Earlier, I wrote that the Information Age was simply an extension of the Industrial Age, as the introduction of computation further entrenched bureaucratic values.
One key way that the Information Age differed from the Industrial Age was the development of complexification. Electro-mechanical things have a certain limit to just what they can do. Embed them with microchips, and you can add enormous functionality. Multi-purpose computers replaced single-purpose typewriters and tabulating machines. The remarkable malleability of software enabled complexity like we’d never seen before.
It’s important to recognize this complexification as a parallel development to connectedness, because it’s the two of them, working in concert, that has lead to the context in which we work today. When you combine the complexification of software with the emergent properties of networked connectedness, what arises is by nature unpredictable and chaotic. And the bureaucratic, hierarchical, command-and-control approaches that worked when offerings were relatively simple, fail to address this new reality. Particularly when you also consider the shift from product to service, where the “offering” exists only in the ephemeral relationship between the company and customer.
It turns out that humans, given a chance to engage with their complete selves, are pretty good at dealing with complexity and connectedness. As I wrote in “Innovate Like a Kindergartner,” I’m convinced that the interest in “design thinking” is less about exploiting the power of design, and more about getting in touch with those things that make us human. As businesses realize this, we’re seeing a re-humanizing of the workplace.