This essay is drawn from The Local Economy Revolution Has Arrived: What’s Changed and How You Can Help. This updated and expanded version comes out next week (eek!) You can get an Insider Discount by pre-registering at https://forms.gle/ZFMZwqrxG7XhLad29
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In the last blog, I described to you the section that underpins the whole book – the First Principles.
These are the foundation for understanding where we are, where we’re going,why the methods that we’ve relied upon and the assumptions that we have made don’t seem to work anymore (if they ever really did), and why and what we need to be doing differently. They’re a way of keeping those fundamentals crystal clear in front of our eyes as we try to find new solutions — and fight our innate tendency to go back to The Way We Do Things, even when those Things don’t actually fit anymore.
There are three sections to the First Principles: The Driving Force, Rethinking Our Purpose, and Rethinking What We Do.
The first section, the Driving Force, is one of the easiest to understand intellectually, but it’s also the most important — and the hardest to live by. It only has one Principle:
- Welcome to the Fusion Economy. Time to put the Industrial Era behind us. This is the uber-issue, the thing that makes every other item here not just a nice-to-have, but crucial, imperative. We’re getting left behind by ourselves. The transition we’re currently making isn’t between an Internet 2.0 and Internet 3.0 economy, or between an Information Economy and something else. It’s much more profound and pervasive than that.
This is super important to understand, and not just if you work on an assembly line. Industrial-era thinking permeated nearly everything we did over the 20th and early 21st centuries, from the way we designed roads and bridges to how we assume nonprofits should work, and from how zoning codes are administered to the assumptions we make about who has the ability to administer,or even understand, those zoning codes. We see the Industrial era at work in the assumptions that underlie our economic development incentives, our social service programs, our grant programs, and more.
We’re still too much stuck in the Industrial Era, especially in how we structure organizations, government, public programs and businesses, and especially in terms of how we manage people in any of those settings. But emerging technologies and societal expectations and new ways of working are pulling us, sometimes dragging us, into a new place, which I’ve taken to calling the Fusion Economy.
Many of our most violent struggles come from the deep mis-matches between the basic operating paradigms underlying those two economies. A lot of what we did before didn’t really work very well, or didn’t work well for everyone. But because we were thinking in Industrial Era logic, we too often didn’t notice. Now they work worse than ever. And we don’t have that excuse anymore.
So, what does an Industrial Era system or organization look like?
- Command and control systems
- Emphasis on efficiency (often at the expense of resilience)
- Compartmentalizing or siloing
Our assumptions about the right-ness or necessity of these characteristics in our organizations are so ingrained in us that it’s often almost impossible to really see them. They’re like the nondescript wallpaper that we just don’t notice anymore. And when we do notice them, we have been conditioned by growing up in an Industrial Era world to defend them.
Much of the tension we’re experiencing today in our communities is between not just the visible elements, but between the underlying assumptions/paradigms of Industrial Era thinking and its fundamental mismatch with this emerging world We sort of know that, but we usually don’t get beyond a surface intellectual awareness — we can say “oh yes, of course, it’s changing” and then go back to doing things exactly the way we have always done them without perceiving the mismatch — without perceiving how what we’re doing works at cross-purposes with what we just said.
No wonder our methods don’t seem to work and we have headaches.