Agency 3.0

If the ‘agency’ of the mid 20th century was about Mad Men (1.0) and the early part of the 21st century followed a path of human centred thinking (2.0), then the new epoch will be defined by focussing on life centred approaches (3.0). This will evolve from both a need (problems) and emerging thinking where nature leads, and the living system is the model, where firms are more organisms within ecologies rather than cogs in a machine. The living system analogy is in stark contrast to the mechanistic binary framing of the 20th century with its dominant pursuit of efficiency. However, much of the old thinking and system will fold into the new as much of it is a ‘both/and’, not an ‘either/or’.   

The Oxford economist Eric Beinhocker in his attempt to re-think capitalism identifies that “the economy provides solutions to human problems”. He goes further to state that the “purpose of firms is to make products and services that solve human problems”. With the climate and ecological breakdown starting to bite across the globe, the question becomes will our economy be able to adapt and focus on solving these and other associated problems? If this switch occurs, how does the organisation of the near future respond to solve these problems?

A transformation is needed in response to the threats we face from ecological and climate breakdown which are currently undermining our prosperity. The answer lies in solutions; not a single silver bullet but solutions that ripple through all facets of life. Agency 3.0 will need to work to create ways of stitching to new value by forming connections and reimagining what a regenerative future will need.

It is no longer a 20th century question of innovate for innovation’s sake, you need to innovate in the right direction and create the conditions to select for regenerative solutions over degenerative ones. It will be driven by intellect, heart, and purpose.

Agency 3.0 will dwell comfortably in the problem space as this is how we solve the real problems. Two types of solutions exist: those that respond to the problems created by the old system and those that create the new system and by doing so move us forward. These latter solutions are multifaceted, generative, and bring humanity one step closer back towards the living system. 

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