Over the course of human history, we’ve gone through many transformations. 

We started as Hunters and Gatherers before realising that it was much more effective to plant crops and domesticate animals and thus the Agricultural Age began.  People started to settle in towns and 90+% of traditional hunter gatherers got on board and began to till the earth.

Then in the late 18th Century, people learned how to increase efficiency even more through the greater use of machinery, giving us the Industrial Age.  Mass production started and raw materials were able to be turned into something useful. Even farms began to industrialise, meaning that less people needed to work the land as they became more efficient at producing food for the ever-increasing cities that were being formed.  Today, only 3 percent of Americans are farmers, feeding the entire country and providing exports elsewhere. 

Now we are well and truly into the Information or Knowledge Age.  It’s an age when computers have increased efficiency so much that traditional manufacturing jobs are disappearing at a rapid rate, especially in the developed world.  It’s a time when ideas are king, when emotional intelligence is crucial to your success and when you have the opportunity to do much more meaningful work than was possible to previous generations.

So how can we prepare ourselves for the Knowledge Age?

Don’t fight it.  It’s not coming, it’s already here.  Getting bitter and twisted about something that is reality is like complaining that the world is round.  It doesn’t change anything, it just makes you look silly.  Getting your head around this concept and adapting to it is crucial to the success of your career over the next 10-20 years.

The advantage that you have is that many people are still operating with an Industrial Age mindset, so you can get the jump on them by adapting now.

Never Stop Learning.  As the name suggests, one of the keys of the Knowledge Age is to continue to learn.  Whether this is through reading, formal study or new experiences isn’t necessarily important.  What is important is that you continue to find ways to develop your mind.

Identify your strengths.  More than ever before, tapping into your strengths will become a key differentiator in your career.  The idea that people need to be “well-rounded” is diminishing and is being replaced by the thought that if you maximise your natural talents you will flourish in this day and age. 

This still means that your weaknesses can hold you back and isn’t an excuse for emotional immaturity.  It just means that by exclusively focussing on developing your weaknesses will limit your potential to be successful, while building strength and capacity in your areas of strength will dramatically increase your effectiveness.

If you’re naturally good at problem solving, utilise that strength.  Similarly if you are a natural leader, teacher, communicator, seller, innovator, collaborator, organiser or rapport builder.  Whatever you’re really good at, find a way to do this more often on a day-to-day basis and you increase your opportunity to be successful.

Learn to communicate more effectively.  In the Industrial Age it was sufficient to say something once and expect the message to get through.  In the Knowledge Age, communicating is a greater challenge as there is so much more “noise” to contend with.  How you interact in person, via email and increasingly through social media is increasingly as important as the message itself.  John C. Maxwell probably puts it best with the title of his latest book, “Everybody Communicates, Few Connect.”

Any period of transition can be extremely scary for many people, but I want to end this post by encouraging you that this is a very exciting time to be alive.  The rapid expansions in technology and information potentially give us more control than ever before if we can learn how to harness that knowledge and use it to do some great work in the areas of our strengths and passions.

How are you equipping yourself for the Knowledge Age?

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