I bought a book the other day. Didn’t even leave my home – just pulled up a website, clicked one button and – whoosh! – the book was on my iPad. And on my iPhone. And on my Kindle. And on my desktop computer.
Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I can read that book any time, any where, on any device.
And in that fell swoop, I got exactly what I wanted and single-handedly killed a fair number of jobs around the world.
See, if I had driven to the bookstore to buy the hard copy of the book, it would have taken:
- the store clerk who helped me find the book
- the cashier who rang up my book
- the store manager who supervises those staff people
- the cleaning crew who maintains the space
- the landlord
- the corporate people who decide which books to carry
- the gas station attendant who sells me the gas it takes to drive to the store
It would have also taken:
- the farmer that planted the trees
- his farm worker
- the lumbermen who harvest the trees
- the driver who hauls the trees to the pulper
- the pulper
- the driver who drives the pulp to the paper mill
- the guy at the paper plant
- the binder
- the driver who picks up the finished book
- the warehouseman who stores and ships the book
- the FedEx woman who delivers the book
- the guy who puts the gas in her truck
- the mechanic who maintains her truck
None of those people had a hand in my recent transaction. Multiply that by millions of e-books sold each year, and it’s no wonder that a lot of working people are suffering.
All because I chose the most efficient way to read what the writer wrote.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the feel of a bound book in my hands. I love turning pages. I also like people to have jobs. But, boy, do I love being able to buy an obscure, out-of-the-mainstream book with the click of a button.
And it’s this simple effect, amplified across a number of industries, that has changed the face of employment around the world.
We no longer need warehouses to store items that can be bought virtually. Bang – those jobs vanish.
We no longer need postal workers to deliver your movie in a red and white envelope, because you’re streaming at your convenience. Jobs gone.
No more factories churning out CDs in their infernal, unopenable, shrink-wrapped jewel box cases, because you listen to music on your phone, or via your computer speakers. Poof, buh-bye assembly line workers.
My friends, we are living through remarkable change. And we can lament and despair – gnash our teeth at the loss of the old ways – or we can hike up our britches and figure a way to get on board with the new. Just the way our great-grandparents did when running water came to their town. The way our grandparents did when every house was electrified. The way our parents did when air travel became commonplace.
Now is the time. If you are in an industry under threat from the new way of doing business, it may be time to reinvent – toward the efficiency and immediacy of the new economy. A great tool is the new book Reinventing You (Harvard Business Review Press) by my friend Dorie Clark. I interviewed her last week on the WiseWork radio show. It’s worth a listen.
It’s critical that you find the way – your way and maybe even a way for others – to thrive in a world where efficiency means that more gets done with less.
The world is wide open to you in a way it’s never been before, with so much possibility at your fingertips.
Now is the best possible time to reinvent.