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MindPrep Blog

Adaptive Strategies, Inc. is an education and consulting organization focused on helping managers make a difference. With the use of assessment instruments, tailored workshops, and personal projects, we give managers the tools to think and behave differently; that is, aligned with the emerging needs of the organization. 

Who's Shaping Our Future?

Kristen Scott

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Søren Kierkegaard

Life is pretty cool for us in the 21st century.

Think about it for a moment. 

Although I complain about air travel, I can get from NY to LA in six hours (after I get through TSA). I can research topics to my mind’s content without leaving my desk. I can go over to Whole Foods and pick up something unusual, tasty and hassle-free for dinner tonight. And I can get into the middle of a texting flurry with my wife’s large family when her brother posts his latest photographs of birds of prey.

We don’t think about the forces that got us to today, but we can see them if we look back in time.

Let’s go back in time and think about some of the forces at play that got us to today. Here are a couple.

·         In the early 1800s about 75% of the U.S. population was engaged in farming. That dropped to about 25% by 1920 and stood at about 2% by 2010. Think of the impact of John Deere (mechanical technology) and George Washington Carver (agri-science) and how they shaped the future of farming and food in the U.S.

Sometimes our future is shaped by dedicated individuals.

·         The texting flurry with my brother-in-law depends on my iPhone and my internet connection. But how did we get here? Good old American business?

Yes, and….The Internet’s progenitor was the 1960s ARPANET, a program funded by the Defense Department. The GPS capabilities of my phone began as Navstar, a 1970s military program. The touchscreen technology was developed by a professor at a publically funded university and the National Science Foundation. And my phone’s voice, Siri, can be traced to a government artificial-intelligence project.

We may not like “big government” but we’re happy to use the technologies it develops.

Sometimes government programs shape our future. 

Henry Ford and the Need for Innovation

Kristen Scott

“When you make a choice you change the future.”

Deepak  Chopra

The beginning of the automobile industry is generally attributed to the machine created by Karl Benz in 1886. At first, the automobile was a rich man’s toy but there was broader interest and by 1900 there were hundreds of automobile companies in the United States. Surely you remember the Studebaker, Duryea, Oldsmobile, Mercer, Chicago, and Ward cars? No? How about the steam-powered Stanley Steamer? (Side note: in 1906 the Stanley Rocket set the world land speed record of 205.5 km/hr at Daytona. Pretty cool, huh?)

But it was Henry Ford who shaped the automobile industry – both for better and for worse.

Henry Ford tinkered with the idea for an automobile in the late 1800s and in 1896 built his first Quadricycle, which he drove around Detroit to garner interest in a business. He started Ford Motor Company in 1903 and, after a round of earlier models, introduced the Model T in 1908. It was a huge hit and he immediately had to scale-up production. This led him to the introduction of the automobile assembly line in 1913. And here is the heart of an unanticipated consequence that would shape management/relations for the next century.

The assembly line’s “need for speed” and the introduction of Frederick Taylor’s “scientific management” ran smack into the reality of high factory turnover because of mind-numbing, boring jobs. (Turnover at Ford in 1919 was in excess of 300% per year!) Jobs were further simplified so that a new worker could be proficient in one day. The money was good but the work was terrible.

This led to the formation of the United Auto Workers union and in 1936 they flexed their power in the first sit-down strike at a GM plant in Flint, Michigan. The relations between company management and workers has never been the same.

Henry Ford wanted more efficient production, but he ended making enemies of his workers.

Our future is often shaped by our relations with our perceived adversaries.