'We are faced with a tug-of-war between our desire for a separate identity and our need for combination. We want to be ourselves, but, to survive in a bigger world, we also need to be part of something bigger. Fleas need elephants, just as elephants need fleas to keep them alert and dancing. 'This applies to my own life story, as I found elephants too imprisoning to my eventual freedom as a flea. But the idea also applies to economies who need both, to business which has to structure itself to allow fleas to co-exist with the elephants, to society which needs to encourage individualism but needs the conformity of the elephant, to education, to religion, to marriage and other relationships, and to all people seeking to structure their lives.'
In this new work, Charles Handy, the brilliant social philosopher and management guru, examines the questions that face us at the start of a new age. Using the metaphor of the Elephant and the Flea he discusses the future of everything from education, work and marriage, to capitalism, management, religion and society. He carefully considers the balancing act that both individuals (fleas) and larger organizations (elephants) will face in the next twenty years.
Increasingly technological advances mean the disappearance of the middle; or disintermediation. This means that many careers will radically transform or vanish altogether in the coming decades. If vacationers can go on-line to access all their travel information they wont need travel agents. If a patient can access a diagnosis on the net, and purchase medication through a dot.com drug store, then the need for doctors will plummet.
Handy explores the significance of the vast changes we can expect, and those already here, brought about by the democratic power of the internet. He suggests that many people will learn to develop a portfolio career, expecting to change directions dramatically throughout their lives. A multitude of fleas & consultants, suppliers, sub-contractors, and advisers will support larger organizations, without being full-time employees. The office, Handy predicts, will become more of a club house, with luxurious meeting rooms, gyms, and even overnight accommodations. And that transformation will change even the look of our city skylines.