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Welcome to the Next Industrial Revolution (IR 5.0)

You’ve heard of THE Industrial Revolution…you know, the one that helped us become what we are today as a culture and society. When we incorporated machinery to do work on an industrial scale, we saw massive progress throughout the globe.

Today we continue to revolutionize productivity at exponential rates. We’ve incorporated technology to take us to new levels as machines build things (production), computers automate the flow (automation), and we control the entire process from a computer screen (connection). This push to de-humanize the process over the past 100+ years has had its advantages as we’ve done more with less, maximized resources, and optimized outputs. At the same time, the limits to de-humanization were felt when the world shut down with the global pandemic. We recognized the need for a true INTEGRATION between PEOPLE and TECHNOLOGY…which leads us to an abrupt shift to IR 5.0.

Over time, we have undertaken at least 4 large-scale shifts that created a massive change in the way we work. Each subsequent “revolution” was shorter than the previous as we learned to incorporate new systems into production and enhance manufacturing.

The first IR started in the 1700s as the industry began making goods through large scale production followed by a mass-production economy exemplified by assembly lines. Automation crept in starting in the mid-1900s as we brought in the use of programmable controllers, robotics, and electronics. The past 25 years have focused on combining physical systems with cyber-controls using AI, predictive indicators, and the internet of things as tools to increase efficiencies.

Enter the Next Revolution (IR 5.0)

My first CEO taught me to “never miss taking advantage of a good crisis.” The COVID-19 pandemic is such a crisis. The immediacy of change forced us to make the current shift where people must INTEGRATE with technology. Enter the next revolution.

 IR 5.0 is now upon us and we are not turning back. There is no more “New Normal”…it’s just normal. By the time we get out of the current state, if we went back to what we once knew as normal, it will be 2-years in the past. Who wants to go backward? We must look forward. This means that we need to adapt.

Here are some of the changes that IR 5.0 brings:

Individuals: We must become smarter…faster. Individuals must learn how to learn – more quickly. Qualities such as resilience, flexibility, adaptability, and leadership have become premium competencies. The ability to solve problems, think critically, and communicate effectively are in short supply. In a hyper-fast world of change, careers shift instantly and knowledge has a half-life of 2-years or less. We must continuously learn and learn faster so we can apply that learning, grow, and advance more quickly.

Specific to IR 5.0, this means learning how to use technology even faster. We have the tools all around us, but do we truly optimize them? For example, as individuals, we must recognize the cell phone as a tool and not just a selfie-taker or social media access point. We must continuously learn – not from formal schooling (although important), but just in time sources like video, feeds, streams, podcasts, etc. for content. New software and tech exist to help us do our job better, cheaper, and faster. It’s time to learn to add greater value, get more done in less time, and have a much larger impact.

Education: Both K12 and higher education MUST stop teaching to standardized tests and start teaching to relevant content that will help students succeed in the workplace. Like individuals, schools must learn faster and adapt more quickly. This model is completely opposite from the current approach. Schools must connect with local businesses to understand their needs, recognize economic trends, and continuously modify their curriculum to maintain relevance.

This also means stepping away from traditional study and testing. Real-time learning is hands-on and experiential. Exposing students to real-world experiences through workshops, simulations, and partnerships with businesses can help prepare them. Using case studies, project-based learning, and real-world situations to teach using live skills training methods may add greater value than the stock curriculum. Integrating students with tablets, computers, augmented reality, simulators, and other tech will give them the real experience they can apply immediately.

Businesses: IR 5.0 requires continuous change – but change for a purpose. A chief change agent is required to monitor the marketplace and conditions among customers, stakeholders, and internal resources. Executives must continuously pivot strategies to work towards plans. Companies must have structures in place to communicate with employees to bring them along with the changes. Without a vision for change, the underlying support to pivot quickly, and the ability to communicate and lead the change among employees, organizations will struggle to implement change when needed.

IR 5.0 calls for taking these solutions to the next level. Take welding - we looked at using welding simulators for training. We recently heard of the use of remote control welding where a skilled pipe welder can work from home operating a robotic welder in India. Two helpers can set the pipe in India while the expert welder is in the U.S. completing the expert task. No travel, no exposure to COVID, same job. After an hour, he switches to another job in Africa. Not only is it more efficient per job, but the welder is able to perform more work for more projects.

IR 5.0 is a Mind Set

With each shift, someone may say, “isn’t this just like the last one?” Yes…and no. We include elements of the previous revolutions. Then we take it to the next level. Creating seamless integration between human and machine takes a cultural shift. It requires moving from a concern of whether the machine will replace workers to one of understanding how the machine will augment and enhance the workers’ output. It’s a shift from scarcity and efficiency to resource optimization.

The choice is available for companies to make. They can change now or wait to be change – but the time to change is at hand. It’s much easier to change when you can plan it out and lead it yourself. That’s what IR 5.0 is all about…taking charge of the change, making it happen, and getting ahead in the game.

Here’s to your success!

Dr. Wade

Connect with me: LinkedIn @DrWadeLarson Twitter@DrWadeLarson


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