The evolution of civilization appears to have primarily resulted from continuous improvement made possible by technological advances. A group of social evolutionists and economists have identified, among others, energy, transport, as well as information and communication to be the three most influential technologies. (Y. Chang, 2009)
The Stone Age was characterized by the early men utilizing basic tools – sticks and stones – for manual activities, but as time went by, men quickly transitioned into Agriculture which saw farming and animal rearing to be the rave of the moment. Social status was determined by how much cattle, horses, donkeys and plantation one had amassed. It took some time before civilization started to build simple machines, and the steam engine ushered us into the Industrial Age. From that time forward, it was clear that man was made for more and that we will keep pushing boundaries.
The big shift in labour was the invention of the Typewriter. Although this could still be characterized as physical, because man would have to operate them manually, it wasn’t until the invention of the Computer and Internet that man was ushered into the Digital Age, and it was only then that we began to get a glimpse of what the future holds. If you look at how far the world has come in terms of work, you will agree that there has been a shift in how we approach labour. It is therefore safe to posit that there has been a major transition from manual to virtual, from bricks to bits.
Let us briefly consider some of the advancement in work and how we have approached this. Work’s initial currency was labour – strength and physical exertion, but we now have a different currency altogether, which is Information! And the internet has played a major role in this transition. There has been ground-breaking advancement in Engineering, Finance, Medicine and Communication, to name a few.
With the advent of 3D printing, it has become very easy to manufacture machine parts. Rather than spend long hours in the furnace smelting iron, only a few minutes is required to get desired machine designs and parts. Surgery has become easy to perform with prosthetic body parts and Nanotechnology; and our financial system has been severely revolutionized, taking us from coins and fiats to virtual currency (crypto currencies) – not to mention the grandiose impacts of FinTech across the world, especially developing countries. Communication has completely moved from letters into cell phones, electronic mail and social media. But where does this end? Well, it doesn’t, or should we say, it shouldn’t!
What are the implications of these changes to corporate bodies?
The Red Queen Hypothesis posits that “organisms must evolve or die,” and this can be extrapolated to the corporate world to mean that organizations must either innovate or go out of business. Statistics show that 94% of global business leaders are sourcing contractors from online digital job platforms as opposed to the conventional head-hunt. This goes to prove that we are in a different era, one that urgently requires our adaptation, and we cannot rely on the old ways of sourcing talents. The digital space is unchartered territory, so you, as an organization, are expected to make the best use of this resource.
The overall spending on technology has been estimated to increase by more than 50 per cent between 2015 and 2030 and about half would be on information-technology services. It is therefore imperative that organizations leverage and integrate technology into their standard operating procedures in order to stay ahead of competition and beat the market. The world will keep improving and the mode of work will keep advancing, so it is time to revisit your organization’s charter and remodel it to suit the changing times.
A simple technique to make this shift is to imagine what your organization will look like 10, 20 or 50 years from now and start making the necessary adjustments. Live in the future today, because the foundational assignment of a leader is to be visionary! And by the way, the future of work we’ve just described is not some imaginary time in tomorrow, it’s here, today – many thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. So, innovate and adapt or die! (Sorry if that sounded brutal.)