The Fourth Iteration of Business in the Industrial Age


The evolution of business in the industrial age has mirrored the progression of three industrial revolutions; moving us from its first iteration to our current form. The emerging Fourth Industrial revolution ushers in another shift, culminating in something that likely looks much different than its predecessors. A brief look at this journey shows us the linkage:

Iteration One: The first industrial revolution introduced mechanization and had significant impacts on business and the labor force. Business in this period was transformed, as the steam engine enabled us to replace human and animal-based muscle with machines.

Iteration Two: Several forces converged during the second revolution to elevate our standard of living. The post-war period that followed was defined by a high level of consumption that drove business in the mass production era. Henry Ford famously said: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

Iteration Three: The third industrial revolution revolved around information technology, electronics, and communications, ushering in a period of computerization and automation. Businesses were once again transformed through significant gains in productivity and a shift away from Henry Ford era standard products to more customization.

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Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution


Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution

In a new book titled Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Klaus Schwab explores a future shaped by scientific and technological advances. The book builds on his earlier work where he describes the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this latest work, the author describes how rapid advancement in science and technology promise to disrupt the digital systems of our day, creating entirely new sources of value. He touches on a key point that I have articulated in my anchor visual; that the digital technologies that organizations are struggling to make sense of today, turn into the core infrastructure that business models will take for granted tomorrow. Said another way; digital is the foundation for the innovation that is emerging.

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The Future of Energy on Game Changers Radio


Today on Coffee Break with Game Changers, Bonnie D. Graham hosted a show focused on the future of energy. You can listen to the rebroadcast here. The session abstract is included below, as well as a Twitter stream that provides insight into the topic and our discussion. The show participants included: Bonnie, Gray Scott, Tom Franklin, and myself. You can take a deeper dive on the topic via this Discussion with David Cohen.

Show Abstract

The Energy Internet is positioned to transform our lives – perhaps on a larger scale than the Internet before it. This dynamic, distributed, and multi-participant Enernet – as some are calling it – is built around clean energy generation, storage and delivery.   With a long list of innovators emerging, the resulting innovation will drive massive change, including how we think about cities, municipal services, transportation, insurance, real estate, financial services, and more.

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YouTube Channel Launch


YouTube Channel

The journey to the future is gaining more attention for both the opportunity it presents, and the fear of unintended consequences. Dialog and proactive action are critical to shaping this emerging future in human-centric ways – a story line that is nicely articulated in a new book titled Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I am a firm believer that shaping the future requires a different mindset. As stated in the book, we must all adopt a zoom-in and zoom-out strategy: zooming in to acquire an understanding of the characteristics and potential disruptions of specific advances in science and technology; and zoom out to see the patterns and combinations that emerge.

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Early 2018 Reading List


Update January 22nd: I am adding a book just released to this short list – Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution

I’m often asked for book recommendations that aid with future thinking exercises. A good source in 2018 for this type of exercise is Fast Future Publishing, whose goal is to profile the latest thinking of established and emerging futurists, foresight researchers and future thinkers from around the world, and to make that thinking accessible to the widest possible audience. Their innovative publishing model bypasses most traditional publishing channels and accelerates time to market. Two books that I’d recommend for early 2018 are described below, and a new book due out in the spring is also included.

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Tipping Points in Human History


I’ve been talking lately about the two main tipping points in human history: from hunter-gatherer to agriculture, and agriculture to our industrial society. That second tipping point beginning about 1760 ushered in three revolutions. The First Industrial Revolution  saw the rise of iron and textile industries and the mechanization of production through the use of water and the steam engine. This second tipping point saw a reduction in physical labor and a shift in where new forms of labor were required. The Second Industrial Revolution started in 1870,  riding advances such as electricity, telephone and the internal combustion engine to drive rapid industrialization and globalization. A massive disruption followed, as established sectors were eliminated and new ones emerged.

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Revolution and the Innovation wheel


In a brilliant journey through the economic history of the western world, author Robert J. Gordon looks at The Rise and Fall of American Growth. This recent book focuses on a revolutionary century that impacted the American standard of living more than any period before or after. Our standard of living is typically viewed as the ratio of total production of goods and services (real GDP) per member of the population. But this measure fails to truly capture enhancements to our well-being. Human well-being is influenced by advances in the areas of food, clothing, shelter, energy, transport, education, health, work, information, entertainment, and communications. The special century (1870 – 1970) that followed the Civil War was made possible by a unique clustering of what the author calls the great inventions. Clearly – as the visual I developed depicts – the great inventions of the second industrial revolution significantly improved our well-being:

Second Revolution Innovation Wheel

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