Gird for complexity

The U.S. economy flip-flopped in the most amazing way in the last twenty years of the twentieth century. Call it The Rise of Intangibles. The value underpinning America’s public companies shifted from 80% tangibles — things you could see and touch — to 80% intangibles, invisible things like know-how, secret sauce, brand, and relationships.


This changes everything. If you’re still chasing after old-school accounting numbers instead of intangible gains, you’re in the wrong race. It’s a new ballgame.

Complexity has been on my mind a lot lately. In the twenty years 2000-2020, I suspect the nature of work to flip from routine tasks and following instructions to improv and going where the instructions have not been written.

The clockwork jobs have been outsourced to low cost providers. Robots do the simple jobs. Routine work is disappearing. In the future, the descendants of IBM’s Watson and analytics will do the complicated jobs.



What’s left is complexity: the unpredictable, volatile, surprise-time, non-linear, quantum, interconnected challenges of WTF. Will complex work become the norm by 2020?

Everything I’m talking about here is on an accelerated schedule. Faster, faster, faster. There’s more to learn every hour. Yet learning to navigate complex environments is totally different than learning to follow procedures and solve bounded problems. To master complexity, you need, in the words of John Seely Brown, “marinate in it.”

Permit me to crowdsource some help. (This is Internet Time Blog, my space for experiments. If you are only interested in conclusions, sign up for the Jay Cross Blog.)

What do you think of this? Does the movement toward 80% complexity ring true? Where can we find out more about the statistics? Help me form a nascent idea.

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