The demands of today on so many of us for wave after wave of transformational change can be wearying and unsettling, with no assurance that we are finally ‘getting there’. How can we master our qualms and reach a state where we can thrive?
What is the greatest cliché of our time? We live in an era of constant and turbulent change.
Back in 1908, G.K. Chesterton said: “…(some believe) that if you leave things alone, you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone, you leave it to a torrent of change”. So why is that concern so pressing today? Since his day, most would say that the torrent of change has accelerated, intensified, become more complex.
What is our evidence? Let’s take technology. On our horizon today looms quantum computing, artificial intelligence, big data, block chain, the internet of things, to name just a few. Each will surely shake up our world, often in ways that none of us can yet fathom. Next add the more long-established technologies that have steadily escalated in their capacities, types of use and dispersion of access, such as ‘mobile everything’, the proliferation of IP devices, and the explosion of power and speed in computing. Any one of these could be transformational by itself, but it is their collective interactions that can make their impact truly revolutionary. And their potential is rapidly becoming available to every human on the planet.
Along with those forces for change, we see parallel trends upending our society, economy, organizations, and environment. Growing access to knowledge heightens customer sophistication and expectations. The technical power to both map and utterly change our world is now in everyone’s hands. The spread of entrepreneurial and disruptive approaches opens up new possibilities, but also magnifies risks. Barriers to entry are falling everywhere. No local market offers safe harbour anymore from global crises, whatever their origin. (The butterfly is busy). Cyber-attacks have never been easier to launch, or more damaging. Unexpected natural disasters seem more frequent and powerful.
At no time in human history have the forces for change offered such massive opportunities, yet appeared so daunting – beyond our control. No single response seems likely to help us regain control of our destiny or seize the advantage that this era makes possible. How can we ready ourselves for such a volatile and kaleidoscopic future?
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