In 1970, the great futurist Alvin Toffler predicted that technology would accelerate the rate of change to such dizzying levels that by the turn of the century most people would be in a perpetual state of shock trying to absorb too much change in too short a period of time. This “future shock” directly ties into the going-through-the-motions behavior that typifies today’s trancelike, disengaged worker.
We are emerging from a three hundred year cycle called the Industrial Revolution. During this cycle, we were conditioned to view change as threatening, dangerous and unsettling. Yet, thriving today requires more than just coping with change. The wisest of us are not only developing the skills for self-change, they are establishing an enthusiasm for growth. Because growth is the new game and it offers far greater payoffs than the era of survival and predictability.
How many of us are conscious enough to be excited about trading in a sense of security for perpetual growth? Most of us need updated education to even realize what the opportunity implies on a personal level. For the vast majority, real change is a frightening prospect. For example, when we began our programs in 1990, most of our participants were pursuing one big professional change. After making that transition, many would tell me, “I’m glad that is over.” But, it wasn’t over. The world just became faster until now, many people are too confused to even define what it is that they want. Imagine that if we develop a thirst for learning and growth within ourselves and throughout our organizations just how much the national workplace will improve. How much will our personal lives and households improve?
One of the constants in the narrative coming from CEOs that run category leaders is active learning. Today’s top employee doesn’t rest on skills they learned ten years ago. They are constantly updating and renewing and searching for directions and insights. They become great curators of education, which is the ability to go into a sea of information and swim to the surface with the facts that power us forward, that grow us into valuable new people. For many, this can seem daunting. Jump In! For those of us who learn how to swim, it is an exciting ride because, for the first time, we can change and grow into new people in very short periods of time. Compare this life to our predecessors and it is a far more engaging, wild and incredibly satisfying time to be alive. That is after we jump in.
Everyone who works regardless of how they work ought to read Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable (Viking Press). Why? This famed technology writer introduces a series of trends that will change how we live, how we work, how we communicate and how we define ourselves. The technology driving these trends is already here and in place. Kevin is a realist and points out that people who avoid change will have great difficulty in the years ahead. But, he is unabashedly enthused about the innovations that have recently been launched and how they will impact the world around us.
Artificial intelligence, robotics, sophisticated filters, virtual reality and other breakthroughs will transform education, medicine, training, productivity, life extension, banking, communications and more.
Here are a few questions and if any apply to you, it might be valuable to write out the answer(s):
If we are going to live another fifty years, what do we want to do with the time?
If my existing work is taken over by a robot and/or artificial intelligence, how can I do more interesting, creative or empathetic work?
If I won’t have to spend half my life flying to deliver training programs, what do I want to do with that extra bandwidth?
All of us have the capacity to choose to look towards aspects of change that are bad or embrace progress as good news.
3D printing will unleash new forms of entrepreneurial and artisan manufacturing.
Higher education will be available without charge.
Many will be able to work wherever and whenever they want.
Many forms of cancer will be cured.
Now, before practicing contempt prior to the investigation, explore the claims. I brought up the topic of cancer cures to my friend, famed physician, and bestselling author Susan Love. Susan was the head of the breast cancer unit at Harvard Medical School and the UCLA/Revlon Breast Center. At dinner, I asked her what it is like to hear messages within the medical community, for the first time, that we are headed towards a cure. Her eyes teared up and she said, “I am so grateful that I am alive to see this. This is what I have wanted my entire adult life.”
So, if you are in an environment that is still debating about embracing social networking or updating the culture or shifting to a digital platform, a tidal wave is coming that offers good to those who change and difficulties to those who don’t. Learn how to swim in the waves. Even better, surf on top of them.
Candidly, I believe that organizations have more power in creating positive change than government. If you are especially fortunate, you work in an organization that supports you in looking towards the future and pursuing the growth that is in front of us. If you work in an organization that looks towards the past, this is a good time to step outside the circle and get help in opening up to what is happening right here and right now. Because change can be ruthless and change can also set us free.
No one will do this for us.
Today’s security isn’t found in hiding, it is derived from pursuing growth.
Insecurity keeps things the same.
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Coming this summer from David Harder, President of Inspired Work: The Workplace Engagement Solution (Career Press). Find a Common Mission, Vision and Purpose with All of Today’s Employees.