What is the “Connected Age”

Industrial >> Connected Age (Image credit, responsive.org)

We at Satori Lab think and talk a lot about the connected age, yet what do we mean by this and how can we embrace it?

Throughout history, we’ve had periods when society takes a great leap forward. There is usually some technology that provokes this leap.

For example,

  • steam engines helped us become an industrialised society,
  • silicon chips came along and kicked off the information or computer age,
  • the arrival of the internet instigated the current leap forward into what we call the connected age.

The connected age is also variously known as the network society, the 4th Industrial Revolution, or the Age of Participation according to Doc Searles.

As a society, we didn’t handle the transition from the industrial age to the information age effectively. We basically replicated a lot of the thinking from the industrial age and put a digital layer on top of it, or converted the analogue to the digital. There was little in the way of evolution of thought.

It was a missed opportunity. Very little changed in the way people thought about organisations and the rigid hierarchies and mechanistic way of doing things continued.

An example of this is how we turned memo’s into emails, which is basically a digitised memo or filing cabinets into digital filing systems.

Usually, a new technology comes along and there is a bit of a lag in the way that society handles the social, political, legal and environmental fall out from the change. We are many years into the connected age, yet society is still adapting to that change.

The big questions that we find ourselves constantly asking are:

“How can we adapt and do a better job of making that big leap forward without just recreating the information age with connections layered on top?”
“What different things can we do with the new tools available to us?”
“What will represent the next big leap forward?”

Change is no longer something you forecast on the horizon for which you can carefully plan and prepare. It is a constant. We need to position ourselves and create organisations that are capable of being highly adaptable. As Esko Kilpi put it in a recent blog, “The focus should now be on co-operation and emergent interaction based on transparency, interdependence and responsiveness.”

Of course, we can’t see into the future. We have to admit to ourselves and those around us that nobody knows how to do the connected age. We are all learning as we go along, seeing what works and adopting promising new habits. One thing I think is for sure, we will have to adopt new mindsets if we’re going to navigate the future effectively.

Some promising patterns which we have found seem to work well in the connected age include design thinking, agile development, innovation methods, and a move towards openness.

Check out our new webpage of book recommendations, including this month’s featured book, Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray, which has practical steps you can take to understand and change beliefs and mindsets.