Looking into a crystal ball and seeing the future is every economist’s dream. Futurists say we are transitioning out of the Information Age into a new theoretical Age that is very different from the past Agrarian and Industrial ages.
Like other transitions there is a certain amount of economic and social disruption. Jobs and job skills can dramatically change with each new age. The Information Age, for instance, brought on more analysis and thinking which supported technologies like virtual reality (like online training programs for learning how to fly) and user created content (like Facebook and YouTube).
The Information age also capitalized on exponential growth of data storage, data transmission, computational capabilities, and the microminiaturization process. These technologies have changed the way humans interact with each other which impacts existing economic and social structures. For instance, people now can create relationships with others that they normally in the past would never be able to do.1
The information age has changed the way that humans interact with each other and create or maintain relationships. This in turn changes existing economic and social structures.
Where are we going? We are theoretically transitioning into a new Imagination Age where if we can imagine something, it can be built. The term ‘Imagination Age’ was coined in 1993 in an article by Charlie Magee who proposed that human evolution could be assessed through a lens of communication. He suggested that the most successful groups (tribes, city, states, nation, etc.) had one thing in common--better communication than their competitors. Communication include access, quality, ability to leverage information into action, and the ability to communicate with other group members.1
How might this new Age affect our economy?. The skill set for the Information Age, for instance, was very different than the skill set needed for the Industrial Age. The skill set for the Imagination Age will be even more different. Futurists expect that 65 percent of today’s primary school students will hold jobs that don’t exist today.2
How do we prepare for jobs that don’t exist? It will take a concerted effort to think and take actions to help grow future workers. Again, the Futurists have theorized that future workers will need to be creative problem solvers that understand meaningful collaboration, risk taking, and can also improvise. They will benefit from being curious, having data interpretive skills, can think ahead, are resilient, with a bit of discipline and fun mixed in.3 This is a dramatic divergence from traditional education, experience, and thinking.
We will have, they say, an opportunity to control our destiny by designing machines that preserve our humanity... but the ability to communicate and collaborate may be the best tools we have in the future.
The Ages keep coming... They further predict an Age of Intelligence where machines may be smarter than people. Some people may be experiencing this already with their ‘Smart phone’ particularly before coffee in the morning. The phone gets us up, has a list of chores and events, and can help us research topics through high speed connections. An example of how this change is already affecting the job market can be found in publishing. Overall the publishing sector has declined, yet the “jobs for designers, architects, actors & directors, software engineers and photographers are all growing.”4 Jobs that require imagination will be at the forefront.
With all the changes in computers and data management (and movies such as “The Terminator” from 1984) this Age is fairly easy to imagine. What is not so easy to imagine is how to best prepare our future workforce for these types of challenges. One common theme seems to be the need for creative resilient workers who can collaborate well with others. Our challenge will be how to create workers to fit those needs not only through our educational processes, but through practice and mentoring.
We will have, they say, an opportunity to control our destiny by designing machines that preserve our humanity.”3 In the Intelligence Age, the ability to collaborate and communicate may perhaps be the best tools we have in the future. The next challenge may be to figure out how to ensure that our future workforce will have these skills.
1 “Imagination Age” Wikipedia, 06/04/19 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imagination_age
2 “Creating an effective workforce system for the new economy” July 2018 by Chen, Wan-Lei, et al. at https://mck.co/2ETJSvk
3 “Imagination: What You Need To Thrive In The Future Economy” https://bit.ly/2wBKbXb
4 “Intelligence Age” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligence_age
5 “Why connecting economic and workforce development matters,” https://bit.ly/EHpLRI
As a ‘kitchen table entrepreneur’ you might sometimes feel a bit alone, particularly when it comes to resolving business problems. Recently, a micro-business owner mentioned the challenges of collecting overdue bills. They struggled with the idea of how to maintain the relationship in this tough situation.
Maintaining a relationship under this situation, can be a tricky tight rope for anyone. Sometimes bills may get paid, but you lose the customer. Often bills don’t get paid, and the customer never comes back. There’s got to be a better way!
Mediation may offer a win-win opportunity to strive for retaining a customer AND correcting the fiscal issues (past, current, and future). What’s Mediation? Mediation is a voluntary process for settling disputes with the help of a neutral third party. The third-party mediator helps facilitate confidential discussions and work towards a creative solution that is acceptable to both parties while providing the opportunity to rebuild or strengthen the relationship.
Mediation is not a court hearing but is sometimes mandated by the court. It is not a process to determine who is guilty or innocent, but it can open the dialog in a mutually respectful manner that is safe and supportive. Mediation can be significantly less expensive and quicker than going to court and is often being required in some venues before the parties are allowed to go to court.
“Mediation,” Karlee Cottrell, Community Coordinator for Common Ground Mediation explained, “can help support accountability in business transactions.” Common Ground Mediation has been helping Coos and Douglas County residents for 20 years working on many different kinds of conflicts and issues. Their website (https://www.commongroundmediation.org) contains tips and techniques to aid in the process. Or visit them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ListenTalkResolve/).
Preparation is part of a successful mediation, particularly for business issues. This could include pulling together and organizing data such as costs, dates, product/service, people involved (such as dates when service was provided, cost each and totals, copies of contracts, general operating guidelines (i.e., payment is due by x date, normal operating time is, fee schedules, etc.) and agreements, receipts, notes on previous interactions or correspondence (like a request for payment, bill, etc.). It is helpful to have your thoughts organized before entering the mediation to easily identify your issues and needs.
Your preparation may also include thinking about acceptable or possible outcomes, such as a short-term payment plan, etc. or potential negotiation areas. The Common Ground Mediation website has several other recommendations for preparing for the mediation that are worth checking out (see https://www.commongroundmediation.org/copy-of-mediation-advantages).
Mediation is cost effective and affordable, especially when compared to going to court, but services will not be refused due to inability to pay, there is a sliding scale based on need. Each issue is different, but help is out there. Skills used in the mediation process, such as listening and rebuilding relationships, are skills that can be learned and perfected. Common Ground Mediation is a section 501(c)(3) Nonprofit in the State of Oregon.
How mediation can be a part of business retention and expansion? There are bound to be some disagreements along life’s road. Business owners occasionally need a helping hand. Learning ways to resolve those problems, avoid court fees, or worse, can help a company stay in business, create stronger relationships, and get things done.
Business Retention and Expansion comes in many flavors. Resolving conflicts, such as getting paid on time, can be a major barrier for small businesses. Mediation might just make it easier to get resolution AND keep your customer!