Friday, May 25, 2007

The Industrial Revolution vs. The Career Revolution

I just finished reading this manifesto at ChangeThis by Elizabeth Haas Edersheim titled, "The Silent Revolution: Peter Drucker's Voice Still Resonate".

Reading about the industrial revolution really made me think back to my childhood, growing up in an old, historic section of Birmingham, AL. (I'll have to add here that I did not grow up in the late 1800's or early 1900's.) From my bedroom window at the back of our house I could see the lights and hear the clanging of steel from the local Mini Mill. I could also hear and feel the trains that would pass by a couple of blocks away, at all hours of the night. Even though this was in the 1970's and 80's I'm sure the sounds, sights, and probably the smells were the same as they were back 100 years before.

The industrial revolution was truly an amazing time for the US and for Birmingham, AL. Driving by or having the chance to walk through Sloss Furnaces or Vulcan will help any visitor to Birmingham see how so much of what we have was molded and shaped by this amazing time in history.

But, this age and time in our history is over. Therefore, we must move forward, think differently, and change the way we think about business - and especially our careers.

I love this quote from the's an amazing description of the change and shift to this new way of thinking.

Business has undergone a silent revolution. We no longer hear the hum of machinery. We can't look out our windows and see the catalysts for the opportunities that will change the way we and our children do business, get educated, and live our daily lives. The silent revolution is built with human assets. It's all about knowledge, information, and collaborative connections-the powerful new tools driving our future don't announce themselves with the clanking and sputtering of 19th century mills and factories, or the sprawling parking lots of 20th century malls.

This next quote is my favorite...

Management's journey through this upended world is all about strategy in its most sophisticated form. In this journey, Peter F. Drucker remains the invaluable guide and compass. His forwardlooking ideas on meaningful strategy resonate in the silent revolution. And Drucker has surprising ideas, even about what he considered "strategy". It is not about competing for a larger slice of pie. Rather, strategy is a recipe for creating an entirely new pie to fill a new white space. And during that creation, the recipe is constantly tested and refined.

I have now been introduced to a new word and concept called "white space". This new concept can be the all-inspiring change agent and motivator for you - if you'll just let it. You're probably asking your self, how do I apply this to my current job and especially my career? As mentioned in the manifesto, here are a few examples of people and companies that have seen and taken advantage of this "white space" - eBay, ZipCar, and YouthNOISE. Click through the links and read the history of how these began.

Now what? I've read the manifesto and clicked through the links but now I need some direction on where to take my career from here.

1. Look at where you are today. This may be unpleasant for some of you. (I'll have to add here that I don't have a solution for moving back time or a time machine in my garage to immediately go back and do things over. And, we all know that hindsight is always 20/20.) Is this where you thought you'd be x number of years out of high school or college? If you are completely satisfied with where you are and what you've accomplished, congratulations and I wish you continued success. For the rest of you out there hopefully this exercise has been thought provoking for you. Now, here's what to do moving forward...

2. Look at your career. For many of you, your career will not change as a result of this exercise. You started in your line of work out of some passion or enjoyment for what you have chosen to do - so keep doing it. Now, look at how your progressing through you career. Have you become stale and fallen into the trap of doing the same thing over and over, year after year? How has your career changed over the years? Are there advances in technology that have significantly impacted your career? Are you learning more about it? Are you applying these advances in technology to your current job? Are you networking? Is there a professional association you can join? Are there certifications you can achieve? Are there advanced degrees? Are there websites that provide information or a forum for information? Are there blogs you can start reading or subscribing to via e-mail or a feed?

3. Evaluate what you do on a daily or weekly basis. Look closely and identify those "white spaces" where you can innovate and create in your current job. You will find them - just take the time to be open and look.

4. Take Action! Once you have identified those "white spaces" start going through the process of tackling and accomplishing them. In some organizations this may be easier said than done. If you get stuck, talk to a trusted co-worker, manager, or mentor in your company about your ideas and suggestions where there are opportunities for change. Gain their support and do it - no need to wait!

5. Decide where you want to be. After you've gone through steps 1 through 4 you need to look back and evaluate to see if the changes that were made accomplished or filled the "white spaces" that were originally identified. You must take this time to do this. Going forward, continue to look for areas in your career, job, and every day life where there are "white spaces".

Now is the time to revolutionize your career!