
When a hydraulic arm and processor or as a friend of mine put it “a few lines of code in a shell script” can replace a person, what irrational mode of thinking could possibly give us the inclination that our job is forever safe?
Just wait. Corporations want a more efficient bottom line. And they’ll get it, if they get to run things their way. And corporations ain’t big on returning the favor. They are forever bent towards bottom lines.
Job loss on the rise: trending as we speak
We’re already seeing plenty of evidence to support this. Many factors show signs of economic recoveries in various sectors and in various ways. But the jobs aren’t one of those factors. Unemployment rates are still trying to recover. Check it out here, here and here.
After you’ve read those fully validated and completely on-point articles, you’ll see one simple “algorithm”:
- The economy sucks: things implode, explode and everything in between.
- Companies losing money seek to adjust their bottom line. The first defense in this day and age is ALWAYS automation (initial investment < total life cycle output)
- Companies continue on more efficient and able to continue, while those left by the wayside are SOL.
There is a fourth step, but it’s not usually instantaneous: a vacuum has been created, and as Parkinson’s law states, nature hates a vacuum. This vacuum consists of those disenfranchised folks who’ve just been shafted.
They gotta go somewhere. Where they go, depends many, many variables. The government will likely have to pick up that slack and those savings get passed on in one way or another.
It’s not fair to the taxpayers, and it sure as hell isn’t fair to those recently unemployed.
Back to "stompetition" and what it means in light of the trends
So we’ve established the trends are working against the common person. They are in favor of corporate overgrowth and the further automation and standardization of the workforce. What does that have to do with competitions and crowd-sourcing?
First and foremost, it directly influences the entire definition of that job type in question. Where once a consultant existed, now only a contestant remains. When we re-define something, it means we change it’s meaning. Over time, “99designs” and it’s ilk WILL become the status-quo. When this happen, the “art” of design will have become severely twisted and re-defined. Quantity over quality will reign supreme.
This goes for any other competition based job. Whether it’s programming, writing or legal advice, those too, have followed the model of crowd-sourcing. And it’s only spreading. I agree it helps keep people on their competitive edge, but there is no fallback for anyone. It’s still a dog-eat-dog world, and we haven’t learned to create a “compassionate bottom line” for everyone to rest on. With all this automation, you’d think we’ve plenty of resources to help each other out.
But the opposite is true. Automation in the workplace and corporate environments have converged and it has not been a boon for the average citizen. It has merely widened the divide of poor to rich. Perhaps that is the natural “flow” like osmosis for business.
But I think we can do better than this. Don’t you?
Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m sure others have mentioned it elsewhere too.