If the work world you exist in hasn't been disrupted yet, it's likely only because you haven't been paying enough attention. To start understanding some of this massive disruptions taking place, you need go no further than Mary Meeker's annual reports, which are nominally about the state of the web but really they are about the state of business and markets.
Much of this disruption is being driven by the increasing pace of technological performance. Most people generally understand how fast technology is moving. What I think many people don't recognize is how it affects individual, and thus collective, behavior. When people are faced with change that they do not understand they often become reactionary - cue the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s - driven by a need for solid footing in a world that no longer seems to make sense. When I think about the stereotypical snake oild salesman, it also rises out of the ashes of the rapid technical, social and economic changes taking place in the 1920s and 1930s as a result of industrialization.
We are again in a similar period - where the sands seem to shift daily and truth does not seem self-evident. We rail against Congress for being so polarized but in many ways, it also seems inevitable. People are looking for certainty in a world that seems complex and threatening to their livlihood and lifestyles. In this environment, certainty will often trump many things - including facts - and that creates even more risk and resistence.
My take on how we progress and adapt to the changing world is to stop focusing our lens on the technology, which is causing the changes driving anxiety, and instead focus our lens on the people and relationships required to make ourselves and our organizations successful. This has a number of benefits:
- People are familiar and comfortable with other people. That comfortable base allows people to extend from there vs. find their way back to a comfortable place by starting with the changing environment.
- Because technology and market access has commoditized, it is increasingly the strength and performance of humans that will differentiate organizations.
We need to stop telling people that they need to change and start asking more questions about people, relationships and networks - and then apply the technology that works best to support those.