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Baggage from the past?

2 July 2018 David Wood

There’s lots of chat about the fourth or fifth industrial revolution and I’m very excited of course, but I worry we simply haven’t got over the first one yet.

For example, we all still mostly work an eight hour day. One third of a twenty four hour factory shift.  Not because it’s a more productive way to be or through any application of workflow management. It’s just what we’ve done since labour was organised and factories established.

Our Chairman Richard gave a speech to the CMO’s Club in Palo Alto a couple of weeks ago. He referenced a firm in Australia who are experimenting with a five hour day. All the same workload and productivity but done with crisp efficiency and brevity. Ten minute meetings and a general sense of “get on with it”.

Stop for a second and imagine if you did everything you currently do and left work at 2pm everyday with your full salary. Would your life be A: better or B:….

Whilst you’re in the flow of this idea – why do we work 5 days?(I gather it’s something to do with the bible). Why not four, three or seven?

#IR1 also gave us commuting. Well, it gave us urbanisation – collecting together to complete linear tasks. And most people and employers still resist the idea of not being collected together even when our tasks are no longer interdependent.

Heavenly work with lots of property developers and they have the amazing task of being at the sharp end of working out if we need these spaces – for offices – or retail – or congregation – in the next ten or twenty or so years. Knowing as they do that the answer is probably no – at least in the way we imagine them now.

#IR1 also created the idea that the earth’s resources are subject to the system. An un-consulted source of what became an inefficient economic value exchange. Outside of the Whitehouse, it’s reasonably well known that the fundamental brake on productivity growth is “Aggregate Efficiency” – the amount of waste of, for example, water when we grow the cotton for a pair of jeans. The reality of “value add” is “net resource loss”. The idea of #IR1 was that the earth’s resources (or those of the Empire) were near to infinite. At least most people have got hold of this one being a bit off.

But here’s another thought. #IR1 created an education system that has become the orthodoxy the world over – always valuing STEM above Arts, Maths above Dance. I’m borrowing heavily here from Prof. Ken Robinson but we have almost globally created an education system that teaches once – between 0ish and 16 or 21 – in an elaborate and complex direction towards University entrance.

In my little bubble of Chiswick parents talk of little else than “which prep/secondary/University..”

Robinson goes further and suggests the system is designed as a pyramid to produce University Professors.  He is one but, as he puts it, they are people who live entirely in their own minds. People who regard their bodies as transportation mechanisms to get their minds to the next meeting.

Of course University Professors are vitally important (I live next door to one so I’m typing quietly) but to have an entire education system arranged with almost maximum attrition around one goal of achievement isn’t fit for purpose now.

We need creative minds as never before.

It’s another #IR1 thing because we can barely comprehend  the world in five years’ time and yet we are preparing people just as we have for the last couple of hundred years. Of course STEM is vital. Only tech can save us now. But so is diversity. Most of all, so is creativity. Because tech is nothing without ingenuity and ideas.

In short, #IR1 gave us a brilliant mechanical system for developing skills and now we also need one that we had before 1760. An organic one.

We need to “Disenthrall” ourselves from some defunct ideas. Defunct economists like Keynes or Smith, defunct advertising theorists like Hopkins, defunct marketing theorists like Kotler.

Of course the first industrial revolution is why we are a prosperous country and for all our moaning, one of the most privileged populations on earth – I’m simply saying that there are some important and often unchallenged habits and assumptions that we carry though to our everyday reality that we need to revolt against still.

Heavenly Brand Agency - Image cred: The Telegraph
Image cred: The Telegraph
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