... and how to deal with it...
"We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political,and material ruin. … The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for the few, unprecedented in the history of mankind; and the possessors of these in turn despise the republic and endanger liberty. From the same prolific womb of government injustice are bred two great classes of tramps and millionaires"
Sound familiar? It's from the Populist party convention in Omaha in July 1892
Lipsey and Bekar (Lipsey 1995) find that periods of pervasive innovation are characterized by periods of structural dislocation and economic crisis, ‘The evidence is also strong that such periods can cause protracted and painful adjustments in the facilitating structure of the economy, as well as a series of market reactions such as persistent de-skilling, technological unemployment, awidening of income inequalities, a slowing of the overall growth rate, and the obsolescence of a great deal of physical capital.’
The contention is that we are in just such a period of pervasive innovation in multiple fields, we now look back and characterise key times in history when similar conditions were apparent. Ususally over about 50 year periods. I supect future historians will look back on the period from around 1970 - 2020 in a similar way as we now do when we look at the industrial revolution in England 1780-1830 and in the US 1870-1920.
Clearly then the past may have important lessons for managing change and both leading and managing the consequences of innovation.
These two articles from a few years back provide a great summary of the issues in earier industrial revolutions and the relevance today - in fact they now seem somewhat prescient about what we are currently experiencing:
The 1st is from Michael Jenson at Harvard business school in 1993 The Modern Industrial Revolution, Exit and the Failure of Internal Control Systems
The 2nd is a thought provoking extract from a draft thesis by Cliff Bekar at the Department of Economics, Lewis and Clark College The Productivity Paradox of the Industrial Revolution
Both provide interesting insights into how to manage innovation and how to thrive during times of rapid change. More on this later......