Dale’s Behavioral Economics & 4th Industrial Revolution

As I think about my inheritance, it’s only reasonable to start with the elephant in the room and acknowledge my white privilege. When I was a child and a young person, I didn’t fully understand the ramifications of that inheritance, but fortunately with time, training, and education, I’m fully aware and passionate about helping change the systemic inequalities that are deeply rooted within our systems.

My first business was a shoe shining business when I was 5 years old. I walked ¾ of a mile to Tony’s Star Market where I would try to shine the “mega-huge” boots of the bread men and milk men that would make deliveries to the store. This is where I learned about rejection and I suspect resiliency too. Certainly, there was an entrepreneurial/marketing/sales spirit within me which I believe also colored my perspective in my early days believing that “everyone” can hustle and make things happen (aka: making money). It was not until later in life, that I learned and understood that while yes, everyone can hustle, but, hustling with a “100-pound brick” tied on your body, tends to slow you down and make it nearly impossible.

My work today is dream-like…full time academic role and part-time consultant! I study theory, share it with young people, and apply it to real world problems all in an effort to #makeabetterfutureforall. In the process, I’m passionate about continuously sharing love, laughter, and learning.

The Commons, not viewed in the usual context of “the commons”, that I’m currently working on, is the Commons of Compassion. As I work with young people and emerging leaders in organizations my focus is on helping leaders achieve what I refer to as healthy employee engagement within their teams. One of the critical leadership ingredients for that is compassion and listening to understand. Given our current climate, I personally find it easy to argue that compassion and our treatment of humanity as a commons has significantly deteriorated.  

As we are in the early stages of the 4th Industrial Revolution, I believe it is critical for us to learn from the first 3 revolutions, and discover new ways (e.g. shared-ownership) to enable more people to participate in the wealth creation and experience less of the negative impacts that will undoubtedly result from the further automation of organizations and our lives. As artificial intelligence, such as Sophia (https://www.hansonrobotics.com/sophia/) and her family members are advanced, the changes in our organizations and communities will be significant. I also think it is important to note that no industry will be untouched by disruptive changes in the 4th Industrial Revolution. Even hospitality, that I think it is easy to think would not see much change, will see many changes. Note that there already exists the Henn-na Hotel in Japan that is operated by AI Robots (https://www.therobotreport.com/henn-na-hotel-a-strange-hotel-staffed-by-robots/). I want to invest my time, labor, and money in creating a 4th Industrial Revolution that is enjoyed by the masses instead of only by a tiny minority.

5 thoughts on “Dale’s Behavioral Economics & 4th Industrial Revolution

  1. Dale, I appreciate your emphasis on compassion. I struggled to name many “commons” in my day to day life, and your post made me reflect on the Commons of Compassion – how it shows up in my life and how it is absent or has been eroded as you suggest. As you reflected on the social movement ecology framework and how it might apply to a shared ownership agenda, do you feel like compassion and listening to understand are critical pieces in the “personal transformation” bucket – or is it a piece threaded throughout? Can we create fulfilling shared ownership models absent compassion? How to we build the muscle of compassion and listening to understand so that we’re better equipped to step into a new reality post-revolution?


    1. Good Morning Sarah,

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful response and critical follow-up questions!!
      Yes, I believe it first starts at the transformational level, but ideally as you point out, it should be threaded throughout.
      When I think of “creating” shared owndership models I think of design-thinking. I’m not sure about the “fulfilling” part of your question yet, but I do know that to design “effective” solutions, one needs to have empathy as illustrated typically as the first step in most design-thinking models. How do we develop this muscle? I think it first starts with an openness to learn and question our assumptions (see Double Loop Learning, Chris Argyris). If we are willing to explore the other side, then I think it is critical to go into the field. It’s easy to sit on an “island” and cast judgement, “if they only did this”, “they are this way because…”, etc. When people go out into the field like an ethnographer without preconceived assertions and work to set aside their biases, they can see a whole new world that they didn’t even know existed.
      As I write this I’m thinking about the Appreciative Inquiry (the other AI) change model. This is intended to be used at the organizational and societal levels. Are you familiar with the methodology? If not, there are a couple of critical components that applies to our discussion…1. Giving voice to the entire system 2. Appreciative based (positive questions). This is a strength based change model rather than a deficit based model looking at everything in a system as a problem that needs to be fixed as opposed to finding points of good that can be leveraged.
      Hopefully, this is making sense and meaningful to you! Have a wonderful weekend, Dale


  2. Hi Dale, I echo your love of the academic life. Leaving Corporate America for my university life was the scariest and smartest move I made. I need to think more deeply about the Commons of Compassion, great concept. Awhile back I started a piece of research (a paper intended for journal publication, but the co-authors screwed up the revise and resubmit)… but the concept was around respect for human dignity as the catalyst for transformation.

    It just seems that people today have completely lost this core tenet of Catholic Social Thought. If we see one another as made in the image and likeness of God, then skin color, gender, sexual preferences, etc., have no bearing. That’s how I was raised, and that’s still how I think, and that’s what leads me to honestly love all souls. I’ve started to promote praying to the guardian angels of the angry protesters I see on TV. Each is made in the image and likeness of God, each has a soul, and each has a guardian angel that I believe needs our support and prayers. Couldn’t be and easy job.


  3. Dale, thanks for introducing me to Sophia. I hadn’t met her before. I appreciated that. I also enjoyed your shoe shine story and your self awareness.

    This line from your post stuck out to me:
    “my focus is on helping leaders achieve what I refer to as healthy employee engagement within their teams”

    Why is this so important to get right?

    What have you experienced with healthy employee engagement within a team?
    What was that like for you?

    I’ve felt liberated, unleashed, able to actualize bold dreams because of a strong team and a deep sense of mutual respect and interdependence… It’s incredibly motivating. I wonder if you described how you’ve felt, how that might help others see the power and why this is your focus. What do you think?

    these lines also stuck out to me:
    “I believe it is critical for us to learn from the first 3 revolutions,”
    “to enable more people to participate in the wealth creation and experience less of the negative impacts”
    “enjoyed by the masses instead of only by a tiny minority”

    They left me curious.
    What is critical for us to learn from the first 3 revolutions?
    What does it look like for more people to participate in the wealth creation? (you share “eg shared ownership models” –> but what does that mean for you? what would your response to weak 3 prompt look like?)

    I feel some of this feels like it’s broad platitudes and I feel like there are rich specifics (like your 5 year old shoe shine story which I love…) under each one of these assertions that are ready to be brought forth into the world?

    What’s holding you back?

    So grateful to have your presence in the workshop. What would make this last week meaningful to you? I know you have limited time — but in the time you can give to it — what would be a final burst of time / energy look like to clinch the experience for you?


    1. “Healthy Employee Engagement” Why is this so important to get right? Because my research and others, along with personal experience illustrates that it is not only smart from a leadership/business perspective, it is morally the right benchmark. I personally believe that when Leaders/Managers are left in place who create toxic environments, while achieving stated KPIs, but doing so by pushing people to the point where they seek medical care is morally wrong. I have seen this in my own research and it can be seen in the work of others (e.g. book, Dying for a Paycheck, Jeffrey Pfeffer.) On the other hand when teams experience healthy engagement, they have a shared often times a co-created shared vision with the leader and they happily go over and above while maintaining a sense of well-being. One factor that contributes to healthy engagement is autonomy. The COVID-19 crisis have forced some micro-managers to relinquish some of their control and give employees what they have long been asking for in the area of more flexibility in where and when they get their work done.

      What is critical for us to learn from the first 3 revolutions? – With each revolution there are of course winners & losers and history has shown that we don’t do a good job helping the losers with the transition. Some would argue that the distruptive nature of the 4th revolution will be more significant than the first 3. According to Klaus Schwab, Found and Executive Chairman of World Economic Forum in his book, Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution, states that we are at a crossroads and, “If we miss this window of opportunity to shape new technologies in ways that promote the common good, enhance human dignity and protect the environment, there is a good chance that the challenges we experience today will only be exacerbated, as narrow interests and biased systems further entrench inequalities and compromise the rights of people in every country”. Because NO industry will be untouched by artificial intelligence and maching learning, the stakes are incredibly high. Just yesterday at the airport I overheard a conversation where the one person travels the country working in manufacturing. He said, “The jobs in manufacturing are now high skilled because the robots have replaced the low skilled jobs. Somebody’s got to know how to handle the robots and machines; that never going to change”. As this shift expands across sectors, what are we going to do with those that are outplaced? It’s easy to see how there could be an exacerbation of wealth creation to a smaller minority.

      What does it look like for more people to participate in the wealth creation? One way it looks is what the Chobani CEO did… https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/chobani-ceo-giving-employees-an-ownership-stake-in-yogurt-empire-674292291768

      What’s holding you back? I think this is similar to what holds organizations back. I have said for years that I think Strategic Planning is relatively easy…envision where you want to be in 3-5 years and state the great things you are going to accomplish…sure. But at the end of the day, it’s about the details…the hard work is in the tactical and operational planning…it comes down to design-thinking, systems-thinking and execution to try to ensure that your triple bottom line vision of the future is realized. For example, in your recent post, if I understood it correctly, 51% of the profits must be distributed to the workers and not for capital investment. What do we do when there are losses or financial insolvency caused by mismanagement not by a crisis such as COVID? How is that impact shared? Is the government going to underwrite all of them and if so, doesn’t that encourage managers to make increasingly riskier decisions, because there is limited downside from their perspective? The devil is always in the details. Great discussion! I hope you find some value in my response! Have a breakthrough week, Dale


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