If you’ve read any of my recent work, seen one of my recent keynotes, or participated in one of our MAPS workshops, you’ll know that I think that we are in the midst of a fundamental sea-change — a time in which nearly everything we know about how the world works, will change.
But the question you should be asking yourself is why is this happening?
I mean, how can you possibly prepare for this new future if you don’t begin by understanding what has precipitated all of this change in the first place.
I believe that there are two converging macro trends that are the source of all this change.
The Big Idea
You’ve probably heard me and others talk about the fact that the industrial age is coming to an end, and that we are entering a new era. I call it the Digital Era, but you’ve probably heard other terms and phrases as well.
It doesn’t really matter what you call it, but what does matter is that you recognize that the industrial age defined almost everything we know about how we structured and managed organizations, about how we educate our children (and don’t continue educating adults), and how society at-large works.
So, as we come to the end of the industrial age and shift to this new era, that necessarily means that many of those societal and organizational constructs will change significantly.
And it will be those two converging trends that will define the way things work in this new era.
The first trend is what I call the primacy of the customer.
Essentially, this trend means that organizations are no longer creating value by delivering a mass product to a mass market as efficiently as possible. Instead, differentiating value is created by delivering a differentiated customer experience.
Those organizations that positively transform the experience will win.
This idea also has a few associated buzzwords like the experience economy, mass customization, and the market of one. These catchphrases all relate to this idea, but the big difference is that it is now becoming the primary driver of organizational value.
The second trend is more personal. I call it the primacy of algorithms.
Throughout the industrial age, organizations needed workers that could perform work consistently, reliably, and repeatedly. They needed robots, but they didn’t have any. So instead, they trained generations of humans to act like robots to power the literal and figurative machinery of the industrial age.
Today, however, we are on the cusp of an algorithmic tipping point.
Technology has now progressed to the point that machines can do much of this repetitive, industrial-age work.
In short, organizations are realizing that they no longer need human robots to do that work when they can have real robots do it instead.
You can boil this trend down to this sobering realization: anything we can reduce to an algorithm, we will automate — and we will do so in the very near future.
And the reality is that a LOT of the work we do on a daily basis — from manual work to knowledge work — can, in fact, be reduced to an algorithm.
As these two trends come together, I believe they will lead to a fundamental restructuring of almost everything, including how we structure and manage organizations, how we compete in the market, and the nature of work itself.
And I believe that it will usher in a new time in which it will be our very human characteristics that will become the chief drivers of value for us both personally and organizationally. That transition, in turn, will lead us into what I am calling The New Human Age.
Of course, there’s a lot more to unpack about both of these trends, where they’re leading us, and the impact they will have on us and our organizations. It’s an impact that will be anything but simple or one-dimensional.
So over the next several pieces in this series, I will dive a bit deeper into both of these trends and spell out exactly what I think they mean to all of us. More importantly, I’ll dig into what you can do to prepare yourself and your team for the future these trends will create.
Buckle in and stay tuned!
The Next Step
Before you move on to the next article, though, I have an exercise for you.
Create an inventory of all the major work activities you perform in a given day. Then, choose just one, think about that activity and rate it on a scale of 1 to 5 on two dimensions:
- Its impact on the customer experience
- The degree to which it can be represented by an algorithm
Rinse and repeat, if you choose. The results may surprise you.