In Greek mythology, Daedalus, father of Icarus and a master craftsman, fashioned a set of wings for both himself and his son to escape from prison. The wings were affixed with wax and Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun. However, delighted by his magical ability to fly, Icarus disobeyed and flew too high. Consequently, the wax melted, Icarus lost his wings, fell into the sea and died.
Lessons learned: “Don’t disobey your dad, don’t imagine that you are better than you are and don’t believe that you are able to do what a God might do.”
In The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?, Seth Godin reminds us about a part of that myth that we were not told. Daedalus also told his son not to fly too low or too close to the sea since the water would ruin the lift in his wings.
Society, the ‘industrial economy’ in particular, altered the myth and created a culture where we constantly remind ourselves about the dangers of standing up, standing out and making a ruckus. But, as we are now living the ‘connection economy’ it is far more dangerous to fly too low for both ourselves and those who depend on us and might benefit from our work. Creating innovation and ideas that spread and connect the disconnected are the pillars of our new society, a society which celebrates art.
What does it mean to create art in the connection economy? “Forget Salvador Dalì…art isn’t painting,” Godin says.
Everyone’s an artist
We all are artists when seizing new ground and are able to make connections between people and ideas. As artists we can give value to the network, connect people to one another, people to organisations and people to ideas. “It is the bridges between people that generate value, and those bridges are built by art,” Godin writes.
In the connection economy the challenge is to produce valuable information, earn trust and innovate often. We are required to make meaning and create work that is worth connecting to. In fact, the industrial age which was based on compliance and cementing power, an age where we were instructed to replicate and maintain the status quo is now over.
Also, while the industrialisation was all about eliminating risks, the book explains that we are now required to take courage, be brave and move away from the comfort zone into the unknown.
Originality and art in the connection age are not a choice any more since it is impossible to make connections without them. They have now become our new safety zone characterised by unpredictability, but also the joy of connection and humanity.
What matters now are ‘trust’, ‘permission’, ‘remarkability’, ‘leadership’, ‘stories that spread’ and ‘humanity’. These assets are about not fitting in and not duplicating but inventing. They result from brave decisions and even internal trauma because connection involves opening ourselves to others and creating vulnerable moments. “An artist is someone who uses bravery, insight, creativity and boldness to challenge the status quo.” While the industrial economy was built on physical labor this current economy is built on emotional labor, bringing both joy and fear on the table.
The connection economy has therefore revolutionised the meaning of going to work because in order to create value we are required to unlock our ability to make an impact, make a difference and have a point of view. This “is not a trap. It is an opportunity,” Godin writes.
Seizing the opportunity
In fact, there are now countless paths available to each of us and to those whom we would like to serve. The forgotten part of the Icarus myth is therefore a reminder to avoid selling ourselves too short and honor the opportunities in front of us while challenging ourselves. Our opportunity is not in being momentarily popular with the anonymous masses but in doing and taking care of a work that matters to the ones we choose to make a difference to.
With that, our job is to ask ourselves: “Where is there an opportunity for us to make an impact? Is it interesting? Is this the best I can do?” We commit to it and, if our art is not working, “then make better art,” Godin suggests. This implies accepting the idea of possible failure as part of this journey together with the acceptance of imperfection.
The implications for those organisations that want to grow and create value in this connection economy are therefore to look for people with this kind of attitude; those “with grit.” Rather than looking for those who do nothing to break the rules – who are also the ones very unlikely to make a difference and innovate because of their fears to challenge the status quo – organisations should encourage and celebrate people who care, stand for something and commit to it, and create the artists!
Put simply, Godin writes, “You are capable of making a difference. You are capable of making art.”
To conclude, I believe that Godin’s suggestions couldn’t be more beneficial and applicable to the internal communications industry. This is the time for internal communicators to demonstrate their value by innovating and creating a workplace where employees can connect and receive a meaningful work experience, while adding value to the organisation’s internal networks. As a result, everyone achieves a shared understanding of purpose while carrying out a strong spirit of collaboration. Godin hits the right notes and surely they’re ones which communicators can play.
This article originally appeared on simply-communicate