We will soon be departing the Information Age. The Information Age, according to Wikipedia, is defined as a period in human history characterized by the shift from industrial production to one based on information and computerization.

Every age has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The Ice Age, the Agricultural Age, and the Industrial Age have had their life cycles. The Information Age is simply one of those eras in human history that is fast approaching the end of its life cycle.

The industrial revolution in the late nineteenth century ushered in the industrial age, and the digital revolution in the mid-twentieth century spurred the emergence of the Information Age. But what will come after the Information Age?

I am not saying that information will become obsolete — far from it. People and companies will always need to capture existing data for analysis. But with AI, Big Data, cloud computing, and Blockchain, information will become far more available and easily accessible, with programmed recommendations based on the data for improvement at every level.

Who Has Access to Information?

Access to this information and recommendations will be available to anyone in the industry. There will probably be a price tag and some subscription formula for the data, analysis, and recommendations, but because it’s cloud-based technology, run by machine-to-machine learning, it will not have a heavy price tag.

Every practice, whether small or large, will have admission to the same level information and evidence-based recommendations and that will significantly level the playing field in the area of information.

Information (data, data processing, data storage, data analytics) has always been the key to success in the Information Age. The larger you became, the more granular the data, and with multiple locations and providers, analytics was much more accurate. The entities with the greater data capacity generated superior outcomes. The data gave them the necessary insight to boost their performance continuously.

But now, when the same information will be available to anyone and everyone, that advantage will disappear. The event of common access to information is the signal for the end of the Information Age. The end of information (data) superiority is going away.

Given the obsession and addiction to information/data, particularly by leadership and investors, DSOs will keep on generating more data, thinking this will enable them to sustain their success. But all this additional information is an attempt to strain a few more drops of juice out of an already-squeezed orange. The benefits of more information or better information seems incremental, not revolutionary.

Technology Leads the Way

Thanks to AI, cloud computing, Big Data, and Blockchain, all this information will be readily available to anyone in the in industry. Therefore, far less effort will be needed to analyze the information since machines will figure out the areas of strength and weakness, and make evidence-based recommendations. What will happen when the human interface, the CFO, and CEO are no longer needed for data identification or data analysis? What will happen when machines do data analytics and forecasting? What else will be needed for success when information is no longer king?

I believe the next age after the Information Age will be the Relationship Age. With machines doing most of the work, we’ll naturally be moving into a new age, in which success is most determined both personally and business-wise, based on how people relate with each other and their world. How are people relating to the “self” —  their personal, social, familial, and business relationships?

Relationships are “fields” of human experience, not fields of data. So what will be important in the next age will be how people are uncovering and improving how they relate to themselves, others, work, and the world. I am asserting the next age is The Relationship Age. Why? Because when machines are processing nearly all the information, relationships will be dominant in business and in life.

Given relationships exist in the experiential world, a new set of developmental tools and skill sets will be required for relationship-building and sustenance. Elements that are based on human-to-human interaction. Much greater emotional intelligence and self-awareness will be required. Enhanced communication skills — the capacity to factually as well as empathetically listen in such a way that communication works — will gain value. Same goes for the teams and the entire company culture.

The Relationship Age is coming, and maybe it’s time you prepare for it.


— Marc