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Posted October 26, 2001
Powerful Insights for Free Agents AND Employers
Reading this book was irritating! I've developed a habit of turning down the corners of pages when something on that page is particularly interesting to me. I discovered that I was turning down practically every page of Free Agent Nation! Daniel Pink has accomplished what most readers of non-fiction books desire: he's put solid value on almost every page. Your thoughts will be constantly stimulated as you move through this book. Our lives have changed substantially since William Whyte wrote The Organization Man in 1956. The work environment experienced by today's generation-and tomorrow's-is radically different. Instead of being captives of the organizational mode, income-earners are now free agents, including some 30 million freelancers, temps, and microbusiness owners. The lifestyles and philosophies of this growing group will impact the labor pool, retirement, education, real estate, and politics. Daniel Pink's name will go down in literary history for Free Agent Nation because he has so effectively covered the underlying philosophy of a generation. Free Agent Nation, an engaging, smooth read, is organized into five parts. The first part introduces us to what Free Agent Nation is all about. Chapter 2 gets right into 'Numbers and Nuances' to give the reader a deep understanding. Chapter 3 explains how free agency happened. 'Four ingredients were essential: 1) the social contract of work-in which employees traded loyalty for security-crumbled; 2) individuals needed a large company less, because the means of production-that is, the tools necessary to create wealth-went from expensive, huge, and difficult for one person to operate to cheap, houseable, and easy for one person to operate; 3) widespread, long-term prosperity allowed people to think of work as a way not only to make money, but also to make meaning; 4) the half-life of organizations began shrinking, assuring that most individuals will outlive any organization for which they work.' Part Two explores The Free Agent Way, the new relationship between worker and employer. Part Three gets into How (and Why) Free Agency Works. Pink explains how people get connected-with work opportunities and with each other. While many free agents work alone, they are not alone. There is a growing community of mutually-supportive independent members in an evolving new design of society. But, all is not rosy in Free Agent Nation; this is not Camelot. Part Four examines the problems that arise from laws, taxes, and insurance. An interesting chapter (13) on Temp Slaves, Permatemps, and the Rise of Self-Organized Labor reveals the seedier side of this picture. Pay careful attention, and you can almost feel the changes that are coming. Part Five engages The Free Agent Future. Chapter 14 addresses E-tirement, confirming that older members of our society will be playing much different roles than in previous generations. The chapter on Education gives some initial insight into some different approaches to lifelong learning. Educators take note: your lives will be changing . . . are you ready? Concluding chapters explore free agent finance, politics, and how free agency will influence commerce, careers, and community in the years ahead. With all that said, let's take a look at who the author is and how this book was put together. Daniel Pink is a former White House speech writer and Contributing Editor to Fast Company magazine. To research this topic, he invested more than a year on the road conducting face-to-face interviews with several hundred citizens of the Free Agent Nation. He met with real people, who are quoted and cited by name in most cases. The text comes alive with the insightful stories of people who are living-and often loving-their free agent status. These case studies are beautifully interwoven, producing a delightful fabric for the reader to caress. Warning: you'll find your mind leaving the page and floating into day dreams and contemplations numerous times. ToWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 30, 2001
How the Talented Are Creating a Better Life
The term, free agent, is borrowed from sports. It describes the players who are most talented and for whom other teams bid. As a result, they often command enormous salaries, perks, and influence. Recently, the term has been applied to people like free lance software programmers who are sought after because of their special expertise. In Free Agent Nation, the term is applied more broadly to describe all those who rely on project assignments outside of being directly and permanently employed by someone else. This group includes lots of professional free lancers as well as people who work through temporary agencies with few skills at deadly dull tasks. The ideal in the 1950s was to work for one employer, to be loyal to that employer and to receive loyalty in return. Steady progress would follow as seniority grew. Keeping the ship afloat came before the individual's needs. This world was described in the classic book, The Organization Man by William H. Whyte, Jr. Since then the world has changed quite a bit, and Daniel H. Pink's Free Agent Nation is the conscious updating of the working ideal to reflect today's growing free lance economy. This ideal emphasizes freedom, work satisfaction, flexibility, accountability, self-defined markers of success, and being authentic in your own eyes. It's the ultimate of wanting to do good and to do well. Mr. Pink draws on his own experiences, hundreds of interviews with free agents, qualitative surveys, and his review of the literature on this subject to weave together the best integrated story on how independent work is becoming a norm as well as an ideal in the United States. Mr. Pink's strength is that he is a great communicator. He deftly weaves his various sources into a tautly connected story that will make sense to anyone who reads it or has lived it. He connected quite a few dots for me that I have never thought of as being connected before. The book will be of most value to those who are thinking about leaving traditional employment to become a free agent. Free Agent Nation does a good job of describing what the benefits are once you have made the shift. On the other hand, the book almost totally ignores the difficult transitions that most people go through. If you are looking for advice on how to make the shift, some of what is in here will help, but you would do well to talk to some people who are doing what you would like to do first in order to get their ideas on how to transition. The book describes who the free agents are, estimates how many of them there are (a lot more than you probably suspect), how this work style emerged, and why people like it. Essentially, the model described here is a return to the agrarian model of a family growing its own food and always being in close touch. The main change is that people use technology to work from their own homes to meet their material needs rather than farming. Mr. Pink also connects this trend to the rise in home schooling, by showing the traditional school and university to be more similar to the factory model than today's society and economy. The best part of the book for me was the description of how people are making free agency work and the problems they run into. Basically, loyalty is being reborn into loyalty to a rolodex of contacts and clients rather to an employer. An infrastructure is being built up to support free agents (from Kinko's to agents and coaches). Increasingly, two free agents head a family with children. In these cases, the children (such as Mr. Pink's daughter) don't understand that some people have offices outside the home. The weakest part of the book is his scenarios of the possible future for free agents. He is closest in his estimation that free agency will probably eliminate retirement to the rocker on the porch. It is less clear to me that high schools and prestigious universities will be eliminated by home education and on-line learning. His speculations about being able toWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.