Reframing Our Perspectives About Change and the Future

Humans have a tendency to believe that their initial experience with a situation is the first time that it has occurred. The reality is that virtually every change that makes you nervous, uncertain, and sometimes a little crazy has occurred in some form before.

New technology has always been a disruptive and beneficial force in how people work and live. The folk legend John Henry, for instance, was a steel-driving man who raced against the steam-powered hammer that revolutionized the building of the railroads. Business has always looked for ways to do things faster, better, cheaper, or friendlier. Technology has played a major role. Why would that be different today?

Globalization has existed since the beginning of time. Overland trade routes between western Asia, the Mediterranean region, and China date to the second millennium BCE. The travel took longer and was much more precarious, but it brought imports, exports, new jobs, and competition for existing jobs among countries and individuals. The opportunities and threats of globalization today are the logical extension of a history of expansion into new markets to sell, purchase, and produce goods and services.

The banking and mortgage crisis of 2008 shares a lot in common with the Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637. Tulips were the speculative currency of the time in Holland. Fortunes were made and lost daily as tulip traders speculated on what appeared to be an investment that would only increase in price. Then someone didn't show up to pay for his tulips. Widespread panic ensued. Tulip prices plunged to virtually nothing, and the Netherlands was forced into a depression that lasted years.

History repeating itself doesn't make us feel any better as we are experiencing it for ourselves. In fact, it can make us feel stupid and out of touch.

Before you get too angry or frustrated, take comfort in knowing two things:
  1. You are not alone. Most people and organizations miss the big changes that affect their lives until it is too late to do anything other than play catch up.
  2. There are some aspects of change and disruption today that make the "new normal" different. Specifically, the impact of 50-plus years of exponential increases in technology mean that changes happen more quickly and your ability to keep is continually pushed to the limit.

How Disruptors are Different

Those who see the potential for technology to disrupt and remake entire industries share something in common with those who saw the looming Great Recession, the rise of cloud computing, and the revolution in healthcare: Their perspective is not held hostage by what works today or has worked in the past. They know that past success only proves that you were right ... once.

Their willingness to view - and act on - today's reality through the lens of tomorrow's opportunity allows them to see further and adapt quicker. The result is that they are more relevant to their customers because they stay ahead of most changes and are more nimble when forced to react.

Acting on Your New Perspective

Many things are out of your control when it comes to flourishing in the future. You can't, for instance, control the actions of your competitors. Likewise, you may not be able to control government regulation (unless you are POTUS), your company's policy (unless you are the CEO), and a host of other factors.

The one thing you can control is your own behavior and performance. Here are three action items you can take today to increase your opportunity to remain relevant in the future.

1. Continually focus on value given and value received

Investors run toward value in uncertain economic times. Your customers do the same. Your challenge is to add so much value that doing business with you is an easy decision. You must be crystal clear about the return on their investment you will deliver, and most important, continually work to be faster, better, cheaper, and/or friendlier.

This principle applies to your career as well. If you aren't creating more value than the cost of keeping you, why should the company bother?

2. Strategically invest in your future

Your customers are asking, "Why you? Why now? What makes you relevant?"

Your employer is asking the same questions.

Now is the time to strategically invest in the areas that will make you successful five years from now while continuing to add value today. That could mean investing in a new product, service, or piece of equipment. It could also mean learning a new skill. The best in every field of endeavor actively manage their futures. This is more important today than ever before.

3. Prepare for the worst and look for the best

Long-term anxiety and instability breed a lack of confidence. That lack of confidence closes our minds to opportunity. The Great Depression of the 1930s saw the demise of many companies, but it also gave us companies such as Motorola, Texas Instruments, Hewlett-Packard, and Converse.

The same will be true of today. Fifty years from now, we'll look back on this time as the crucible that spawned legendary brands and businesses.

All change creates moments of instability and anxiety. Substantial change that comes at you in waves can either make you timid or bold.

Now is not the time to be timid. Timid companies don't anticipate the future. Timid people don't invest in themselves or take the actions that enable them to flourish in the face of change. It's a matter of perspective that is crucial to your success.

Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations achieve positive results in a world of accelerating change. To bring Randy to your organization or event, visit , email, or call 972.980.9857.