When examining the lifecycle of each of these periods, the thing that sticks out is that they have gotten progressively shorter. The Agricultural Age gave way to a shorter Industrial Age, while the Industrial lifecycle spawned an even shorter technological curve we now find ourselves on.
But something interesting happens at the end of a lifecycle curve. As you move from maturity to decline, people must make decisions about their individual paths. In the Agricultural Age, men dug holes, planted seeds and lived off the land. Eventually, machines were invented. There were not as many holes to dig, and the margins for hole digging started to dramatically decrease. Sixty year old hole diggers put their heads down and dug whatever holes there were to be dug, and bided their time until they could earn a hole digging pension.
The younger hole diggers didn’t have the luxury of time. They needed to figure out a new path. They could change their occupation completely, or leverage their hole digging knowledge and learn how to work one of the fancy new hole digging machines.
For example, consider the fable about John Henry. Set at the beginning of the Industrial Age, John Henry was a powerful laborer. He could do the work of 20 men. But when the machines came around, there was less call for manpower. He claimed he could dig a tunnel through a mountain faster than any machine, and subsequently challenged one to a race. If you recall, old John Henry beat the machine, but died at the finish line.
The moral of the story is that when machines arrived, the laborer had to figure out a new path. And so it follows that with the end of the Industrial Age, we cannot cling to the conditions of that period. We must learn new things and develop new ways to provide value.
The Industrial Age seemed to create an annuity for many. Specifically, people were able to jump into an industry or a brand and have it take care of them until retirement. But shift happens, and the annuities no longer exist. Jobs have been dismantled and career paths have been blocked. So, while the economic landscape transforms, it makes sense to consider what roles will be required for the next several years.
As technological advancements continue to disrupt industries, there will be a growing need for specialized salespeople. They will need to be able to explain the company’s offerings to a wide range of clients, including businesses, governments, consumers, as well as to new clients that the company has never worked with before.
For example, as content is increasingly consumed on mobile devices, a digital media company would want to hire salespeople who are knowledgeable with the ins and outs of mobile advertising.
Data analysts are another emerging role, and provide the modern version of listening. And while data has dominated conversations, it creates no value by itself. But when listening is combined with compelling responses and engagement, the conversation comes alive.
Combining data analysis with specialized selling is very similar to the publishing process and will be the emerging model of engagement.
So we must look up from our holes and embrace the change. Shift does happen, and we can take advantage of it.