Realities of the Creative Economy Part 1 of 3 – The butcher, the baker, and… Johnny?

Johnny is a lucky guy. He works from 07:00 to 16:00, 5 days a week. He’s got a nice little upper middle class life outside of his occupation.

So why is Johnny lucky? Not because he has a job or a wife and kid he’s worked hard to get those things. He studied, he’s never lazy during working hours, and always does what’s expected of him. No, Johnny’s lucky because he just so happens to be in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time. If Johnny were born 150 years ago, he might have had to do hard manual labour on a farm lugging cotton. Even worse, if Johnny was born 1 500 years ago, he could have been a poor peasant who had to had to have permission from the king to procreate! Yep, Johnny has it good, but what Johnny does not even know, is that his luck is about to run out, quickly…

If Johnny were to be asked at a party what he does for a living, he could quickly sum up his occupation in a couple of words; contract lawyer or architect, I draw up building plans, computer network specialist, doctor, math professor at a university – take your pick.

All these are admirable specialised white-collar occupations, but so was being a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker in the 14th century. While there’s nothing wrong with having any of these occupations today, by modern standards they’re not really what would be described as ‘skilled professions’.

So, what happened? Change happened. Technological change, to be more specific. In 1834 inventor, Joseph Morgan helped to further the modern-day candle industry by developing a machine that allowed for continuous production of moulded candles by using a cylinder with a movable piston to eject candles as they solidified. With the introduction of mechanised production, candles became an affordable commodity for the masses. All of a sudden, it was no longer an art to create candles. The value of skilled chemists or “chandlers” as they were known, to craft whale fat and sweet-smelling berries into something special, became redundant very quickly.

We all know how things went from there - the first industrial revolution changed the world of artisans, by taking their craft and converting it into a manufacturing process to deliver cheaper, better, and more readily available products, which led to the second industrial revolution starting with Henry Ford’s moving assembly line in 1913. Also known as the technological revolution, this took mass production to the next level by using engines as substitutes for animal and human muscle power and of using machines even more to produce goods. Whereas everyday life for most people had changed relatively little from 1700 to 1800, it changed profoundly from 1800 to 1900 and beyond.

Several remarkable technologies kept on converging: clever software, novel materials, more dexterous robots, new processes and most notably, the internet and all it involves completes our history lesson with the digital revolution. Before you know it, we’re speeding through the information and knowledge ages. Whispers of the next big thing were being heard from as far back as 1992.

Keeping theories like Moore’s law in mind, and simply noticing how rapidly things changed since the 1800s, it comes as no real surprise that we are actually already deep into the next step of the revolution: the creative economy.

Need help to strategically position your company to prepare for the creative economy? Contact us to find out more about our REIMAGINE philosophy.


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