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Preparing for a Tech Revolution

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Even in working with leaders at the forefront of technological innovation, I thought to recommend looking at the past to inform the future. For my book club readings this quarter I got the idea to read up on the Industrial Revolution and then happened onto The Song of Significance by Seth Godin. In thinking about how the AI revolution has already begun and what that could mean for us today and into the future, I could not have picked a better book bundle for myself. That said, here are my top takeaways from the reading:

The Writing on the Wall

Change often telegraphs itself before it arrives. Signs of such foreshadowing for a tech revolution can include:

  • Spreading beyond borders so that it is not contained to the artificial walls of one nation
  • Meeting a need either in the market or for people (i.e. lower shipping costs, saving time)
  • Replacing a one-size-fits-all approach (i.e. use of cotton instead of wool in hotter regions)

Having already been through a Great Resignation and the realization that employee turnover costs billions of dollars, the signs managers can look out for include people:

  • Shutting down or quiet quitting, which can trigger rage applying
  • Saying or demonstrating feelings of disrespect, feeling unseen, or unsafe

Macro Change

Revolutions bring change. In the spirit of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, the seismic shifts in the market and workplaces mean that they are unrecognizable in a generation. The power balance shifts and the advice or sensibilities of our parents or mentors may no longer apply.

Seth called out that industrial change is about convenience and that is a choice. It is a choice over significance, which is work that matters.

Note the Shift

What also got my attention is the shift from home-based producers to centralized factories in towns built by companies. This also meant the shift from family-owned businesses and artisans to unskilled, scaled labor.

What Stays the Same

Across both books was the note that Managers are perfectly positioned not to be replaced by technology. Even as I witness managers being let go in the current market, those responsibilities are still needed and distributed. It is not the tech that replaces the manager, it is another manager or scaled labor that absorbs the additional responsibility. I see this present itself in burnout, overwhelming workloads, and a sense of not owning one’s calendar or time.

From the bird’s eye view of world history, what do you notice about how today’s workplace and pace is changing? How can that help you prepare for tomorrow?

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