My life shifted in 1999.

That was the year TiVo launched the world’s first DVR.

Prior to the release of TiVo, all of my TV entertainment was confined to specific boundaries. Like everyone else, I had to be available on the specific day at the specific time and have specific access in order to participate.

I didn’t even realize how tiring and frustrating it was. And then TiVo descended like an angel from heaven (for $14.99 per month).

It gave me freedom.

It was a freedom I didn’t know I was missing and I didn’t realize I needed. But I was and I did.

The DVR allowed me to perform the same TV-watching behavior I was doing previously, but now it was on my time, at my pace, with less pressure.

I no longer had to meet entertainment’s schedule. Entertainment got shifted to meet my schedule.

I was happy to pay more for that freedom.

The freedom of choice is more important than the cost to have that choice.

In the end, I began watching more tv than before.

I wasn’t alone.

A 2011 study by the Leichtman Research Group found that DVRs led to a 25% increase in the amount of time people spent watching TV shows. Nielsen did a similar study and got similar results, which is a nice confirmation of the seemingly obvious.

Increased freedom actually increased the behavior.

The shift was on.

Virtual Learning

When I went to college, we had to physically show up for class. Like sit in a seat and listen to a lecture. That type of “show up.”

It was brutal.

I am still scarred from those winter walks to my early morning math class. I’d have to drag myself out of my cozy warm bed and trudge across campus through 8-foot snow drifts and a biting wind that froze my spine with sub-zero temperatures.

I feared that in my fatigue I’d fall into a snowdrift and freeze to death, not to be discovered until the May thaw like some long lost caveman.

Inevitably I’d get to the classroom and, inevitably, it was swelteringly hot from the blazing furnace, and inevitably I’d fall asleep in my seat within 10 minutes of the professor beginning their lecture.

It sucked.

Shouldn’t I have just stayed in bed?

About a decade after I graduated, professors around the country began recording their lectures.

Suddenly students could watch the class lectures on their own time, without having to show up in the classroom like us older generations were brutally forced to do.

Studies have shown that the more challenging the subject matter, the better students perform in a class when the lectures are recorded.

Students can pause and rewind and re-hear recorded lectures – activities that are impossible, if not supremely awkward, when the professor is speaking live in the classroom.

Education has shifted.

There is more freedom.

Students can get the same education they were getting previously, but now it is available at their time, at their pace, with a little less pressure.

No longer do students have to meet education’s schedule. Education, in many ways, has shifted to meet the student’s schedule.

This increased freedom has actually improved learning.

The Working Shift

Remote work is the new office.

Our work life has shifted. We now have the opportunity to work from virtually anywhere, at virtually anytime, for virtually anyone – not just companies within commuting distance.

If you have an important personal thing to get done (like, for instance, letting the plumber into the house to fix the sink that your partner screwed up by putting lemon peels down the drain… talking for a friend), you have the freedom to step away from your desk and do it.

The shift is on.

We are doing the same work we were doing previously, but now it is on our time, at our pace.

No longer do employees have to meet a defined work location and schedule. The work has shifted to meet the needs of the employee.

Studies have shown that increasing this freedom actually increases productivity.

More freedom equals more productivity. What a great concept.

Continuing Shift

We are seeing this shift happen in many other areas of our lives.

With Peloton, we no longer have to meet the fitness classes’ schedule. The fitness classes now adhere to our schedule.

With virtual running events, we no longer have to show up on the day, time, and location to compete. We can now run a race when we want and where we want.

The world is shifting towards more freedom.

It’s shifting towards letting people do their same behaviors, but at their own pace and in their own time.

In most cases, this increased freedom leads to improved results.

History has shown that after every pandemic, humans gravitate towards increasing freedom (see article link below). In other words, don’t expect this trend to slow down anytime soon.

So tell me, how is your company changing to match the shift?

What are you doing internally for your employees and, equally important, how are your products and services evolving to grant your consumer more freedom to shift their experience?

It’s time to think about it.

It’s time to lessen your rigidity.

The shift is on.


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