Forces of Change

They say you want a revolution

Have you noticed that very few people will challenge you if you say that the world seems to be changing faster and faster. They will all nod wisely in agreement and talk about when the iPhone 8 is delivered and how driverless cars are just amazing. It is no surprise then the Economist stated earlier this year, the pace of change we are experiencing now, is the slowest it will be- change will only get faster.

Of course, some people are just sceptical of such claims and will argue the current pace of change is just a normal part of the progress that humans have made. They will mention how change has occurred throughout history, highlighting the impact of key moments such as electricity, flight, the internet or the combustion engine. But even these sceptics, I think, would have to agree that change is coming faster than ever before and we need to understand the velocity of that change.

What I find interesting, is that as individuals, we may be coping with it, really well. Kotter, the world famous expert on change, thinks this is because is that what we believe and how we respond to change, for the most part, is highly influenced by our own personal experiences. “And when it comes to change, the world we see today and the world we saw two or three or four months ago is rarely very different. Indeed, our experiences can be literally 99.5% the same. We get up, get ready for work… not paying attention to the depth of the seawall, because it doesn’t affect us today.”

He has a point, the changes we have all experienced are actually making our lives easier such as with Wi-Fi; providing greater connections such as with social media; or entertainment such as with Pokémon-Go. But I think, in the future the collective change and the velocity of all change will be so significant, it will change our lives and the way we engage with work and our community. It will be profoundly different.

Yet as individuals we may be able to cope, enjoy and celebrate the change, because we have been conditioned to accept change. It is just going to happen faster, and on a greater scale. But put the individuals together as group, and you will find organisations really struggling to adapt.

Consider the paradoxes. As individuals we love the freedom of expression that social media can provide, while organisations fear it. As individuals, many don’t seem to be concerned about privacy, and yet we lambast organisations who break our trust. As individuals we get excited about change and may find it easy to adapt, while as employees even the basic change, needs a change programme with change champions. As individuals we all work for organisations that want to do good for society and customers, and yet Governments (elected by individuals) across the world are imposing more and more regulation, simply because organisations are not delivering to the levels of care and trust, individuals demand. As individuals most tend demand more technology break throughs which could really change our society. But at the same time across the western democracies,  politics is becoming more conservative, preventing change.

It appears to me that the number of organisations who are fundamentally trying to run themselves in new ways, not incrementally different ways, seems incredibly small. Leadership programmes continue to rely on outdated tools and techniques from a previous era, such as 360 reviews or outdated performance reviews. Can this work in such an era of high velocity change? Why should this be so?

As Rosalinde Torres mentions in her Ted Talk; “In a 21st-century world, which is more global, digitally enabled and transparent, with faster speeds of information flow and innovation…. relying on traditional development practices will stunt your growth as a leader”. And to take it a step further, it must also stunt the growth of an organisation, at a time when they can ill afford to.

I’m not entirely sure what the answer to this is. People are people. Organisations are Organisations. As individuals the way we absorb information; the way we act on it creatively, the way we change and adapt, is much more open, than an organisation. The problem is, in a 21st century world, that is no longer good enough.


You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

Revolution by the Beatles

More learning

Check out Ted Talks: Rosalinde Torries talk on Leadership

Tags : change
Darrin Bull

The author Darrin Bull

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