The Rise of the Naked Economy: How to Benefit from the Changing Workplace
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The Rise of the Naked Economy: How to Benefit from the Changing Workplace

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by Ryan Coonerty, Jeremy Neuner

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What happens when work is no longer a place but a state of mind: when the trappings that have defined the economy as we knew it are stripped away and we start from the bare essence of what it means to make a living? From corner coffee shops to Fortune 500 companies, workers from all different backgrounds are creating a new reality and prosperity. The…  See more details below


What happens when work is no longer a place but a state of mind: when the trappings that have defined the economy as we knew it are stripped away and we start from the bare essence of what it means to make a living? From corner coffee shops to Fortune 500 companies, workers from all different backgrounds are creating a new reality and prosperity. The Rise of the Naked Economy shows readers how to achieve both personal and professional success in an economy that does not guarantee lifetime employment. Pioneers Coonerty and Neuner report from the front lines on the future of work. From the recently graduated to the recently laid off, this book covers how the rise in non-traditional employment calls for a new infrastructure, strategy, and attitude for workers, companies, and communities alike. Through interviews with the people, companies, and policymakers who are leading the change and already profiting from it, The Rise of the Naked Economy provides an optimistic, humorous, and inspirational vision for readers who want reclaim their lives and livelihoods.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“This provocative and fascinating book is a valuable guide to navigating the changes in the American workforce and economy. Plus, it's fun to read!” —Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of Steve Jobs and CEO of the Aspen Institute

“The Rise of the Naked Economy captures the tremendous challenges and opportunities for the Creative Class as they redefine work. This is a must read for anyone trying to figure how individuals, organizations and communities prosper in the new economy.” —Richard Florida, Professor, University of Toronto and New York University; Editor At Large Atlantic Cities

“The freelance surge is the industrial revolution of our time. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans is working independently. The Rise of the Naked Economy offers an important and optimistic look at how this change can make our economy more productive and our lives more balanced. Read this book -- and join the movement!” —Sara Horowitz, founder of Freelancers Union and author of The Freelancer's Bible

“A refreshing take on how to make the global economy work for you, The Rise of the Naked Economy upends what we know about collaboration, co-working, and what makes businesses today thrive. This is a manifesto for anyone who wants to change the way we work.” —David Gelles, The Financial Times and author of Mindful Work

“How refreshing to receive clear, useful advice about how to thrive in the economy we actually live in, as opposed to the one we long for in the past. The Rise of the Naked Economy will wake you up, inspire you and get you prepared to live, work and prosper in the 21st Century.” —Pamela Slim, author of Escape from Cubicle Nation

“The Rise of the Naked Economy gives a fresh new way to think about our work, our cities, and our society.” —Tony Hsieh, New York Times bestselling author of Delivering Happiness and CEO of, Inc.

“The expectations of this workforce combined with the millennial generation will force the workplace to change. This book gives a leader insights into what makes that new evolved worker tick, and how the change in the marketplace has to occur to unleash this global talent. To figure out how to leverage this talent will be the competitive advantage for any business as our historic ‘contract' with employees is no longer valid. A must read.” —Pat Wadors, VP, Global Talent Organization, LinkedIn

“For anyone engaged in the Innovation Economy, or hoping to better understand today's mobile, agile workforce, The Rise of the Naked Economy is an insightful, interesting and enjoyable read. Ryan Coonerty and Jeremy Neuner translate their insights and experience in the working world to the printed page without missing a beat. I highly recommend it.” —Carl Guardino, President and CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group

“Coonerty and Neuner's examination of the radical shift in the relationship between employer and employee in the new economy is a must read for anyone entering the workforce, and perhaps even more important for those of us who have been here for years. A timely and fascinating book.” —Len Vlahos, Executive Director, Book Industry Study Group

“Workplaces in corporate America are beginning to embrace a whole new way of working that has been pioneered by entrepreneurial individuals. The Rise of the Naked Economy provides the understanding you need to lead your organization or to enter the emerging society of individual entrepreneurs.” —Ken Kannappan, CEO of Plantronics

“The Rise of the Naked Economy has struck a chord. Ryan Coonerty and Jeremy Neuner have encapsulated the changes facing employees and their employers in today's marketplace. It is insightful, humorous, filled with stories and opportunities for instant application. I think it nothing less than revolutionary in how they approach and describe the changes facing our economy.” —Gayle Shanks, co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore

“A fascinating look at the workplace revolution, The Rise of the Naked Economy is filled with compelling stories about people creating and pursuing work in innovative ways. Coonerty and Neuner aren't just thinking outside the box, they're imaging a world without boxes. And after reading their book, you'll be as excited as they clearly are about this brave new world.” —Allison Hill, President/COO, Vroman's Bookstore

“Ryan Coonerty and Jeremy Neuner offer a way out of the boredom and anxiety of life and work trapped in a cubicle. Lively, timely, and wise.” —Evan Thomas, Ferris Professor of Journalism, Princeton University, and author of Ike's Bluff

bestselling author of Steve Jobs and CEO of the As Walter Isaacson

This provocative and fascinating book is a valuable guide to navigating the changes in the American workforce and economy. Plus, it's fun to read!
founder of Freelancers Union and author of The Fre Sara Horowitz

The freelance surge is the industrial revolution of our time. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans is working independently. The Rise of the Naked Economy offers an important and optimistic look at how this change can make our economy more productive and our lives more balanced. Read this book -- and join the movement!

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
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6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

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The Rise of the Naked Economy

How to Benefit from the Changing Workplace

By Ryan Coonerty, Jeremy Neuner

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2013 Ryan Coonerty and Jeremy Neuner
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-137-35658-1



"Free Your Mind ... And Your Ass Will Follow." — Funkadelic album title


At 33, Shane Pearlman has surfed some of the best breaks in the world, authored a nationally recognized city policy, finished a couple of triathlons, and started a company and a family. But his Dreams List, as he calls it, won't let him rest.

He still has to get within 20 feet of an orca in the wild and surf the Amazon tidal bore (ideally not at the same time).

He still has to have lunch with a billionaire and get a Christmas card from the White House.

He still has to dance at his daughter's wedding, teach his grandkids how to fly a kite, and court his wife until the day he dies.

It's a lot to do, but every day he wakes up and gets a little more of it done. To keep track and stay on schedule, he writes these and hundreds of other goals down in a square black notebook. It's the first thing this entrepreneur reaches for whenever he needs to decide how to schedule his time. Inside that notebook is a running checklist that he's kept for a decade, of goals, dreams, and plans, grand and mundane, personal and professional.

This notebook not only is how he guides his days and nights but also will be how he determines, when he is sitting on his porch surrounded by grandkids half a century from now, whether he lived a life worth living.

The notebook was born during Shane's "quarter-life crisis," when, just out of college, he was laid off five times in two years. Struggling to make sense of a work world for which he had prepared but that didn't seem to want him, Shane turned to a mentor, who suggested he change his perspective — away from the kind of job he needed and toward the kind of life he wanted. It was then that he purchased the notebook, for putting his aspirations down on paper, and his days shifted from chasing elusive job security to finding fulfillment.

Now he returns to the notebook every month or so to check off his accomplishments, add more goals, and erase what is no longer relevant. As he explains, "I think the deepest value of the Dreams List is that it is a road map. Not so much to judge success in the past but provide a series of destinations that allows you to make more intentional choices at the many crossroads that life offers." Four times a year his company holds a retreat during which he urges his partners to judge their success by their own notebooks. This kind of rigorous introspection and peer accountability is what Shane believes gives meaning to his day, makes him driven and focused and, most of all, happy.

He did not win the lottery, he hasn't got a trust fund, and his company has not gone public. He is a middle-class family man with the responsibilities many of us have — a mortgage, child care, and a spouse who was laid off and is looking for a new career. He has to work just like the rest of us.

Yet because he made having a good life a priority, he went from being chronically laid off to a thriving career niche running a technical talent agency that works with other freelancers for local start-ups and Fortune 500 companies. The work is designed to conform to his life, or, as he puts it, "I plan my life, then my work. That's why I call it a lifestyle business," which he defines as "enough money to have choices and enough time to do the things that make life worth living."


Such a life seemed just as impossible to him a few years ago as it may feel to many of us today, when the rules of work are 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, with a couple of weeks of vacation a year and the near-constant requirement to be available by phone, instant messaging, or e-mail. At the time, Shane was following the model of what it means to "go to work" that we collectively have followed for a couple of generations. The model worked for a lot of people, including both of Shane's parents, who worked nearly their entire lives as engineers for one company. He expected to take a similar path and, like millions of his contemporaries, have a similar outcome — the stable job, nice house, and 2.5 kids who then work hard and do better than their parents.

"I went to college. I got the A's that I was supposed to get. I got the degree. I had the family that could guide me, support me, mentor me, that had the connections," he said. "I really had all the right cards."

He may have had the right cards, but the game had changed. In 1999, when he first entered the workforce, Shane, an anthropology major who had taught himself how to write computer code, chose the notoriously volatile Silicon Valley dotcom industry to begin his career. In "the Valley," an employee's experience was much more gold rush than gold watch: the postwar model of catching on with a paternalistic blue-chip firm, putting in your 30 years, and retiring to take up fly-fishing on a generous pension was already disappearing.

Today, companies in all sectors of the post-globalization world economy are taking their cues from the Silicon Valley way of work, which has been aptly described by the New York University sociologist Dalton Conley as "work constantly, live uneasily." As a result we are quickly changing from a world of payroll employees to a world of independent free agents.

Shane learned this the hard way. He bounced from jobs in education to high tech. In every position he worked hard and was committed, but after five successive layoffs it became apparent to him that he was trading his freedom — the ability to live a life that included surfing in the middle of the day or just hanging out with his wife — for the illusory security of a "real job." If the game had changed, it was time to make a new set of rules, but this time on his terms.


The rules of work have changed. Fundamental leaps in technology, demographics, and economics are driving a once-a-century shift in how, when, where, and why we work. The traditional way of making a living is not only increasingly untenable but undesirable. The whens and wheres of the new workplace still matter, but increasingly the bigger questions are the hows and the whys.

Workers are almost always the first victims of seismic economic upheavals, but people like Shane will tell you that they don't have to be. For those workers who want to clock their 40 hours for "the Man" and devote their free time to watching ESPN and adorable cat videos on YouTube, letting someone else worry about China and Wall Street, the news is not good. In the age of globalization, companies are under intense pressure to find more and more efficiencies in the way they do business. Using new platforms, they will be able to find people for specific tasks on demand and do it far more easily and inexpensively than hiring just the right person for a career.

Consider the observation by the Princeton economist Alan Blinder that almost 30 percent of the jobs in the United States, including lawyers, accountants, and other traditional "good jobs," can be outsourced. Even those jobs that aren't outsourced will be done differently. Companies like LiveOpps, Elance, TaskRabbit, and Mechanical Turk are investing hundreds of millions in building platforms that aggregate human talent globally on a task-by-task basis. LiveOpps, a company of 300 employees, contracts with more than 20,000 people to run virtual call centers out of people's homes and on their schedules. Those numbers pale in comparison to Amazon's Mechanical Turk, which uses more than 100,000 workers from 100 countries to perform specific tasks for an average of $1.40 an hour.

Successful workers in the new century are those who will adopt an entrepreneurial mind-set, because essentially that's what they'll have to be. Entrepreneur is a term that is gradually losing its elitist mystique, which is a good thing. The self-employment guru Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup, used to live in Sierra Leone, where he learned a thing or two at the village marketplaces. "In West Africa, everybody's an entrepreneur," he said.

Luckily, there has never been a better time in history to be an entrepreneur. The barriers to starting a new business have dramatically fallen away, and in many cases the capital outlay and risk are minimal. Just ask teenager Maddie Bradshaw of Dallas, who started a multimillion-dollar business selling designer bottle cap magnets in 2006 from her kitchen table and still found time to be on the school's swim team. Or YouTube "stars" who are pulling down six figures performing in their living rooms and virtual CEOs running companies from their boats in the Bahamas. As the myth of job security with a big company begins to fade, the American Dream will again recalibrate to something similar to what it originally was — the dream of being in charge of your own destiny.


The vanguard of workers is taking a different approach to work and life. The stark demarcations between work time and leisure time, between professional life and private life, will soon become as antique as three-piece suits and fax machines. Instead workers will integrate their participation in the economy with their desire for a good life, leading to more introspection about the meaning of work and demand that it serve a higher purpose.

This is at the center of Shane Pearlman's life and business strategy. Over time he has gone from a freelance web developer to running a small army of website coders, designers, and developers with his partner, Peter Chester. To keep the company true to their ideals, they periodically take a step back from day-to-day business in order to refocus on the long view using what they call the "Six F's": family, friends, finance, fitness, faith, and fun. The hours he and Peter spend surfing, training for triathlons, and tending to their young families are not, in their view, parts of a private life they keep in a separate Tupperware container from their work life. They are means of fulfillment and self-improvement that lead directly to a more productive business life and vice versa.

Recent studies have demonstrated that creativity and effectiveness in the workplace require more, not less, time off and that sitting at a desk will literally take years off your life. If Shane and Peter's team thinks that any of the "Six F's" are out of whack, they will turn down work, give team members more time off, and generally try to bring their lives back into balance. This keeps everyone happy, productive, and profitable.

For older generations of workers, finding a job was everything. For people today finding a direction is increasingly more important. So what are the implications of having a workforce determined to be something other than cogs in the corporate machine?

For the traditional workplace the implications are profound. For generations "the office" has been the central focus of work life, as well as the primary place for encountering the world outside the home — why do you think so many television comedies and dramas are set in one version or another of The Office?

Technology has removed the primary justification for workers to be in one physical space at one set time. In that sense, the laptop, tablet, and smart phone have become genuine tools of liberation. According to the market research firm International Data Corporation, there will be more than 1.3 billion mobile workers — workers who can work anywhere — by 2015. That is 37 percent of the global workforce. What happens to the gross national product when workers don't have to commute in carbon-spewing vehicles and sit in soul-crushing traffic, when companies don't have to invest in cubicle farms to warehouse bitter workers who could easily do their jobs from their kitchen tables or neighborhood parks? What happens to family life when Mom and Dad don't have to set schedules with military precision to get to work, soccer games, dance recitals, and the occasional rushed family dinner?

Millions of workers are already fashioning more favorable schedules for themselves in places of their own choosing. A 2012 survey commissioned by Wrike, a project management company, found that 83 percent of respondents reported working from home for at least part of their workday and 66 percent believed that their office could be completely virtual within the next five years. The Naked Economic revolution has begun.


We see the Naked Economy everyday in our business, NextSpace. NextSpace is a coworking company that (as of this writing) operates seven coworking spaces around California. What is coworking? The traditional office, for all its gross inefficiencies, still offers the valuable resource of face-to-face camaraderie. So a new industry began a few years ago to provide self-styled work spaces for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and other independent professionals — the Shane Pearlmans of the world — where they could engage with other humans on their own terms and schedule.

We stumbled on coworking in 2008, when we, as the mayor and economic development manager, respectively, for the City of Santa Cruz, California, were looking for a new way to do economic development and provide a place for the increasing number of talented citizens trying to find a way to stay employed and live in our coastal community. When we saw our coffee shops full of people with laptops working for companies and for themselves, we decided it was time to flip our economic model on its outdated head: instead of attracting one 200-person company to Santa Cruz, we would create a space for 200 one-person companies.

Jeremy quit his job, we wrote a business plan, raised money, and joined the coworking movement, opening our first NextSpace. Our spaces provide hip, comfortable, professional work spaces — desks, café tables, comfy couches, speedy Internet, shared printers, and all the tea, coffee, and other caffeine-delivery devices that you can consume — along with a professional collaborative community of people who are living, breathing, and succeeding in this new economy.

This focus on collaborative community is the driving force behind our business. NextSpace members don't need cubicles, corporate campuses, 401(k) plans, and the other golden handcuffs of the modern economy to be successful. But they do need each other.

Take the story of a scrappy little mobile application company called Fuel 4 Humans. NextSpace member Renata de LaRocque is a nutritionist who works independently to help people with diabetes make better choices about their diets. Given the enormous rise of diabetes in the United States, Renata knew she was serving a huge and growing market. To serve that market, grow her business, and, she hoped, make a better living, Renata needed a way to reach more clients. A friend told her that she should build an iPhone app that tells people with diabetes what they should buy in the grocery store. A great idea, Renata told herself. But she's a nutritionist and doesn't know the first thing about creating mobile apps.

So Renata found fellow NextSpace member Einar Vollset, a former computer science professor at Cornell University who left academia to hop on the mobile applications bandwagon as a freelance programmer. Einar doesn't know the first thing about nutrition or diabetes, but he can build iPhone apps in his sleep. When the app was finished, both Einar and Renata realized that it needed a logo and an icon before they could submit it to the Apple app store.

Of course neither knew a thing about graphic design. But NextSpace member Eric Ressler, the principal at a small graphic design studio called Cosmic, knew plenty about design and quickly ginned up an icon for the app. Pleased with her progress so far, Renata told herself, "Wow, Fuel 4 Humans could be bigger than I thought! I should probably start a new legal entity around Fuel 4 Humans so it can be a real company." So she found Ian Stock, a corporate attorney and NextSpace member. Ian was a partner in a few high-flying law firms in New York, Paris, and Silicon Valley but left the rat race to start a solo practice called Entreprelaw. Ian did the legal work for Renata quicker than you can say "limited liability." And, through the collective efforts of four very different people with four different but complementary skill sets, Fuel 4 Humans was born. They each used their skill sets, worked collaboratively in a place and in a manner that worked for their lives, and maintained their sanity and humanity in the process.


Excerpted from The Rise of the Naked Economy by Ryan Coonerty, Jeremy Neuner. Copyright © 2013 Ryan Coonerty and Jeremy Neuner. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Ryan Coonerty is the co-founder and Chief Strategist for NextSpace. He served two terms as the Mayor of Santa Cruz, California and was selected by the Aspen Institute as "one of the nation's most promising young leaders." Ryan teaches constitutional law at the University of California, Santa Cruz and is the author of Etched in Stone: Enduring Words from Our Nation's Monuments.
Jeremy Neuner is the co-founder and CEO of NextSpace, where he and his team are leading the charge in the future of work. Before that, he was a Navy pilot, a management consultant, and a local government official. Jeremy spent time as a fellow at the Aspen Institute's Business and Society program where he studied the future of work with leaders of Fortune 500 companies.

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The Rise of the Naked Economy: How to Benefit from the Changing Workplace 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Rise of the Naked Economy describes the transition from the traditional conception of the workplace to an entrepreneurial mindset; an evolution coursing through society and radically changing its infrastructure, as well as strategies and attitudes of companies, workers and the communities in which they operate. As a college student destined to inherit the current state of the economy, the notion that the workplace will gradually cease to provide a guaranteed paycheck and the benefits generations before us have enjoyed, is daunting to say the least. However Coonerty and Nuener's uplifting humour and optimism is contagious. Through a multiplicity of anecdotes from individuals and groups whose experiences demonstrated mastery of the burgeoning economy, they work to describe not only how to survive in the naked, unpredictable economy but how to thrive. In demonstrating how to achieve personal and professional success in the nascent shifting economy, Coonerty and Neuener effectively diminish the fear of uncertainty and replace it with an excitement for the opportunities of freedom and the escape from the cubicle. This book is a must-read for current college students, and at around 250 pages in the middle of summer there's not really an excuse! The read is enjoyable and inspirational as well as being informative and illuminating.