Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Era of Adapting Quickly

The supply and demand for time. There is an increased demand for time, but the face of a clock offers a static supply. Conflict - our inability to add more hours to the day, and the number of years in a lifetime is increasing only slightly. We end up with a culture that dictates we have to move faster if we do everything we want to - and can - do. Speed is the only way to get more time, more life. Technology has allowed us to speed up. Culture, business, and individual experience are undergoing major shifts in the Age of Speed. Speed and change have become the same - change, flexibility, and lifelong learning have become the buzzwords of the speed experience.

Running concurrent to the Age of Speed is the Age of Surprise. Surprise has been deeply embedded in the core of our political, economic, and technological systems. The advance of globalization has created an interconnected world, one in which the boundaries that once separated domestic from international problems have eroded. Our recent financial meltdown and global recession illustrates how shocking declines in housing markets and financial gridlock have surprised even the most skilled and knowledgeable experts. The run up in energy prices two years ago points at the tight energy supply-demand constraints in the Age of Surprise. One global miscalculation or terrorist attack in the Age of Surprise can have monumental consequences in the price of energy resources. Technology advances surprise the entire global community daily - from applications on the latest iPhone to 150,000,000 individuals on Facebook to virtual design technology - The Age of Surprise is about exponential advances in innovation and technology.

When the Age of Speed intersects with the Age of Surprise, we are forced to recognize our entrance to the Era of Adapting Quickly. Management in the Era of Adapting Quickly requires a dynamic world view that includes a combination of flexibility, creativity, and demonstrated expert knowledge. In the long term, organizations must plan for a broad range of future scenarios. Planners must understand that many of the risks we face in the Age of Surprise do not follow a normal distribution, but one that is highly skewed. Really unexpected things happen far more often than our usual statistical models would indicate. Reducing the time (it is the Age of Speed!!) and costs of response to events in the Era of Adapting Quickly can substantially lower the risks associated with them. Flexibility in strategy can help an organization respond more nimbly when unforeseen trends or events emerge. Being organizationally agile is also import in this new era. The ability to detect opportunities in your environment, the willingness to take risks for the sake of speed, and the responsiveness to changes in your environment are all critical attributes in the Era of Adapting Quickly.

Consider a major change in your life or work in the past year. How did you respond to the change? Did it overwhelm you and halt your progress or did it surprise you and slow you down for a period of time? Were you able to quickly integrate the change into your life and make it work to your advantage? How would you respond differently in hindsight? How can you respond differently to change in the future?

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