The Acceleration Of Change

“Self-organization is not a startling new feature of the world. It is the way the world has created itself for billions of years. In all of human activity, self-organization is how we begin. It is what we do until we interfere with the process and try to control one another.”  -Margaret J. Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers

Nature exists in a constant state of flux, as continuous change permeates the entirety of its environment. It is neither driven nor controlled, as much as it is a natural consequence of adapting to its surroundings and the shifts that are occurring throughout its ecosystem. Some of these shifts can be rapid and turbulent, such as a lightning igniting a brush fire, or slow and incremental as an animal adjusts to changes in the natural environment.

So, whether incremental or rapid and turbulent, change in nature is neither seen as event or something to be controlled. It is not a linear, predictable mechanism to be turned on and off as much as it is a natural, evolving and fluid part of the ways things are and always will be. And yet, throughout time, we’ve tried to turn change into an event, a predictable and linear process that we can control, regulate and maneuver as we wish.

Whereas in nature, as the environment shifts and changes, we see those in the ecosystem learn to adapt to the volatility and uncertainty in their surroundings if they are to survive, we often look to do the opposite in our organizations. We put in place more restrictions, more structures, and more hierarchy. We choose accountability over adaptability, in this hope that we can control the process and speed of change.

And we are finding that it is just not working, for our people or our organizations.

Especially as our world become more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous. As the world accelerates, change will become less and less predictable and linear, no matter how much control and accountability we add to our individual and organizational lives. Change is exploding around us in an ever disrupting fashion, uprooting foundations that have remained steadfast for centuries.

We live in a world where change never sleeps…

Take data for example: for every minute of the day Twitter users send over 100,000 tweets, Instagram users share 3,600 new photos, WordPress publishes 347 new blog posts, Facebook users share 684,478 pieces of content, Google receives over 2,000,000 search queries, YouTube users upload 48 hours of new videos, and email users send over 284,166,667 messages. And that is just a drop in the bucket of the new data that is being created by minute, by day, by week, by year. Change and the world around us accelerating at an unprecedented rate.

To believe that we can provide assurances and certainty through accountability and control mechanisms in the face of this acceleration is delusional at best.

Instead, we need leaders who can both support and challenge their people and their organizations in this new and dynamic world that is shifting and shaking the foundations that we have stood on for centuries. We need leaders who have the depth and width to connect dots amidst the chaotic frenzy of new information that is blasting towards us at a phenomenal rate. We need leaders who can utilize the acceleration of change as opportunity to engage it’s momentum to propel us past the paralysis of uncertainty that can overwhelm and control us and our organizations.

We need leaders who can push through the anxiety and fear that has been created by the velocity of change that is accelerating throughout today’s world. It serves as the difference between creating significance or falling into irrelevance…

“In a time of exploding change – with personal lives being torn apart, the existing social order crumbling, and a fantastic new way of life emerging on the horizon – asking the very largest of questions about our future is not merely a matter of intellectual curiosity.  It is a matter of survival.”  -Alvin Toffler


1 thought on “The Acceleration Of Change

  1. Thanks for pushing the thinking once again David. One of my favourite leadership quotes is from Galbraith and it seems appropriate for this post: “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.”

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