James Hargreaves invented the Spinning Jenny in 1764.
He was a weaver and a carpenter, and he put his skills into inventing the automatic weaving machine to make his work easier. The result was the Spinning Jenny, a device that sparked the industrial revolution in England.
Imagine for a second that Facebook is the Spinning Jenny of our time, a historical marker of change in a shift that reshapes how we relate and communicate.
The industrial revolution changed our way of life by restructuring how we form societal groups. We became less dependent on a local community to provide for our needs and more urban. The digital revolution has brought us a shift of similar magnitude — never before have groups formed and dissolved so rapidly and so free from demographical boundaries.
Of course, the industrial revolution wasn’t only due to Spinning Jenny, just as the digital revolution wasn’t only due to Facebook. James Hargreaves and Mark Zuckerberg just happened to create something that demonstrated to the world the potential of new technology. The chances are that future historians will use Facebook as a similar symbol for change, just like we refer let the Spinning Jenny illustrating the industrial revolution.
If you, in the early days of the industrial revolution, happened to be in the textile industry, you would be a fool to ignore Spinning Jenny. You would be a fool not to invest in some automation. And you must be smart about it; you must make money throughout the transition while investing in new ways to make money.
If you weren’t in the textile industry, maybe you had some “extra” years to prepare before your line of work became industrialised. Some used those years to design and invest. Others didn’t. They couldn’t bring themselves to accept the inevitable.
Two questions for you, dear reader and fellow PR professional, to meditate on as I stitch this thought together:
1. Imagine yourself in business in the early days of the industrial revolution, and someone came by and described the Spinning Jenny to you. How would you react? What actions would you take?
2. Despite being such a disruptive invention, you’ll have to go to a museum to find a Spinning Jenny now. What will the world look like when your digital tools are a thousand times more potent than Facebook is today?
Now, be smart about your Facebook strategy.