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What Is The Idea Age? Leaving The Information Age Behind

The Idea Age describes the next evolution of technological era that draws a straight line from the agrarian age (stone, bronze, iron) to the industrial age, and then the industrial age (or space age), the information age (or digital age), and finally, the conceptual age (or “Idea Age”).

In the book “Strategic Learning”, Willie Pietersen, former CEO and currently Professor of The Practice of Management at the Columbia University Business School displays a chart portraying “History’s Four Big Revolutions”:

The Agrarian Age, the Industrial Age, the Information Age, and the “Conceptual Age”.

Each of these labels is associated with a particular time period. This "conceptual age" idea was borrowed from author and trend watcher Daniel Pink, who articulated the concept of this “4-Age” demarcation of technological time, ending with what he called the “conceptual age”.

About 5 years ago, when I was considering what to name my new company, I settled on “Idea Age Consulting” to communicate the central foundation underlying our consulting services and practice frameworks.

In my conception, the “Idea Age” began the moment the information age turned into the “information overload” age.

My estimate is that this happened sometime around when the internet, which had existed in some form since the early 1960s, evolved into the World Wide Web which was developed in 1996 by Tim Berners-Lee and others.

While I agree with the underlying logic of Daniel Pink’s “Conceptual Age” label, I disagree with his timeline which puts the birth of the conceptual age at about 2000.

Had I read Daniel Pink’s book "A Whole New Mind" back then, I may have named the company Conceptual Age Consulting.

Extending The Idea Age Conversation

In my conception, an Idea is a kernel of meaning that human beings transmit or extract from a relative deluge of information, complexity or even chaos. The Idea Age moniker signifies that “the idea”, is fast becoming the dominant technology of this particular era, fueled by advances in media, data storage, communication, collaboration and transportation technologies.

The Idea Age label is meant to convey the idea that individuals and institutions are now facing a deluge of information and input (data). This deluge can either impede our progress or propel us forward depending on our response.

When individuals respond poorly, they can fall to overload and overwhelm. Many freelancers and entrepreneurs today have at one time or the other experienced a vicious cycle of distraction, despair and defeat. For some, that defeat is permanent. They retreat to the world of under-employment, never to hang out their shingle as independent business owners again.

In organizations, the challenges of the Idea Age are more often felt at the senior levels of management.
There, complexity and hyper-competition threaten to overwhelm, product lifecycles are compressed, nimble new competitors spring up from far flung corners of the globe, and regulatory changes add even more volatility to already volatile costs and uncertain conditions.

On this website, you’ll learn more about idea age trends, ideas, and philosophies as we push the frontiers of the conversation. You also have the opportunity to learn how idea age consulting creates business frameworks to help our clients surf the deluge – the same flood of information that threatens to overwhelm.


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