In a post that David Grebow and I wrote for the Association for Talent Development Management Blog, we present an abridged history of work and learning and how work and learning are, necessarily, much different in the 21rst century than they were in the past two centuries. Today, work is more about having a keen mind than it is about having a strong back or skilled hands. This has profound implications for how we manage workers and how we facilitate learning in the workplace.

We write:

We believe we are at an inflection point in the history of managing people, and managers sit at the center of the curve. To know where we’re going with managing people, we need to know where we’ve been. The global economy has undergone three major and notable economic paradigm shifts in the past 200 years, each with an attendant educational system that helped people learn how to do their jobs. 

In the 19th Century Agricultural EconomyWe Managed Backs.  1800 farming

In the 20th Century Industrial EconomyWe Managed Hands1900s factory workers

In the 21st Century Knowledge EconomyWe Need to Manage Minds2000 mind workers

The workplace doesn’t need backs or hands anymore. Automation, robots, and more efficient processes have seen to that. The 21rst century workplace needs minds that are smart, social, agile, and innovative. And, therefore, the workplace needs managers who can create the conditions in which people can learn continuously on their own and from each other and can apply this learning to helping their Knowledge Economy organizations be successful.