The Future Will Be Very Different…

“Never in human history have we seen so many technologies moving at such a pace.”  “And everything is being disrupted in the process.”  -Salim Ismail Exponential Organizations: Why New Organizations Are Ten Times Better, Faster, and Cheaper Than Yours

Or as David Rose adds, “Every single job function we can identify is being fundamentally transformed.”

And the pace of this change is staggering. Very little is being left unchanged in its wake.  From how we learn, to how we communicate and even work is being radically altered and transformed. From our personal to our professional lives, we are witness to fundamental changes that are affecting us as individuals and organizations on a global scale.

As Ismail shares in his work Exponential Organizations, “This pace of change isn’t going to slow down anytime soon. In fact, Moore’s Law all but guarantees that it will continue to speed up – and speed up exponentially – for at leas several decades.”

Marc Benioff adds at the recent World Economic Forum, “As a society, we are entering unchartered territory.” Which means that it will not be enough anymore for today’s leaders to just meet people where they are at, they will need to be constantly connecting disparate dots and doing their best to take their people ‘around the corner’ in order to better envision not only next steps, but what is coming. Connecting these disparate dots and plotting a path forward in the midst of these profound shifts in work, the economy and technology will be vital to preparing our next generation for a very different future.

No longer will it be enough to graduate while having determined a career to pursue, in today’s rapidly shifting world there must be awareness of how likely it is that the path chosen may end up being outsourced or automated away. Martin Ford adds to this necessity in his work The Lights In The Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future where he shares, “The reality is that there is simply little or no relationship between the level of education and training required for a person to do a job and whether or not that job can be automated.”

In today’s world, we’re going to need to move beyond obvious thinking, strategies and connections if we are to effectively prepare our students for a very non-obvious future.

And a very non-obvious and different future it will be. As many have predicted, from Ray Kurzweil to Andrew McAfee, we are just beginning to hit the ‘knee of the curve’ in Moore’s Law.  A point where change moves from gradual to the exponential. As Ray Kurzweil writes in The Singularity is Near, “Exponential growth is deceptive.  It starts out almost imperceptibly and explodes with unexpected fury.” Or as Ernest Hemingway purports, “Gradually, then suddenly.”

Inability to predict this oncoming future in the face of profound shifts does not relieve us of the necessity to continually connect those disparate dots of where we see these societal shifts taking us. In all actuality, it makes this work even more important and vital to preparing our next generation for a very different future.

Awareness in today’s world is paramount.

In a time when we are struggling to find answers, we are going to have to be able to ask better questions. Especially in the face of a very non-obvious and often disruptive future. Especially in a time, where Martin Ford shares that “Automation stands poised to fall across the board – on nearly every industry, on a wide range of occupations, and on workers with graduate degrees as well as on those without high school diplomas.”

In rapidly shifting world, preparing and equipping our next generation with an adaptive and agile mindset will be necessary for them to thrive in the face of the sheer velocity and constancy of change.


Instigating At The Edge Of Chaos

“Nothing novel can emerge from systems with high degrees of order and stability. On the other hand, complete chaotic systems, are too formless to coalesce. Generative complexity takes place in the boundary between rigidity and randomness.”  -Richard Pascale Surfing The Edge Of Chaos

One of the things that many leaders strive for is a strong sense of equilibrium and cohesion within our organizations. Our ongoing efforts are often heavily focused on creating greater levels of structure and stability across our systems. In fact, we often spend inordinate amounts of our time trying to find and incorporate strategies to release tension and levy serenity and calmness across the entirety of our organizational landscapes.

But maybe, just maybe, we are placing our energy in the wrong place, in the wrong direction?

Maybe instead of trying to relieve tension, we should be looking for ways to instigate it. Is it possible that today’s leaders need to spend less time focused on cohesion and a bit more time engaged in exploring and grappling with the turbulence and tension that exists in the chasm between chaos and order? In learning how to ride the tension which exists and resides in that space between those two forces?

Moving past your lid is uncomfortable, but necessary. Especially in today’s rapidly changing and shifting world.

Which is why they call it leadership, and not management. As Pascale shares in Surfing the Edge of Chaos, the difficult part is “getting the tension right.” It is finding the sweet spot between order and chaos. It is in finding a place of comfort in uncomfortableness.

Which requires a bit of turbulence and chaos, especially as the organization is knocked off balance and pushed out of its equilibrium. Which is vital for both individuals and organizations to thrive effectively in today’s world of constant change. Or as Pascale shares in Surfing the Edge of Chaos, “For any system to survive, it must cultivate variety in its internal controls. If it fails to do so internally: it will fail to cope with variety successfully when it comes from an external source.”

Which is paramount to the survival of any of today’s organizations or systems. For what was once insulated, is insulated no longer. Today’s organizations and systems are being pelted relentlessly from a variety of sources, both internally and externally. Inability to cope with this relentless onslaught and shift and pivot when necessary, ultimately leads to ineffectiveness, and ultimately irrelevance and or obsolescence.

So as we consider the futures of our organizations and systems in today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world, consider these thoughts from Pascale in Surfing the Edge of Chaos, “Species are inherently drawn toward the seeming oasis of stability and equilibrium – and the further they drift toward this destination, the less likely they are to adapt successfully when change is necessary.”