Progress Keeps Picking Up Speed
Progress keeps picking up speed. The complexity of our world keeps increasing. The rate of change keeps accelerating.
In fact, change is sort of like a giant pinball machine where we keep adding several more steel balls every few minutes. They ricochet faster and faster. The game constantly grows more complex, the challenges multiplying moment by moment. Before long, we’re simply forced to alter our style of play. Otherwise, the game will overwhelm us.
It’s important for us to get clear on our thinking . . . to accept the reality of what lies ahead.
We know that people cause change, and every year we’re adding about 77 million more humans to the earth’s population. That’s like adding a country the size of Germany every single year. Each month we grow by as much as a Bolivia, or a New York City. With every passing day we’re adding a population as big as Las Vegas. If you were born before 1964, you might be interested in knowing that the headcount on Planet Earth has more than doubled during your lifetime.
So we have a lot more people making tools these days. And more people building our bank of knowledge. Naturally, this rapidly expanding fund of knowledge leads to the development of higher technology. That, in turn, enables us to make even more advanced tools. They further add to our knowhow, and the cycle keeps repeating itself.
Like a breeder reactor, change feeds on change.
Let’s just accept the fact that our careers will be lived out in a state of constant transition. We should prepare for a work environment that is fluid, fuzzy, and fast. We will constantly be confronted by the “new,” and often by the unexpected. Our standard of living will improve—probably dramatically. Yet we’ll be surrounded by uncertainty and instability.
Even as our world grows more generous, it will become more demanding. Fierce competition, both domestic and global, means organizations must deliver constantly improving results. People like you and me need to do our part to make that possible. Nobody can stand on their record for long. Businesses and individuals alike must relentlessly innovate, upgrade, and improve their output.
Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? The only way to really succeed in a world of high-velocity change is for us personally to behave in ways that force even more change.
In the years ahead, career safety won’t come from being firmly grounded in our present positions. It’ll come from having our antenna finely tuned and reaching toward tomorrow. We must loosen up. Be light on our feet. We should be constantly sensing, looking further out, romancing the future.
Finally, we must learn not to be offended by change . . . and not to go around looking for bad guys to blame.
Nobody knows how to put change back into the bottle. Certainly not when over six billion people are trying to pour it out and drink it. So let’s prepare ourselves for the fact that every year is going to bring us a still bigger dose. And let’s learn to swallow it faster than we did the year before.
“One time the police stopped me for speeding and they said, ‘Don’t you know the speed limit is 55 miles per hour?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I know, but I wasn’t gonna be out that long.’” —Steven Wright