Every generation has faced the inevitability of economic change (Coming to an office near you, 2014). Though history does not give us any indication of how the wheel devastated the prehistoric working class, we can certainly see its dynamic effects on the generations that would follow. A family of cave dwellers could now move stones that once took a village to move. Thus, prehistoric man industrialized the need to evolve into a more productive group by using the very invention that put them out of work to develop a niche that would put them right back into the food chain. The fact is that change is the engine that drives economic development, and the fuel is technology. The invention of the wheel gave life to movement in prehistoric times in the same way that the Internet has paved the way for globalization and service economies.
Breaking from my wheel analogy by a few years, I want to talk about the last 20. Computers have become a household item, in much the same way as the television. Smart phones, unheard of 20 years ago, have become “the must” have tool for the modern businessperson. Social Networks have developed in such sophisticated ways that we can even follow the lunchroom ponderings of people we previously would have never known in a lifetime (Shirky, 2012). While all of these achievements have given society a load of entertainment value, they have also given businesses new tools to use for more effective, efficient and productive operation. All of this at the expense of turning the workforce upside-down. According to Laurence Goasduff (2010), the future looks to do much more of the same, through work swarms, de-routinization of work, collective work, work sketch-ups, and the list goes on. These ideas further promise to make groups more productive, and lessen the individual workload (Goasduff, 2010).
Here Comes the Group
Here comes that word again, group. The wheel gave humanity the need to work together in ways previously impossible to create a better environment. This eventually produced more wealth, more jobs, and a better lifestyle. Although, many were certainly displaced until new jobs were created to fill the needs of an advanced society. Since invention gave our ancestors more free time and a higher wage, it also gave many the ability to create works of art to entertain the masses. I bring this up to point out that while technology eliminates jobs in one area; job creation is heightened in areas previously unheralded. Have you ever looked at art of the prehistoric variety? A little lacking at best; I amusingly suggest, the results of a generation too busy to develop such seemingly trivial pursuits. Yet, with the advent of group interaction through technological advance, Michael Angelo is able make art a viable life-supporting venture.
The Thoughtful Leader
So where does the leader fit into this crazy mix? The thoughtful leader is one that helps followers develop new skills, search new ideas and create their own wealth. I cannot speak for many industries, but using my industry as an example, I can relate to hope. In the times of our great Civil War, a new idea surfaced that threatened to derail the old traditions of funeral service. The art of embalming gave new hope to families that they would see their loved ones again, even if they were in a far off area of the country. Previously, dry ice was used to keep human remains cold and gave families a limited time to view their loved one. The food chain, so to speak, was geared toward backward technology, so when embalming became the standard those who supplied the materials necessary for funeral service were left in the past. Leaders stepped in and found new opportunities. Where once bodies were placed in iceboxes, then into wooden coffins, more ornate models were made, and materials were used that would preserve the bodies already been preserved with chemical injection. A market was created around the ability to preserve so that an industry could not only remain viable, but also grow. What once was an industry run by cabinetmakers now became open source. That is to say, many people were free to enter and use the technologies then created to create their own wealth. Today’s leaders need to help followers expand their knowledge, and in turn get back into the work stream. Open source technologies can be utilized to help workers learn new technologies and get back on their feet. The effort of groups of people can minimize the blows sustained to individuals by an ever-changing society. Leadership ensures that these new changes bring new opportunities.
Coming to an office near you. (2014, January 18). Retrieved from The Economist: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21594298-effect-todays-technology-tomorrows-jobs-will-be-immenseand-no-country-ready
Goasduff, L. (2010, August 4). Gartner says the world of work will witness 10 changes during the next 10 years. Retrieved from Gartner: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/1416513
Shirky, C. (2012, September 25). How the Internet will (one day) transform government. Retrieved from You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEN4XNth61o&feature=youtu.be