The invention of the steam engine by Thomas Newcomen and John Calley in 1705, followed by the improved steam engine by James Watt in 1764, caused a period of turmoil throughout the world. Many processes could be done differently, and we had to rethink all known economic models. We had to reinvent society. So, we reinvented the political and governmental structures of our countries, financial structures, educational systems, and value creation processes with organizational management thinking. Money as a barter converter – a facilitator – always played a role throughout the ages, but during the Industrial Revolution, the modest use of money was thrown overboard. The establishment needed lots of money fast to industrialize the world. Afterwards, this period was called a “revolution”: the Industrial Revolution. This was a period of time in history comparable to the turmoil we experience Today. However, we invented two steam engines: the Web and the 3D printer.
Industrialization has brought us plenty of good stuff. We reinvented society. By giving money a larger role in the process of bartering products and services, economic value could be up- scaled. Education, institutionalized as an industrial process, gave more people access to learning, and thus encouraged prosperity. By using steam engines in an efficient way, organizational management was introduced. Economic science entered a new stage. Organizational knowledge divided organizations into compartments, like human resources, sales and marketing, and purchasing, and new jobs and disciplines were developed. In Western Europe, political structures for better democracies were introduced. Unions, suffragettes claiming women’s emancipation (and thus, voting rights), and political parties: they all demanded a portion of the prosperity cake.
This whole process didn’t go flawlessly. Industrialization also created the possibility to fight mechanized global wars with millions of casualties, and created economic bubbles – and financial crises, as well. The Amercian Wall Street crash of 1929, also known as Black Tuesday, was a financial crisis like never seen before, and created a 10-year depression throughout the Western world. It was only concluded when the economy transformed into a war industry, with World War II as its “marketplace.”
We are presently in the middle of our own revolution. Society is transferring to a new era, which I have called Society30. So, it is up the global Society30 citizen to reinvent our social and economic systems. That is where the opportunity lies – an opportunity to get us out of this turmoil. It is not an easy journey, as the establishment is resisting; however, their inability to show us the way out and guide us to this new era shows that the industrial system, with its political and economic components, is really at its end.
Every now and then, you hear politicians say, “in two years things will be better!” Or, “I already see some bright spot on the horizon!” Don’t be fooled; this transition period will last at least another 15 to 20 years, if not more.
We will have to face more crises. More civil wars. More social unrest. People feel the fear of the establishment, and people feel the impotence of our “leaders.” As hard as China is struggling to keep its rising middle class happy in order to avoid a collision between “old and new,” in Europe, the threat is there, too: do you think that in countries where youth unemployment is over 50%, this young generation of desperate people will stay at home because some politician saw “the light at the end of the tunnel?” No way – they will start a fight for their share in the declining, but still remaining, prosperity, and they will refuse to pay for all the financial mishaps of our time.
In the next stories, I will look at the foundations of the value creation elements of industrial society, after which we can have a look how these basic principles will have to change in order to grab the opportunities presented by Society30.