Industrialization has undoubtedly brought the world a huge number of invaluable innovations. Assembly lines, advanced and cheap logistics and numerous other inventions from the industrial age have shaped the world as we know it. And with ever further advancement, obvious downsides such as environmental pollution seem to be solvable. So why should we ditch our industrialized thinking?
During the industrialization of our society, processes became more important. The reason is simple, processes can be optimized. And that is exactly what has made industrialization such a massive success. Efficiency and effectiveness of processes can easily be measured and because everything revolved around “more of the same” these processes were stripped to the bare essentials. Using as cheap a workforce as one could find, repeat the same thing over and over and over again.
Before the industrialization, in the age of craftsmanship, processes were different. They were used as a series of steps that had to be taken in order to get a certain result, but efficiency mattered much less than during the industrial age. Since processes were not captured in huge machines or factories, they were less rigid. Which meant they could be more easily adapted. This could be seen in the fact that no item made was exactly the same. And whether you wanted something custom-made didn’t matter, since in fact, everything was pretty much custom made.
Information age processes
Much like the industrial age brought major improvements in processes stemming from the age before it, so the information age brings improvements to processes from the industrial age. The mere fact that making a copy of digital information is pretty much free, for example, has driven a lot of the innovations that we have seen over the past 3 decades. But what about processes?
The state of technology nowadays means that we can actually combine the looseness of processes from before the industrial age with the efficiency and effectiveness of processes from the industrial age. No longer are processes captured in rigid systems. No longer are they expensive to change.
Re-program your process-thinking
I believe it was Elon Musk who said “I don’t believe in process. At a lot of big companies, process becomes a substitute for thinking.” And he was absolutely right about the second part. However, I full-heartedly disagree about not believing in processes. We merely have to unlearn what we have learned from industrialization.
Industrialization has taught us that processes must be rigid. Since this is no longer true, we can now reap the benefits of processes being a series of steps that produce a known result and combine that with being able to cheaply and effectively change that process to yield a better result. The tools are already available. All we have to do is do away with our old-fashioned process thinking.