The rate of change today is the slowest you will ever experience!

BulletThis year represents the slowest rate of technological and societal change you are likely to experience in the rest of your life! That was the stark message from keynote presenter Jonathan MacDonald at a recent Vision Critical Summit that I attended.

Wow! Today, this year, right now represents the most stable, most structured, least strange period you will experience over the forthcoming years. This simple and plausible statement has some major ramifications, including:

  • The trend towards agile and away from trying to be ‘perfect’ is likely to continue.
  • Knowing when your business should pivot instead of preserving is going to keep increasing in importance.
  • Feedback from customers to decision makers needs to be faster, more relevant, and the implications of the feedback need to be immediately available.
  • Old knowledge and old skills will need to be constantly reviewed to see if they are still relevant (some will be, some won’t).
  • Legacy problems and issues will be increasingly destructive. For example, keeping a tracking study because you have 6 yeas of back data or keeping a specific product or service because you have been providing it for 25 years will tend to hurt organizations even more in the future.
  • The need to balance the knowledge of youth with the knowledge of age will become ever more important – perhaps every board should have somebody under 25 in the mix?
  • It is going to be harder for lawmakers and regulators to keep pace with the changes in technology and society.
  • The concept of ‘best practice’ or ‘optimum solution’ will be become less relevant. Firstly because it will be hard in an ever-faster moving world to establish that one specific option is ‘best’, secondly because the best today may not be the best tomorrow, and the best today is unlikely to be the best tomorrow.

Perhaps an equally big challenge for organisations will be the need to balance the speed of technological change, the speed of behavioural change, and the relatively static nature of what it means to be human. People do not change nearly as fast as what they do changes. For example, dishwashers changed the way we washed dishes, but the process still feels like a chore.

I would love to hear the thoughts of others on this topic. In particular:

  1. Is it probably true that right now is probably the slowest rate of change we are likely to experience in the rest of our lives? And, is that equally true for people in their twenties?
  2. If we accept that this is the slowest year of the rest of our lives, what changes does that imply in how we conduct business, or even how we should live our lives?

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One thought on “The rate of change today is the slowest you will ever experience!

  1. Of course, we’ve been saying this since the 1970s, when Alvin Toffler came out with Future Shock. I’m reminded of the trite old saying, “the more things change, the more they remain the same”. Tide is still the number one selling detergent, Crest and Colgate remain huge players on the global market, and I could keep on going with examples. An increasing rate of stimulus input requires adaptation or coping strategies to filter the input – but it doesn’t mean that decision-making changes. In most businesses (think CPG/FMCG) things don’t change much – and being agile is mostly out of the manufacturer’s control because they don’t control the distribution channel. This also means speed of feedback, at the expense of understanding, is less relevant. Finally, the speed of science doesn’t let “best” or “optimum” change overnight.

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