The Conceptual Age is Here
Published August 8, 2010
A new era is upon us. We've been anticipating this new age ever since we heard the song "Aquarius" from the musical "Hair" which describes it as The Age of Aquarius:
"harmony and understanding
sympathy and trust abounding
no more falsehoods or derisions
golden living dreams of visions
mystic crystals revelations
and the minds true liberation"
Some may refer to this era as the Age of Intuition. Or the Shift in consciousness. The business world uses the term The Conceptual Age or The Creative Age or The Age of Imagination.
It is the next great age of the Western world. The course of Western civilization can be divided into the Agricultural Age, the Industrial Age and the Information Age. This course is specific to the Western world, not all parts of the world have undergone these phases.
The term Conceptual Age is used because conceptual thinking is expected to be key. One definition of conceptual thinking is, "the ability to identify patterns or connections between situations that are not obviously related, and to identify key or underlying issues in complex situations. It includes using creative, conceptual or inductive reasoning." A simpler definition is, "the ability to perceive and imagine, predict and hypothesize, and to conclude and reflect."
There is much speculation about what the Conceptual Age will look like. But we have already begun to see a trend in the making.
A shift in thinking
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Daniel Pink (author of "A Whole New Mind") stated that right-brainers will rule. Artistry, empathy, inventiveness, big-picture thinking will be the top skills of business. He explains that one of the trademarks of the Conceptual Age is the outsourcing of traditional white-collar jobs such as law, accounting, and engineering to less-expensive overseas workers, particularly in Asia. But as he points out, you can't outsource creativity.
This is great news for us artsy-fartsy folks. But not necessarily bad news for the left-brain thinkers.
"That doesn't mean computer programmers are going to be scrubbing counters at fast food restaurants, but it does mean that those programmers have to understand their customers better, look at the different parts of their business in a symphonic way, have a design sensibility, and speak in story terms about what they're doing."
"These right-brain abilities are more than a way to get ahead in today's economy. They're part of what it means to be human. Everybody has the capacity to develop them. And if we encourage people to tap the right side of their brains, we have the potential to transform our world—to make ourselves not just better off but just plain better." ¹
This may explain why this is considered a shift in consciousness. Understandably the shift may be a rough ride for us as outdated systems inevitably evolve or fade away.
The new economy
According to author Cookie Tuminello, the 3 trends that will dictate the Conceptual Era are:
1. Heart versus Head Spending. No longer will people choose the cheapest, easiest or fastest way to getting what they want. They're going to want to conduct business with people who sell from a place of integrity. In short, the new consumer wants to be able to place 100% of their trust in YOU and your business. They want to know what your values are, how you operate your business, and what practices you have in place to ensure that your customer will leave your place of business feeling as if they've just made a 'new' best friend.
2. Right Brain versus Left Brain Business. Left brain selling is going to fade away like the dinosaurs. Appealing to people's logical and mathematical senses in order to make a sale is going to disappear. The left brain or analytical part of your thinking is not going to make your final buying decisions. This shift in thought patterns will allow your right brain, (or emotions), to dictate your ultimate choice of whom you'll conduct business with. Remember the old saying from the '60's that went, "If it feels good, do it?" Well, that way of thinking is going to make a comeback in a BIG way.
3. Manipulating, High Pressure Tactics versus Selling with Integrity. The days of slick talking salespeople are coming to a close. The new consumer wants to be able to ask questions and get real answers, not hear huff and fluff about why Brand "X" is simply THE best thing since sliced bread. These new consumers are capable of doing their own research thank you very much, and they already know what they want before they set foot in your store. They're not going to tolerate up-selling, cross-selling, or any kind of 'hype' selling as they view that as an insult to their intelligence, and rightfully so. They want to be treated as equals by you, the owner. They want you to acknowledge their requests, take their interests to heart, and provide them with the best possible solution to their buying excursion. In short, they want to 'see' your level of integrity and honesty. If you try to pull the proverbial wool over their eyes, they're going to be on you like white on rice. ²
Work skills for the new age
Lisa Bodell (founder and CEO of futurethink and author of "Kill the company: End the Status Quo, Start an Innovation Revolution") identifies the skills that she thinks will be important in this new Conceptual Age:
In the Conceptual Age, right-brain skills will be key. Given the velocity of change and the complexity that results from this, we need to go beyond just knowledge or expertise. The best employees of the future will excel at creative problem solving and different ways of thinking -- synthesizing seemingly diverse things together for better solutions, using metaphors to explain new ideas for which no context yet might exist.
1. Strategic Imagination refers to "dreaming with purpose." Today's employee is so mired in busywork that their ability to think long-term has waned. But employees of tomorrow must learn to actively imagine future possibilities and create scenarios to act on them.
2. The ability to ask smart and often unsettling questions is known as Provocative Inquiry. Transformative power lies in asking questions that make us rethink the obvious. In the healthcare industry, for example, it can be seen in the shift from curing illness to preventing it via wellness services.
3. The quick and obvious strategy will not survive the fierce competition of the Conceptual Age. Employees will need to continually exercise their Creative Problem Solving skills, the application of best practices from unexpected sources to create fresh solutions.
4. Keeping pace with change is a challenge, yet meeting unexpected situations with quick thinking and resourcefulness is the very definition of Agility. In a world where change is the only constant, a Plan B -- and C, D, and E -- is truly critical.
5. Building on agility, employees will also need to demonstrate Resilience, which translates to tenacity and courage in the face of obstacles. People who are undaunted will give their organizations a competitive edge in the Conceptual Age.
Learn to overcome barriers by practicing the art of "Impossible to Possible." Write answers to these questions: What would a customer say we should do for them but never would? What would make us the industry leader -- although hell would have to freeze over for it to happen? What impossible thing would make your job infinitely better? Once you've made a list, find a way to turn the list of impossible things into possibilities. This exercise truly awakens the competitive spirit and gives rise to a solution-driven mindset. ³
Innovation: from profligate to frugal
«It’s time to rethink innovation—no 'breakthroughs' or 'game changing' required,» says Kishore Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at Accenture. «In my opinion, it’s time to analyze and understand some intrinsic beliefs we hold about innovation, especially in the West, where the concept has evolved over time and under circumstances that raise questions about its relevance to modern times. I believe we will find our current thinking and approach regarding innovation to be rather expensive, even profligate. Once we bring a frugal mindset to innovation, we’ll see a lot more innovation around us than we do today and realize that words like 'breakthrough' and 'game-changer' only serve to muddy our thinking.»
The economics of innovation has changed. Emerging-world companies can get away with little or no innovation for several years. With rapidly growing domestic markets, they can accumulate capital and buy know-how from the West when necessary. With improved educational infrastructure and opportunities at home, emerging countries can also do Western-style innovation a lot more frugally.
The term "frugal innovation" is not new. Carlos Ghosn, the legendary CEO of Renault and Nissan, uses the term “frugal engineering” in reference to building products for the emerging world. To implement frugal engineering, he recommends that Western companies create a healthy rivalry among their global R&D teams, leverage emerging-world partners who are used to working with resource constraints and send top executives to emerging countries so that they can develop a frugal engineering mindset.
Frugal innovation is not just about developing products and services for emerging-markets customers; in a world where labor can be sourced from anywhere, it will become the way of innovating for your Western customers as well. Here are a few tips.
- Breakthrough innovations are few and far between, and even the game-changers are often accidental. So invest in R&D that is relevant to your customers and your business. An innovation that clearly targets a customer or business need is more likely to produce breakthrough results than breakthrough innovations aimed at poorly defined problems.
- Innovation does not need to cost a lot. Develop an innovation model that encourages your innovators to start small and prove their concept or build a prototype quickly so that it can be evaluated for its commercial potential.
- You don’t need a Ph.D. to have a good idea. Create a program that gives anyone with a good idea time off to develop it further. Connect these would-be innovators to your R&D organization so that their ideas can be evaluated, nurtured and developed. †
Ironically globalization will eventually lead to living locally.
According to economist Jeff Rubin (author of the book "Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller"), in the long run, economic development in China, India and other countries, including the big oil producers of the Middle East, will bring them closer to levels of oil consumption in the west. The result is that oil price will soar.
This means that expensive oil will make our world smaller in many ways: cities will have to become more compact so that people use their cars less; consumers will have to buy more locally produced goods instead of exported ones.
There will be compensations, however. Curbing energy use will make it easier to cut greenhouse gas emissions. More compact cities not dominated by cars will be better places to live. And as people start “going local”, looking to their regions and neighbourhoods rather than the wider world, they may take better care of their communities. ‡
In an article "The Rise of Manufacturing Marks the Fall of Globalization" , market analyst Dr. Rebecca Keller observed that "the era of globalization is coming to an end, though its effects will not disappear entirely." It's successor will be a new age driven by advanced robotics, artificial intelligence and additive manufacturing.
She explains: "As the next industrial revolution unfolds, the model for economic growth that arose alongside globalization will offer a less certain path toward development. Though new technologies will not completely erase the benefit of cheap labor, they will reduce the number of opportunities countries have to industrialize, diversify and grow their economies.
Meanwhile, trade will become more regionalized as production migrates back toward consumer countries. Nations with high education levels but comparatively cheap wages, such as Mexico, will replace their low-wage peers as the hubs of new industrial manufacturing. If technology improves enough to bring costs so low that it does not make sense to ship goods from distant places — admittedly a difficult benchmark to reach — trade blocs such as NAFTA could become virtually self-sufficient."
I believe that a renewal in our relationship with Nature would save us from our demise. We have enough evidence to understand that exploiting life around us includes destroying ourselves. We cannot afford to remain smug. We will have to re-examine our beliefs that led us down this path. You could say we've come full circle. But we're not back to square one. We are at a new level. We're at the point where technology (world wide communication) has united us in raising our awareness.
Though this is very good news things will get worse before we see them turn around. The turmoil (yes, there will be lots of turmoil) we are experiencing are temporary but necessary transitions, not disasters to be fixed. Hang in there, the shifts will make life bumpy but it will all be for the best.
Autonomous vehicles are already among us
First rooftop farm in the US sits atop public housing in the Bronx
Lufa Farms brings large-scale rooftop farming to Montreal
Empty Japanese factories converted into high-tech farms
The world's first virtual reality theme park is coming China by 2018.
Landmark, the company behind some of the popular Universal Studios attractions like Kongfrontation, Terminator 2 3D, and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man 5D, is calling the new concept L.I.V.E. Centre -- Landmark Interactive Virtual Experience. The park will combine virtual reality and augmented reality into a hybrid known as “mixed reality.”
CEO Tony Christopher plans to launch the first park in China within the next three years, according to Fortune Magazine.
“With virtual reality we can put you in the African savannah or fly you into outer space,” Christopher said. Combining different technologies like 3D, projection, surround sound, and special effects, the new park complex will include a range of attractions like an interactive museum, a virtual zoo and aquarium, a digital art gallery, a live entertainment stage, an immersive movie theater, and themed experience retail.
“This completely changes the idea of an old-fashioned museum by allowing kids to experience prehistoric dinosaurs or legendary creatures as we develop new experiences that keep them coming back for more,” Christopher said. “We’ll combine education and entertainment into one destination that’s always evolving.”
3D printer for clay housing
Dust sized 'fitbit' can be implanted into the body or the brain
Scientists develop edible food packaging to prevent waste
The world's smallest vehicle
WalkCar is a laptop size portable four-wheel device from Cocoa Motors. It's 13" and made from carbon fiber. 1 hour of drive time per charge. Can reach speeds up to 10 MPH. Designed for users ages 16 to 50. There is a 176 lbs. maximum riding capacity.
Sex robots have arrived
Masdar City, Abu Dhabi — the world’s first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city
A glimpse of the future for urban living
¹ Oprah Talks to Daniel Pink http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Oprah-Talks-to-Daniel-Pink/1
³ Work skills you'll need to survive the 'conceptual age' http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/17/opinion/work-skills-future-conceptual-bodell/index.html
† The economics of innovation: From profligate to frugal? http://www.accenture.com/us-en/outlook/Pages/outlook-journal-2012-economics-of-innovation-from-profligate-to-frugal.aspx
‡ Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: What the Price of Oil Means for the Way We Live book review http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/f1395e5e-515f-11de-84c3-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2H1gP2vdv
- How to Tap into Right-Brain Thinking http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-to-Tap-into-the-Right-Side-of-Your-Brain-Martha-Beck-Advice
- Using the right brain in business http://business.financialpost.com/2010/05/30/using-the-right-brain-in-business/
- Creativity and Empathy: How to Capitalise on Complexity in the Conceptual Age? http://www.mi2g.com/cgi/mi2g/frameset.php?pageid=http%3A//www.mi2g.com/cgi/mi2g/press/110912.php
- Imagination Age http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imagination_Age
- Why the Decline of the West is the best thing to happen to us http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/why-the-west-will-rise-with-the-rest/article16373489/
- The Rise of Manufacturing Marks the Fall of Globalization https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/rise-manufacturing-marks-fall-globalization