Of course, the industrial revolution wasn’t only due to Spinning Jenny, just as the digital revolution isn’t only due to Facebook. But chances are that we in the next decade will use Facebook as that metaphorical change agent, just like we use the Spinning Jenny today when we explain the industrial revolution.
The industrial revolution changed us at the core by restructuring how we form societal groups by almost vaporizing the village concept. The digital revolution, or at lest the social part of it, has brought upon us a shift equally or greater—never before in human history has groups formed and dissolved so rapidly and so free of demographical interference.
And so, the idea of Facebook as our Spinning Jenny really isn’t that distant, with so many active everyday users. But what can we as business learn from history? What can we learn from Spinning Jenny?
If you in the early days of the industrial revolution happened to be in the textile industry, you would be a fool to ignore Spinning Jenny. You would be a fool not to invest in some sort of automation. Today, this seems like common sense. But you must make the transition in a smart way. You must make money while finding new ways to make money. So you make the transition as quickly as you can or the market allows you to. Preferably before your competitors grab to much of what could have been yours.
If you weren’t in the textile industry at this time, or not in an industry sector at all, maybe you had some “extra” years to prepare before also your line of work becomes fully or partially automated. Trying to abandon your business “before it’s too late” and start getting into textile probably wouldn’t be the smartest business strategy either.
I have two pieces of sound advice for those of you who are in business in this day and age:
1. Imagine yourself being in business in the early days of the industrial revolution. How would you be smart about your business if you were living back then? How do you translate this “smartness” into the reality of today?
2. This is the real kicker: Imagine that you actually are in the textile industry today. How many Spinning Jenny’s do you run these days? You will quickly conclude that the Spinning Jenny was a fantastic accelerator for transitioning your business in a time of great change but like Facebook, it was just a tool and nothing but a tool; not the sole salvation for your long-term business strategy.
Now, go be smart about your Facebook – and business! – strategy.
Thanks to Mark Comerford for lengthy talks on societal shifts and for putting ideas in my head. And for dinner and beer.
- One day, we’ll all be programmers (zamfi.net)
- Workers vs Machines (businessethicsblog.com)
- The New Yorker Publishes The Digital Revolution: An iPad Anthology (nyconvergence.com)
- The realization is now (sethgodin.typepad.com)