the relationship era

“In the agrarian age of the 19th century, when schools meant one-room rural schoolhouses, teaching morality and morals and character was all important. That’s because society needed, and so demanded, good moral character.”Nineshift

Not so long ago ‘gee’ was an offensive word in the USA. It was considered to be short for Jesus. But a focus on morality shifted to a focus on responsibility, as we entered the factory era, where timeliness was necessary to keep the machines moving. We are nearing the end of this era, but its influence is still in our schools.

So today ‘responsibility’ means:
* Being present, not absent.
* Showing up on time.
* Handing in your homework on time.

How important is responsibility today, compared to creativity or relationships? Barbara Ormsby commented here several years ago that, “Responsibility and creativity are two rather different qualities. This helps understand why the transition from clear responsibilities to practised creativity is such a huge challenge in organizations today.” I have observed that curiosity about ideas can yield creativity, while curiosity about people can develop empathy. I think the latter will be critical for this network era as our relationships will be the only way we can make sense of the complexity around us in a sea of digital noise.

Ross Dawson wrote that, “in a connected world, unless your skills are world-class, you are a commodity.” He suggests that there are three skill sets necessary to transcend commoditization — Expertise, Relationships, and Innovation.

RELATIONSHIPS. Expertise in isolation is not useful. The rich sets of relationships that form networks are at the heart of value creation. Those who can connect expertise and facilitate the co-creation of value in relationships will be at the heart of the economy.

Morality was for a bygone era, but will it return in a new form? Will it become the new orthodoxy? Responsibility seems more appropriate for machines and software than people. Is the network era retrieving relationships as the prime factor for success in the creative digital workplace?

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