“And I wasn’t alone. At least that’s what I sensed. Several of my friends and neighbors were making similar moves. They were abandoning traditional jobs to strike out on their own. Some, of course, were keen on building the next great company. But most were thinking smaller. Like me, they were tired and dissatisfied. They just wanted to be in charge of their lives.”
So writes Daniel Pink in his landmark book “Free Agent Nation.”
The thinking goes that many American workers, even those toiling in cubicles, consider themselves self-employed, independent contractors and entrepreneurs who thumb their noses at the false promise of corporate loyalty – a contract sold to Baby Boomers and later reneged on.
In the age of cost-cutting layoffs and sky-high unemployment, it’s best to take charge of your own destiny (or, at least, your own means of earning a living). This doesn’t mean leaving the comfort of your cubicle to chase contracts for services. It means having the mindset that you are ultimately an independent worker.
What is it to be a free agent? Good skills help. Beyond that, a free agent needs tools – and mobile BYOD, or bring-your-own-device, are those tools.
In the past, workers couldn’t really leave a company and strike out on their own. Technology tied them to their desks, both figuratively and literally. Companies owned computers, productivity software, data such as contacts lists, and landline phone numbers.
You could not reach out without the company knowing about it. You could not social network. You could not work from home. You were trapped in a cubicle.
With consumer technology and, to a large extent, consumer apps, a worker can embrace the free agent mindset. BYOD means you own the laptop/tablet/smartphone, most of the software, personal files, and maybe even the phone number.
Most importantly, you are delivering services entirely over your own devices.
BYOD has helped push the pendulum away from corporate control and toward the individual. It’s a scary proposition for many companies whose inventory goes up and down the elevator every day. Companies are feeling the heat. After all, what is there to keep employees from bolting to a competitor?
Companies are trying to tie employees down, deploying draconian BYOD policies and claiming data security trumps employee privacy.
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.