If you have not noticed, we are truly in a content driven information age. Information is king in our society. Never before had we had as much information available to us nor been as as interconnected as we are today. We have Smart phones, smart cars, internet, Internet telephone and video conferencing, electronic and audio books, instant news and weather. I recently read some staggering statistics that in the 21st century (the next 100 years) we will see 20,000 years of technological progress! That breaks down to 200 years of progress each year that goes by. Every month we see the rate of innovation increase and things we once could hardly imagine are common place. Think about it this way; Johann Gutenberg created the first printing press in 1436 and the first computer was developed in 1936. It took over 500 years to innovate from printing press to the computer! Computer speed doubled every three years between 1930 and 1950, doubled every two years between 1950 and 1966, and is now estimated to double every 12 to 18 months. Amazingly, in a little over 70 years I hold in my hand a smartphone that is more powerful than the first computers of the 1940s that filled a building. And the speed at which we see innovations is only going to be more staggering next year than it was this year.
Why would you even care about this? My answer is simple… innovate or die. Businesses have discovered that to compete they must be able to work smarter and out maneuver their competition. If it is the case for business why wouldn’t this apply to individuals? I often tell my clients that if they want to compete like they always have, they will find themselves sitting on the sidelines. Going are the days of graduate high school, get a good job, work there 40 years and then retire with a fat pension. As a matter of fact; according to Charles Handy (1990) “Less than half of the work force in the industrial world will be in ‘proper’ full-time jobs in organizations by the beginning of the twenty-first century… More will be self-employed, more and more every year; many will be part timers or temporary workers” (p 31). He goes on to say, “When less than half the available work force is in full-time employment, it will no longer make sense to think of a full-time job as the norm” (p 32) and in 1986 it is estimated that “70 percent of all jobs … in the year 2000 would require cerebral skills rather than manual skills” (p 34) and what is more controversial and alarming is that “one-half of these brain-skilled jobs will require the equivalent of a higher education, or professional qualification, to be done adequately” (p 35).
All of this to say, that if you are not educating, innovating and changing you are falling further behind. You must change the way you are thinking if you are going to compete in the world economy of tomorrow. If you’re not reading on a regular basis and immersing yourself in new information you are falling behind in the race. If you’ve never been to college perhaps it is time to consider at least an Associate’s Degree to get started. If you’ve been sitting on that Bachelor’s degree for 20 years, perhaps you should consider that Master’s degree? And if you were thinking you are getting close to 55 and going to retire perhaps you might want to really pay attention to what that means related to how much money you will need to live off of for the next 40 to 50 years. We are all living longer and in a more healthy state. In a very few years there will be five generations in the workforce all competing for your position.
I apologize if this article seems alarming to you, but I meant it to be! We must sit up and pay attention. If you’re not prepared you will be lost in the cacophony of changes to come. Individuals who are advancing their educations, reading on a regular basis and developing coaching and mentoring relationships are the ones who will be best equipped to compete. My hope is that you will not be left on the sidelines but that you will be competing for the prize. Now is the time to take action… any delay could be detrimental to your long-term success.
Handy, Charles (1990). The Age of Unreason. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
Philip A Foster, MA is a professional leadership coach with Maximum Change Inc. Taking Leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. He works with leaders to facilitate the development of life purpose, life balance and achievement of greater success; encouraging leaders to take active and consistent steps toward reaching goals and objectives. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.