From the Industrial Age to the Connection Age

This is a guest post by my friend and fellow Generalist, Arnold Beekes.

WTF! What is happening?

It is clear that we are in a period of time, which is called ‘transition’, the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. We are coming out of the Industrial Age (characterized by efficiency, repetition and thus standardization – building a ‘system of sameness’ in every aspect of life) into a new age, which some people call the Information Age. I am not sure about that name, Information Age, as I see information as, the enabler, rather than the purpose and intention in itself. I would like to call it the Age of Connection (characterized by creation, contribution and thus participation – building a ‘universe of uniqueness’), to be truly connected with ourselves, with others, animals and with nature.

But we are not there yet; we are really in this no man’s land, this limbo.

Some of the symptoms of this transition are:

  • High levels of stress and burn-out
  • Feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and discontentment have increased
  • 1% of the people own the wealth in the world
  • Ten mega corporations control the output of almost everything you buy; from household products to pet food to jeans
  • Crises in many areas (economic, financial, climate change, poverty) are not being solved
  • Unemployment, especially for young people, is still increasing
  • Huge distrust in governments and Corporations
  • Education doesn’t meet the market’s needs
  • Discrimination (gender, age, race) is still alive

These symptoms indicate that applying the old rules of the Industrial Age to the new game of the Connection Age is not working!
Therefor we need to create, learn and apply the rules of this new game. Instead of focusing what doesn’t work anymore, we need to build new ways of living and working, together.

So, how does this look? Here are some perspectives on the old and new paradigms of living and working.

LIVING, The Basics:

In the old society people are seen as customers, only. The essential promise of a consumer society is that satisfaction can be purchased. People have taken their identity from their capacity to purchase. Dissatisfaction is promoted as the basis for higher levels of consumption and production. The environment, nature is also being used as something, which can be ‘consumed’ in the process. A top-down, broadcasting approach is applied in most sectors of society. People are treated as passive recipients. Countries and companies are the main powers.

In the new society, people are seen as citizens, who collectively share the ownership of the well being of everyone and every thing/being in society. Caring and sharing are the norm. Each citizen is valued for his/her specific strengths and is encouraged to play an active role. The environment, nature is treated as a living organism, which is essential for our well being and survival. People are treated as active contributors. Communities, cities and cyberspace are the main powers.

Paradigms – Living Industrial Age Connection Age
Education The focus is on memorizing, passing tests and compliance. Lifelong learning is the norm. The focus is on developing talents and especially creativity and critical thinking.
Transport The car is the standard, which the infrastructure is supporting. Public transport is the norm.
Healthcare Focus on illnesses and treatments. The body is seen as a separate from the mind. Focus on prevention. A holistic view on wellbeing is exercised.
Media A top-down, broadcast approach. Limited access to content. Social media is owned by the people and for the people.
Infrastructure Politics and companies determine the availability. Ownership is shared between all stakeholders.
Personal Development Outside-in living, external locus of control (‘You’). Meeting expectations. Inside – out living, internal locus of control (‘I’). Cherishing uniqueness.
Appearance Conformity Personality.
Family Marriage and children are the norm. Individuality.
Friends Local, in person meetings. Global, cyber-meetings.
Hobbies Limited in time, place and activity. Skills-based. A variety, which changes frequently. Experience based.
Home Family-based, in suburbs. Predefined architecture. Individual/community occupancy, in cities. Custom –built.
Money The main goal is to get as much as possible. A means to an end. Wellbeing and happiness are the goals.
Relationship Relations are standardized and commoditized. Relations are valued and individualized.
Service Volunteering is done after 5pm or retirement. A social purpose is integrated in most activities.
Spiritual Development A separate and private activity. Body-consciousness. A driving force in all activities. Soul-consciousness.
Food Industrialized, globalized, non-organic, no sustainable processes. Personalized, localized, organic, and sustainable.
Water A limitless resource. A limited, force of life.
Energy Centrally provided. Fossil fuels – based. De-centralized production of renewable energy.
Sport For entertainment and for some people, a health/relaxation activity. An integral part of health and stress- management.

WORKING, The Basics:

In the old economy, people are used, like parts in a machine, which should also generate a ROI. The name ‘Human Resources’ illustrates this. The focus is on repetitive execution and implementation, while increasing efficiency and minimizing risks and faults. Standardization (a ‘system of sameness’) is the main tool to accomplish this. The leaders determine what the employees should do. The creative powers of employees are not appreciated. The environment is utilized, like any other resource. Sustainability is hardly integrated in pricing and supply-chain policies.
The employees are either experts or managers., within a certain domain/silo. Careers are the norm, from the start until retirement.

The industrial age brought compliance and compliance brought fear and fear brought us mediocrity – Seth Godin

In the new economy, people are valued for their thinking powers and unique contributions. The name ‘Partners’ will be extended to all stakeholders, including (former) employees. The focus is on fulfilling the individual and collective purpose of the organization, while fully using the creativity and ingenuity of all people. A custom approach (appreciating a ‘universe of uniqueness’) both towards people and processes, is the norm. Learning from failures is understood to be an inherent part of learning. Creativity and innovation are mainstream activities. The environment is a precious and limited resource. Sustainability is fully integrated in all business practices. The partners are experts, generalists and/or intrapreneurs, across all domains. Most work is project-based and has no geographical limitation.

Paradigms – Working Industrial Age Connection Age
Purpose To make as much profit as possible. Exploiting scarcity. There is meaning, a purpose in the organization and in the work itself. Sharing abundance.
Work Definition Work is performance only; work equals doing. Work is performance, learning and enjoyment; Work equals doing and being.
Position Managers are more valuable than employees. Everyone’s specialties are valuable.
Knowledge Managers have more experience and know-how than  employees. Knowledge is more important than position.
Management Style Managers give commands to employees on what, when and how to accomplish goals. Managers control employees. Managers coach their employees as and when asked for. Employees determine how they will reach their goals. Employees are given responsibility and trust.
Employees All employees have the same needs and behave in the same manner. Employees have different needs, especially per generation.
Customers Product out. Transaction focused. Needs driven. Life time value.
Change Managers determine what needs to be changed and drive change top down. There is a collective ownership and understanding of change.
Performance Measurement Managers measure the performance of employees; focus is on weaknesses and presence. Managers, team members and peers measure the performance of employees; focus is on strengths and merit.
Rewards People are only interested in their salary. Employees want more than a great salary.  They are interested in having a more fulfilled life, less stress, and more decision-making authority within their job.
Metrics Mainly financial; profit and shareholder value. People, planet, profit and stakeholder value.
R&D This is so crucial, that all has to be done in-house. This critical activity needs external resources as well.
Culture Everyone should behave in the same way according to the culture. There is respect for each others difference. Ethics is the cornerstone.
Hiring People are hired, based upon past job experience and fit into current job description. People are hired, based upon organizational and personal match of mission/vision/values, what their passion is and how they can contribute to organizational goals.
Workplace The standard workplace is defined by managers. Employees define/design their own workplace.
Working Hours 9-5, 40 hours per week, on-site. Defined by employees, based upon goals achievement, on-site or remote/mobile.
Procedures Procedures are mandatory. There are clear ‘rules of engagement’, rule 1= use your common sense.
Workload You have to be busy continuously. There is enough time for fun and relaxing, which generates new ideas as well.
Training There is limited room for professional development. If people grow (professionally and personally), the business grows.
Promotion You grow within a functional silo. You grow based upon results and added value.
Job Titles You work according to your job description. You work according to your (various) roles and goals.
Information Info is distributed according to your position. Info is distributed according to your needs.
Retirement After you are 65 years old. When you want to use the funds.
Clothing Your appearance should be in line with company rules. Your appearance is in line with your personal preferences.

And now?

Once, we know that we are in this transition; it is key to focus all our talents, strengths and values to create a new society, which is aligned with the basics of the Connection Age.
The main place to start is to connect with like minded people in your (local and global) community, and to have dialogues (online and in real life – IRL) about these new paradigms of living and working!!

The Connection Age Manifesto (see below) can serve as a guideline for this conversation.

“Newness is needed, everywhere! Past performance is no guarantee of future returns.”
Arnold Beekes

“The Connection Age Manifesto”
-21st century Living and Working-

Living

  • I love myself first and foremost. Then I also love others, animals and nature. We are connected, always.
  • I continuously develop my strengths and I only see strengths in others.
  • Lifelong learning is the essential food for my brain and for my contribution to the well being of society.
  • I can change every aspect of myself, if I want to do that. Other people can choose to change themselves.
  • I am a traveler in the journey of my life, so everything and everyone is dynamic. My passions, my interests, and my strengths continuously change.
  • I am responsible for my own health and happiness.
  • I take care of the earth. Sustainability is integrated in every aspect of my life.
  • I have a solutions-mindset: I actively contribute to a caring community. Creativity is my birthright.

Working

  • I work where my passion, my strengths and the market’s needs, meet.
  • Generalists connect the dots, whereas specialists contribute their parts of the solution.
  • Collaboration makes competition obsolete.
  • Work always involves caring for others, animals and nature.
  • Organizations and technology are facilitating the blossoming of the contributing individuals.
  • Everyone is encouraged to participate. Everyone is unique and contributes, accordingly.
  • Work is fulfilling and rewarding, so I only retire if I want to.
  • My work has a positive impact, anywhere, anytime – as we are always connected.

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