Where Is The Pencil Sharpener?
September 21, 2003
Last Revised: May 23, 2012 4:50 PM
About one hundred years ago Jane would go to her job on the first day. About the third day, perhaps, she would ask someone, "Where is the pencil sharpener?"
It might have taken her that long to realize that:
Her pencil needed sharpening
She knew how to sharpen a pencil
But, she didn't know where the sharpener was
She would have to ask
And just about anyone would know
So, Jane learned more about one of the tools she used in her every-day job -- where to sharpen her pencil.
If you counted carefully, she may have had a few dozen tools she had to learn about. Many of them she learned about "at her mother's knee" or at some early age. After all, these tools did not change much, from job to job, or from year to year. The LOCATION of the pencil sharpener might vary, but you could figure that every office had one.
Many offices don't even have pencil sharpeners any more. The technology has changed drastically, and the rate of change has greatly increased.
Mary used her pencil in many of the tasks of her day. She may have had to use INK, but there certainly was no "ball point pen" around, so she had to know where the bottle of ink was, and had to wonder if she should bring her own favorite fountain pen? or, expect to find one provided on the job.
Her life was full of such mysteries.
Mankind is made up of some whose families haven't changed in thousands of years. The people in Afghanistan, some, are still living in mud huts. But, here in Illinois, change is not all that welcome either.
Fast forward a hundred years.
But as far as the communication revolution is unfolding very quickly, cultural impacts will happen very quickly too. In consequence, after 2010 we may expect that humankind will need to absorb a huge amount of novelty in a very short period of time. Meanwhile, the vast majority of people may not be able to handle it. (Source)
How has the world changed?
At the start of the 20th century, most of the U.S. population was male,
under 23 years old, lived outside metropolitan areas and rented their
homes. Nearly half lived in a household with five or more other persons.
One hundred years later, most of the population was female, at least 35 years old, lived in metro areas and owned their homes. Most lived alone or in a household with one or two other people. (source)
Changes in the office have been just as profound.
There are now literally hundreds of business tools being used in the office. The type of tool varies quite a bit, from office to office, and last year's tools are not handled with the same instruction manual as this year's tools.
Certainly it is now rare if you DON'T find computers in your office, and it is also rare that you might not be expected to use them.
When I was a boy (long before you were born) I was the only boy in the typing class -- all the others were girls. I learned to type then, and have used this skill, now, for more than 60 years! There are still people who hunt and peck and think that, maybe, that's all they will need to know!!!
Furthermore, this years instructional manual may well be 200 pages long, with sections in Japanese, Spanish, German and perhaps even more. In fact, if you counted all the "on-line" help screens for your office computer, you could count thousands and never find the last page!
Kodak's moves parallel those at many companies whose comfortable business models have been threatened by rapid changes in information technology. The struggle to survive and adapt to this change has become one of the broadest themes on the corporate stage, with success by no means guaranteed. (source)
Kodak would seem strong enough to make this shift. But, one day after this big announcement, their stock and dividend took dives:
Eastman Kodak Co., bowing to the pressure of its diminished prospects in traditional photography, slashed its semiannual dividend to 25 cents from 90 cents to save cash for a planned transition to digital technology. (source)
. . . .
The 72% dividend reduction comes at a time when many major corporations, such as Microsoft Corp., are instituting dividends or raising them, in part to let shareholders take advantage of recently lowered federal taxes on dividends. Kodak's move underscores both its already-eroded sales and the difficulty of the transition it sees ahead. After years of playing down the threat, Kodak said this summer that filmless digital photography was eating into its core film business much faster than the company had anticipated. (source)
Has Kodak failed to move into modern times? Will Mary find a job? Will she last on the job?
Not only are there new tools, but the marketplace for labor is shifting drastically -- with "cheap" Chinese labor causing many Americans to complain, but only a few, so far, are rising to the challenge of cheap labor by learning new skills that make their service worth high pay -- while textile workers and show factory labor are out of luck if they don't, themselves, change. Government subsidies will seem to help, but entrench the idea of dependency. The world is changing radically and rapidly.
China's economy expanded by a robust 9.5% in 2004, unexpectedly boosted by an export surge in the final months that suggested plenty of momentum this year behind an economy that has become one of the main engines of global growth. (Source)
The Chinese are now equipping their offices and factories with the most modern of computers -- after all, many of them are now made there!
In a state long known for its poverty, this region is growing fast -- but some are being left behind. As in some other parts of the U.S., a two-tiered labor market is emerging in Northwest Arkansas, with a well-paying rung for college-educated workers and a much lower rung for those with less education or outdated skills. And many of the best jobs are going to newcomers, not to native Arkansans. (Source)
Chances are that her first day on the job is also the first day Mary has ever even see some of these new tools, or the current version.
"Oh, no, Mary. We use Windows 2005 now, not Windows 98!"
How responsible do we think this new "Mary" is when she comes into Vibrant Life?
Well, Mary, or Bob, is rather expected to know how to open an eMail and reply to it. Virtually everyone has done at least that at home. or in school.
But, how about turning on your eMail program and then watching 500 incoming messages pour in, from just last night, and find that 200 of them have to do with techniques of enlarging your penis, or making $5,000 per day with no investment?
Spam is a way of life for businesses today.
You can either take the time to read a bit of these junk mails, then delete them, and find that you are spending a couple hours per day just doing that.
Or, you can call that "clever tech guy" to come in and fix your computer so that it automatically deletes the junk?
Or, you can learn how to fix the eMail program, yourself, so these annoying messages won't spoil YOUR day. We standardly use an anti-spam program called Choice Mail. It is increasingly necessary for all staff that ever even touch an eMail program to learn and use Choice Mail -- or be the quivering effect of unwanted mail, or wanted mail that doesn't get delivered.
In one vital area -- computers -- there is a Company Policy that describes how we divide the work of maintaing our information technology system. This is no small item. In many companies, correctly, there is a person with the executive status of "Vice President" who is responsible for the whole Information Technology System -- sometimes he would be called the "System Administrator."
Click here to learn more about how we divide up the responsibilities for the Information Technology System.
And, so it goes with hundreds of today's tools -- the modern office is an electronic jungle of constantly changing devices, with mysterious "programs." They seem to do an awful lot of work in a few seconds, but you begin to wonder if you are too old for this new stuff -- and you are not yet 30!
So, how much responsibility do YOU have for learning the new stuff?
Does the "modern world" demand of you far more than the offices of 1900?
You have to run fast just to keep up with the crowd! You certainly have to run faster to get ahead!
Pity the poor drop-out who will never succeed in an office, but who will live and die on welfare or "burger flipping."
Does society own these people a free lunch?
Do you know that past drug usage usually makes you slow to learn new stuff. Would you like to clean out the residue of drugs that makes you a poor risk as a wife or employee? We can help, but you have to earn that particular type of help.
What office skills have YOU brought to this job? What office skills are you willing to learn on your own time? Is Vibrant Life expected to teach you what you didn't learn in school? Is society getting smarter, or dumber? Where do you place in that spectrum?
Well, you have a chance to learn a lot here at Vibrant Life, but your promotions and pay raises depend, at least in part, on your willingness to LEARN the new stuff that keeps sneaking into the Office to make our work more efficient.
What skills will you need as we move through the next 100 years?
The nature of work and education has changed dramatically in the last 200 years. We can examine this period in three eras: the agricultural era, industrial era, and informational era. During the agricultural era (until the late 19th century in the United States), the majority of the population worked on farms. Little formal education was required, as farming was learned through personal apprenticeship. Education, which focused on rote learning, oral recitation, imitation of "correct" speech and writing, and memorization, served to enforce the aristocratic mores of society (de Castell & Luke, 1986).
During the industrial era (from the early 20th century until about the 1970s in the U.S.), the majority of people worked in manufacturing. Factories were organized according to a Fordist model of a strict vertical hierarchies, minute divisions of labor, and individual compartmentalized skills. Schools too came to be influenced by the same model, with students learning decontextualized functional sub-skills through programmed instruction in large classes (de Castell & Luke, 1986).
In the informational era (from about the 1970s in the U.S.), increases in productivity depend on the use of science and technology to manage the quality of information (Castells, 1996). The archetypal workplace is the office, and work is increasingly organized on post-Fordist principals of horizontal networks, teamwork, a flexible division of labor, and just-in-time production and distribution (Gee, Hull, & Lankshear, 1996). Informationalism requires a new learning mode emphasizing collaborative inquiry and systems thinking (Reich, 1991). (source)
Change has been rapid during the last 100 years, but the pace of change itself is increasing. More change has occurred in the last 30 years than in the 70 years before that. What will happen during YOUR LIFETIME in terms of changes in the work-world?
In fact the changes are now coming along faster than individuals can keep up with them -- so we have a work force largely become a slave to the machine. Yes, we have a few who can still design machines, but we have many more who can only become a slave to them.
In any activity there is usually some tool or knowledge that is used to produce a product. We "organize" our activity with those tools in order to "produce" whatever it is that our public wants. When an activity does NOT have rapidly changing tools or technology it was possible for someone to "learn a trade" or inherit his father's took kit -- and just start producing. He didn't have to learn new stuff, perhaps, for his entire life.
Today you need to have almost a career change every five years!
It is no longer possible in many fields to learn once and no more, particularly in the fastest growing fields of an economic nature. Many businesses today depend on internet sales and computer technology. That happens to be an area where the technology and tools are changing by quantum leaps.
It may be necessary for some in our Company to spend as much as 25%, perhaps much more, constantly keeping up with the current stuff. Now it is no longer time spent on keeping up with current stuff, but the skill you have in understanding the process of study. Schools are teaching in such a way to reduce not only intelligence but the very technology of study. So, there is a vital need to keep up with the modern tools of production, and knowledge, but there is even a more vital need to learn how to study.
This is necessary, at least in part, because there is not only MORE stuff to learn, but there is an even larger pile of useless information and tools that "don't work," so now the ability to JUDGE what new stuff becomes even more important than the skill at studying some batch of stuff.
Some of the useful learning you may do on Company-time, but you always have the opportunity to jump ahead of the crowd and do some of that learning on your own time.
Quotes from L. Ron Hubbard are copyright 1994 © by the L. Ron Hubbard Library. All rights reserved.