The dismal scientist….
In 1942 economist Joseph Schumpeter published the theory of Creative Destruction in his book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy.
Schumpeter’s thesis was fairly simple: new technologies create new business opportunities and new industries, but by their very existence destroy the infrastructure that existed previously. For those caught up in it, it can be a painful experience.
In journalism, we have had waves of creative destruction.
The advent of ‘Cold Type” or electronic typesetting in the 1970s obviated the entire career of linotype operators. It was hard for them to understand. In the UK, Wapping became synonymous with Murdoch’s efforts to break the backs of the unions. What he was really doing was replacing an archaic printing technology with a new way of printing newspapers – but one that wiped out hundreds, if not thousands of union jobs. At Wapping it was blood on the floor.
Murdoch was no stranger to the newspaper business. He had grown up in it. But to the union pressmen from The Times and The Sun, he was just an Australian businessman who was messing with their lives. They underestimated him. Badlly.
Murdoch built a whole new operation at Wapping. It was streamlined newspaper printing…. all electronic.
The union was resistant. It meant the end of jobs for some and for those who survived, a very different way of working.
They met with Murdoch at Wapping.
Murdoch had suggested that The Times, a morning broadsheet and The Sun an afternoon tabloid could be printed on the same presses.
The union men disagreed.
“Mr. Murdoch”, they tried to explain to their new boss, “the Times is a broadsheet. The Sun is a tabloid. The paper is different sized. It requires two different kinds of presses,” they said. And thus two full crews.
“Bullshit” Murdoch replied. He knew the technology.
He took off his suit jacket, climbed into the press and reset the webbing himself.
“Run it you bastards” he said.
It was over.
Murdoch had won.
New technologies are irresistable. The key is understanding them.
The small cameras, laptop edits and online video capability are a classic case of creative destruction. Jobs will change. Some will lose them. New jobs will be created. Those who don’t understand this will find it an extremely unpleasant experience…. even those who do. But there is nothing you can do to stop it.
It makes a lot of people unhappy.
Just take a look at b-roll.net.
It is no fun to be caught in the middle of a Creative Destruction moment. Whole industries, and indeed whole worlds collapse. That’s the ‘destruction’ side. But let’s focus on the Creative side. Whole new businesses and whole new ways of working are equally born out of the ashes. For those who can see what is coming and prepare for it, the possiblities are enormous, as the field is still fairly empty.
It is not for nothing that economics is called ‘the dismal science’.
But look as Schumpeter. He did not look like a very happy guy. For those who ‘get it’, the creative part of his equation carries myiad possibilities.