Meaningplace, the Future of Work

Marketplaces, Meetingplaces and Meaningplaces

In addition to being aware of the marketplace where things are sold, and meetingplaces where people connect, another critically important place which addresses identity and existential angst is the MeaningPlace.

Big box stores and internet sales are the fastest growing part of  B to C (business to consumer) retail. And connectivity advances have dramatically increased the number and variety of meeting places which impacts how we work together to  collaborate. Meaningplaces, places that create or support meaning are equally important to the Future of Work.

Small retailers have the emotionally valuable ability to recognize and acknowledge customers, something big box stores and online sales outlets have a hard time doing creating business opportunity.  Additionally the criticality of attracting and retaining a quality workforce is dependent upon providing a meaningplace, something great tech companies like Google do exceedingly well.

As we are accelerating toward IoT (the internet of things) and the commoditization of everything, emotionally engaging customers and staff becomes increasingly critical because without emotional relevancy there is no engagement. Although  we like to believe our world is rational, experience tells us otherwise.  People make most if not all decisions emotionally. Emotional engagement impacts all decisions. Companies that are meaningplaces sell more and hire better people.

A meaning place, is a place where a person can create meaning, either alone or with others. Public places which support meaning, often through community, include schools, libraries, museums, parks, beaches and other venues supporting nature and / or culture. Public places that can support meaning are often small local retail establishments, where proprietors recognize, acknowledge and serve customers. In many retail places customers create meaning for themselves simply by being there. Some examples are bookstores, food establishments, and nurseries which provide nurture through knowledge, meals, and plants.

One group needing to pay more attention to this is Main Street America as it is in crisis. Small privately owned stores experiencing increased overhead in many dimensions are particularly hurt by new forms of competition driving down their margins at the same their costs are going up. The net impact of globalization and large entity domestic retail competition is reducing the sustainability of small local businesses.

Local stores need to reinvent their business to stay in the game. People agree that local business plays a significant role in response to local needs and has a “hometown advantage” over big store chains. To use this advantage, local business owners build one-on-one relationships with their customers to get to know more than just their buying preferences. Humans derive much meaning through conversational exchanges with those they have good relationships with. In general meaning requires in-person relationship building accelerates rapport and rapport.

It does not have to take much time or money to create meaning and there is no substitute. Saving money to accumulate more items does not make our lives better or more meaningful. As people age relationships become more important than milestones. People become more important than projects. Those who have meaning in their lives  live longer and live better.  Actively creating meaningplaces for ourselves and for others is one of the most powerful activities we can engage in publicly, professionally and personally.

And in case you were wondering what this has to do with innovation – the act of innovating is one of the very best ways to create meaning for yourself and for others.