The industrial age is coming to an end. It stopped being the growth engine of the economy (with the exception of 3rd world countries emerging out of the dark ages), and it’s unimaginable the industrial complex will ever get us out of the current economic mess.
The old adage of “Hard work will be rewarded” and the fading images of blue-collar workers being able to feed their families with their job are fast becoming distant memories of a time lost. You can call this recession, the Great Recession, a Depression, the Great Reset – I call it the end of the Industrial Age and Mass Production.
The 20th century was about turning people into cogs.
Mass production of standardized goods was the success formula of the Industrial Age. Mass production allowed for products to be cheap and plentiful, creating through standardized processes and tightly defined jobs that could be done by almost anyone. The gains from mass production were dramatic because they replaced an age were individuals or small communities created products: inefficient and not replicable on a massive scale.
We saw decades of dramatic growth, development and jobs. So much value was created over the last 200 years that companies were able to pay decent wages with long-term benefits, while employees just had to keep their head down and follow instructions.
The age of mass production is dying a miserable death.
The potential for growth in mass production is zero, with the exception of countries with extremely low labor costs. But, as we’ve seen repeated over and over again, those advantages tend to disappear over time when emerging countries expect higher wages and even poorer nations start the mass production cycle. In a decade, China’s low-cost manufacturing will be replaced by African countries – the process has already started. The mass production race is a race to the bottom. Ultimately, it will end up in eliminating people in the production process completely.
The old world was built on hard work, loyalty and the idea of fitting in. Now, hard working people can’t find a decent job. People that were loyal for decades are now staring at the abyss. And the old guaranteers of success (High School Diploma, college degree, etc.) are no longer the ticket to a comfortable future. Our idea of a good life was about working hard and being comfortable the rest of the time. We still have to work hard but we won’t be comfortable for a long time to come. Maybe never again.
The nineteenth century was the age of the industrial revolution, the twentieth the age of mass production, and the twenty-first will be the age of creative capitalism.
Everyone in the developed world has now access to a computer, transforming each one of us into a factory owner. The means of production are right in front of your computer screen, allowing you to create movements, earn attention, connect labor and resources, deliver sustainable value.
Scary? Hell yes!
We were trained and programmed to be a cog and now we have the means to change the world right in front of us. We don’t know how to start this new economy, deliver value, solve interesting challenges, and then deliver on our promise.
Nobody knows anything.
Just look at the politicians: Tax cuts, Tax increases, less regulations, more regulations, bigger government, smaller government, no government, left ideology, right ideology – these are all answers from the past. A past that will never be our present again. The industrial age was sputtering along for years before it received a vitamin shock in the late 90’s and first decade of the 21st century. When the crash came, it came swift and the demise was rapid. We continue to prop up a system that’s been dead for a while, keeping zombie banks alive, zombie political ideas, zombie economy theories.
We have to replace the zombies of mass production with creative capitalism.
We have to be smarter. We have to use our resources better. We have to develop products that don’t harm the planet and its inhabitants and, at the same time, delight and amaze people. We have to think cross-functional, cross-divisional and cross-national – developing ideas that increase our humanity and not just the bottom line. We must come up with big ideas – ideas, that will change our daily lives, our neighborhood, our society, the whole world. Everything we do must be examined and discussed through the prism of sustainable value for the whole globe, not just a selected few.
We have to think, discuss, collaborate and execute.
In the age of creative capitalism, all of your gains will come from insights and innovative ideas into what makes products, services, processes, human interactions, structures and institutions better for us. The last 100 years were about standardization and following well-defined processes.
The age of creative capitalism has no processes. Yet. Everything you learned in school, college and through media is invalid. Out the window. Trash. We have to question everything. We have to re-imagine everything. We have to re-make everything.
We have to agree on a vision how the world should be in 100 years. More importantly, once we settled on a vision, we have to bring this vision to life and create it. 20 years ago, it would have taken an enormous amount of money to share these thoughts with anyone besides my friends in a smoky bar. Now, these words can spread to ten, ten thousand or ten million people. Anybody can access them.
You’re on your own.
No politician, no CEO, no father figure will rescue us. It’s you and nobody else. You are creating your own future, don’t expect anybody to help you with that. You are the artist, the designer, the factory owner, the manufacturer, the creator – you are whatever you want to be. You are responsible for your own success. Nobody else.
The well-trodden path of the mass production age disappeared forever during the financial crisis. It used to be easy: get a good education and a stable job – the rest will fall into place. Others will shoulder the rest of the responsibility for yourself and the rest of the world: Social Security, Medicare, Charity, Aid.
What is that weight you’re feeling on your back? It’s that immense weight of responsibility the world handed you in the last few years. All of us have to shoulder that responsibility and move forward. Let’s not try to hand it back to institutions or politicians. They don’t know what to do with it either. Shoulder that responsibility and move ahead to create a new future. We have to stop striving for comfort and strive for discomfort and discourse.
We’re all in the same boat.
This is a huge undertaking. It requires all of our brains and hearts. We need to reinvent education, institutions, societies, communities – actually, we have to reinvent the idea of capitalism. And we have to reinvent the idea of responsibility and empathy. While we create a new future, there will be many amongst us having problems to walk confidently on this new path. We can’t leave them behind or expect institutions to take care of them. We have to take care of them by helping them through these perilous times. The last thing we want is to create a future two-class society: One class that receives the best education that allows them to discover a passion to make the world a better place. And the other class too busy to barely survive. Our biggest challenge is to ensure that everybody can participate and contribute.
Let’s get on with it. Our future is brighter than we ever imagined.
This is the starting point of a journey. I’m happy to announce that my book “Creative Capitalism” will be published in August 2012. The vision for this book is to share a vision and roadmap for the new age of creative capitalism. Share the first executions of creative capitalism. Paint a picture of the future. Create a platform to collaborate on a bright future.
If you want to follow me on that journey and help create a brighter future, please visit my blog and follow the Twitter feed.
This blog will continue to talk about the future of marketing and advertising. I will continue to work with my current and new clients on integrating social channels into their business models.
I’m very excited about working with you to create a better future.