“Now the farmer is so productive that you see him making enough money to send his kids to school and give them great opportunities. You are barely surviving. Little by little, you’re drawn to go through the intense learning process of becoming a farmer. You raise your children and grandchildren as farmers. That’s exactly what happened in our early history. There was a downsizing of hunters and gatherers of over 90 percent; they lost their jobs.
Several generations pass, and along comes the Industrial Age. People build factories and learn specialization, delegation and scalability. They learn how to take raw materials through an assembly line with very high levels of efficiency. The productivity of the Industrial Age goes up fifty times over the family farm. Now if you were a farmer producing fifty times more than hunters and gatherers and all of a sudden you see an industrial factory rise up and start outproducing the family farm by fifty times, what would you say? You might be jealous, even threatened. But what would you need to be a player in the Industrial Age? You would need a completely new skill-set and tool-set.
More importantly, you’d need a new mind-set—a new way of thinking. The fact is that the factory of the Industrial Age produced fifty times more than the family farm, and over time, 90 percent of the farmers were downsized. Those who survived in farming took the Industrial Age concept and created the industrialized farm. Today, only 3 percent of the people in the United States are farmers, who produce most of the food for the entire country and much of the world.
Do you believe that the Information/Knowledge Worker Age we’re moving into will outproduce the Industrial Age fifty times? I believe it will. We’re just barely beginning to see it. It will outproduce it fifty times—not twice, not three or ten times, but fifty. Nathan Myhrvold, former chief technology officer at Microsoft, puts it this way: “The top software developers are more productive than average software developers not by a factor of 10X or 100X or even 1000X but by 10,000X.
Quality knowledge work is so valuable that unleashing its potential offers organizations an extraordinary opportunity for value creation. If that is true, just think of the value of unleashing the potential of your children. Knowledge work leverages all of the other investments that an organization or a family has already made. In fact, knowledge workers are the link to all of the organization’s other investments. They provide focus, creativity, and leverage in utilizing those investments to better achieve the organization’s objectives.
Do you believe the Knowledge Worker Age will eventually bring about a downsizing of up to 90 percent of the Industrial Age workforce? I believe it. Current outsourcing and unemployment trends are just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, these trends have become a very hot political issue. But the reality is that much of our losses in Industrial Age jobs have less to do with government policy and free trade agreements than they do with the dramatic shift in our economy to the Knowledge Worker Age. Do you think it will be threatening to today’s workforce to learn the new mind-set, the new skill-set, and the new tool-set of this new age? Imagine what it will take. Imagine what it will take for you—what it will take to be a player in this new era. Imagine what it will require of your organization!”
Excerpt From: Stephen R. Covey. “The 8th Habit.” Apple Books.