There is a rolling argument between futurists and historians about the very nature of change.
The futurists say that we are living in an age of accelerated change. The reason our heads are spinning – a sensation reported to me by most people I speak to – is that everything happens faster now. Super-charged by our global economy, hyper-connected by technology we are witnessing an age of disruption and transformation never before seen.
The historians counter this by pointing to periods from the past. What about the shift from horse-power to the combustion engine? The changes that brought about, in agriculture, commerce, city design and our social lives? Or the advent of domestic automation, releasing us into paid work and largely creating the modern leisure industry? These were the real ages of accelerated change.
I would argue both parties are equally right, and equally wrong. They treat change as if it is some-thing that can be measured in a single dimension. As if we can benchmark change on a single, simple scale.
In short, change isn’t measurable in a single dimension. It has both amplitude and frequency, like a wave. If the last century was about long waves of great amplitude, this century is about change at high frequency.
What does it mean for business? Time is of the essence, like never before. We need to be sharp, adaptive, agile. We need to access and process information faster, take decisions more swiftly and confidently, be prepared to alter our course to respond to the rapidly shifting landscape. These are the challenges for business in the 21st century. Not to be overly focused on optimizing our current mode for efficiency and profit, but to be prepared to jump to the next one, whether following the customer or leading them.
High frequency change in the enterprise is facilitated by:
- People: Customers demand personalized instantaneous interactions. Leaders need access to information on demand, so knowledgeable decisions can be made quickly.
- Processes: Every organization needs to consider its structure, processes and distribution of power to meet these challenges. And technology will inevitably play a critical role in meeting them.
- Systems: Security requires constant vigilance of systems to rapidly evolving threats.
This demand for speed translates throughout the enterprise. Ensuring the rapid flow of information and updates across the business is critical to the sustained success of the modern, agile, enterprise.
I’m Tom Cheesewright, Applied Futurist. I help global brands and industries to see what’s next. I tell compelling stories of tomorrow. And I help to build strategies for sustainable success, whatever the future holds.
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