Moving from the Industrial Age of Control to the Creative Age of Release

Recently, I’ve been listening to some Stephen Covey audio books to help me implement organizational improvements in my new role as CEO at the Greater Peterborough Area Economic Development Corporation.

While Covey doesn’t specifically refer to the Creative Economy, or Richard Florida he does refer to Peter Drucker’s work about knowledge workers, who are essentially Creative Class workers or  people who are paid to think.

In the 8th Habit he speaks about how we are very much in the Creative Age, which from a management perspective is quite different from the industrial age. In the industrial age, equipment is classified as an asset and people are classified as an expense. People need to be tightly managed, because they are in many ways an extension of the machines and many perform repetitive tasks. Control is required to mange people and enhance productivity. He cites how a 50 fold gain in productivity was achieved throughout the industrial age as a result of this management.

In the Creative Age, people are referred to as human capital and very much an asset. Creative workers are people who are paid to think and unlike their industrial age counter parts work autonomously, apply analytical skills and often work independently within a frame-work of a job description and requirements.

In the industrial age, workers required strict management with significant controls. In the creative age, control is released and great leadership is required to provide direction and framework from which workers perform their job. As the economy continues to shift from the industrial age to the creative age business leaders and managers will need to release control and enhance their leadership skills in order to successful achieve similar productivity gains achieved during he industrial age. This shift provides both significant challenges and exciting opportunities in the years ahead.

Here is a great article from Bloomberg Business week on the discussion/debate regarding who is a knowledge worker. Seth Godin has some great content on this subject matter and I highly recommend reading or listening to Poke the Box, which is about the post industrial revolution we are in right now.

The Creative Economy has never been more evident to me as it is now in my new role where I have to manage 20 or so creative class, knowledge workers. I believe I am doing the right thing, soliciting feedback and input on how best to run the company and deal with issues, releasing controls and enhancing empowerment. Only time will tell but I am looking forward to my hands on creative economy  experience to see how it turns out.

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