Sometimes it seems like every generation, it takes longer and longer for people to grow up. Millennials, we hear all the time, are the latest in a long line of slackers, gleefully extending their childhoods into their late twenties.
And it seems like a fair complaint. After all, in the hazy past, a thirteen year old boy became a man, married a twelve year old girl and they started to work their land. Seems crazy, but once upon a time, it was the way of the world.
Let’s look at that world for a minute. Before the Industrial Revolution (read: factories) life was rough, and it was dangerous. It was dirty, and it was hard. But it was also simple.
For the most part you did the job that your father did before you, and your grandfather before him (always assuming you were a boy) – a job that you started learning to do around the time you graduated from diapers (or whatever bundle of rags passed for diapers back then.) In fact, you likely used the very same tools that your forebears used, handed down to you when you took over the family homestead, forge or mercantile. If you were a girl, you started learning to raise babies and run a household at about the same time.
That job you learned from your dad? It was simple. With little technology to help us with our work, occupations focused on a single task. You tilled the land. You made tools. You sold goods. Whatever the task, you spent your formative years learning to do it, then spent the rest of your (blessedly short-ish) existence just trying to keep at it, until your boy turned 13 so you could retire, or pitch in for a few more years, or die.
Bleak? you bet. But simple.
Look at the world around us now. According to Starbucks, more than forty people are involved in making your one cup of morning coffee, from growing and processing, through making the coffee itself – and that’s if it’s not a latte, or you’ll need to add the people who contributed from the dairy industry. Goods move around the world continually, and the amount of technology that helps us all on a day to day basis is mind boggling. How many people had to understand how many things in order for your smartphone to happen?
Today’s world is complex. It’s almost unbelievably more complex than our pre-Industrial scenario, and it is more complex than it was fifty years ago – more complex than it was even twenty years ago.
And the truth is, there’s a lot more to learn today than there once was, and if we want to do it right, we have to spend those years learning it.
In construction specifically, how many safety regulations do we need to follow compared with fifty years ago? How many more materials from which to choose, and how many more technologies do we use? We’ve come a long way, and many of those changes are for the better. How many fewer injuries or deaths so we see on a daily basis?
The Panama Canal was built in 1914, with a total of 30,609 deaths on the entire project, a total of 408 deaths for every 1,000 workers on the project. Compare that to any modern day project, and I would hope we’d see a major improvement!
This is good news. It means that the world is not, necessarily, getting lazier or less bright. It’s only that the textbook is thicker and takes longer to read than it once did. It means that teams need more education than they once did, but they have the ability to use that education to be more productive than ever before (and with all the changes in safety and reduction of brute force, they can stay productive for many more years!)
Looking for help with that education? Check out our Construction Mentoring and Project Coaching Services!
Stay tuned for more on this topic next week, in ‘Why Can’t My Team Succeed Part 2 – What About That College Degree?’