The formula for success is changing (at least in economic terms), and not in any small way.

At the beginning of humankind there was no economy. We all hunted and gathered and roamed from place to place following the food with our families and other tribe members.

Then—roughly 8000 years ago, something remarkable happened. We started farming, people settled land and raised crops, and some of them had enough of those crops to trade with others for other goods and services. And for the first time in the history of humanity, an economy was born.

It was the Agrarian Economy—and in the most basic of terms it defined success like this: The more land you own, the more successful you are.

That was the first economy and it lasted thousands of years. 

Until the 1700’s. With the dawn of the steam engine, a second economic revolution was birthed—the Industrial Economy. 

Under this new system, large plots of land no longer automatically translated to wealth. (Watch season one of Downtown Abbey to see this drama played out.) Instead, in this second new economy productivity was king. Success was defined by how many widgets you could get out of a single worker or factory in the shortest amount of time.

And so it was. For 300 years.

Now we are on the cusp of the next revolution. Only the 3rd major economic revolution since the beginning of time. And we’re all part of it.

It’s still early, so you hear different names for it. But whether you call it the Knowledge Economy or the Information Economy or something else, the new formula is this: Success goes to those who can collect the most information, learn the fastest, and figure out what’s next faster than the rest.

Decades ago, when Sony launched the Walkman (that personal tape cassette player for those of you under 30), the average product cycle was about 7 years long. When they launched the CD-spinning Diskman, the cycle was about 4.5 years. Today, your tune-churning smartphone is considered old news after 6 short months.

Adaptation and invention is now the name of the game.

In some ways, the nature of success hasn’t changed at all. Food, productivity, and innovating have always been important and will continue to be important. What’s changed is the urgency.

From the beginning of time, the achievements we value most were driven by individuals and cohorts who created something new—shifted the world towards a whole new form from what had existed in the past. 

But now, more than ever, our problems demand that we grow, explore, and discover. 

There’s never been a more important time to develop ourselves and our organizations into black-belt learners, adapters, and innovators. Our survival might depend on it.


If you’re interested in helping your team adopt more impactful mindsets, skill sets, and toolsets, I’d like to help.

Contact me at or 651-253-7515 to talk about training or coaching for you or your team to develop a more creative approach to your work.

Or join us on Aug 24 a rare open session on Creative Leadership. More info at


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© Andy Zimney and Leading Off the Cuff, 2016.







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Andy Zimney is a Senior Advisor and Team Performance Coach at Employee Strategies, Inc., a boutique firm that partners with leaders to develop highly effective cultures that drive outstanding results. Contact ESInc to learn more about how they can assess your current culture and design customized and effective development experiences for your team. Or reach out to Andy directly.