The Purpose BubbleJanuary 12, 2010 Leave a comment
Thanks to the Harvard Bookstore, I had the pleasure of joining some of my IISC colleagues at a Daniel Pink talk last week at the Brattle. In Drive, his latest book, Pink argues that aside from the commonly understood motivators of need and desire for reward, we are specially motivated by our desire for autonomy, purpose and mastery. In his talk, Pink pointed out that the baby boomers are now reaching a stage in life that is defined by purpose, the desire to do something meaningful, to contribute to something grater than their selves.
I suspect that many boomers reading this blog have devoted much of their lives to the work of social change and so they might not be dealing with the same angst. Nevertheless it is worth noting that since boomers comprise the largest population bubble, they are the ones that have defined the last few decades. When they were kids we had the cultural revolution of the 60’s, when they became adults we had the money hungry 80’s, and what was is it that just happened this last decade anyway? Was it their desire to rule the world?
The point is that we are entering a historical moment when the largest portion of our population is looking for meaning in their work – this is of great significance for those of us engaged in the quest for social transformation. We have not quite mastered the art of the multi-generational conversation, but boomers come into this quest for purpose having achieved a certain level of autonomy and mastery in their lives – we could all benefit from their achievement. Meanwhile, on the opposite end of our population curve, we are seeing the fastest rate of growth among young communities of color. If those of us who are in the middle can find a way to bridge these generations, at this particular moment, we would be helping to create the conditions for significant social change.
I often reflect on how much of our work at IISC has to do with helping people to re-learn much of what we have lost. We are learning how to sit in circle together, as our ancestors did, we are having to re-learn how important it is for us to break bread together and get to know one another if we want anything good to happen in the world. It used to be that multiple generations have shared the same household, naturally learning from each other, in our prosperity we have also lost this, but it seems that now is a good time to reclaim it. How do we design spaces, projects and conversations that maximize the benefits that could come from the coming purpose bubble?