The pace of change in our economy and our culture is accelerating--fueled by global adoption of social, mobile, and other new technologies--and our visibility about the future is declining. This article, written by Robert Safian of Fast Company, is titled "This Is Generation Flux: Meet The Pioneers Of The New (And Chaotic) Frontier Of Business: The future of business is pure chaos. Here's how you can survive--and perhaps even thrive". It does an amazing job of describing this new business landscape and is a must read for every executive. Here are the highlights. Enjoy!
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From the rise of Facebook to the fall of Blockbuster, from the downgrading of U.S. government debt to the resurgence of Brazil, predicting what will happen next has gotten exponentially harder. Uncertainty has taken hold in boardrooms and cubicles, as executives and workers (employed and unemployed) struggle with core questions: Which competitive advantages have staying power? What skills matter most? How can you weigh risk and opportunity when the fundamentals of your business may change overnight?
Look at the global cell-phone business. Just five years ago, three companies controlled 64% of the smartphone market: Nokia, Research in Motion, and Motorola. Today, two different companies are at the top of the industry: Samsung and Apple. This sudden complete swap in the pecking order of a global multibillion-dollar industry is unprecedented. Consider the meteoric rise of Groupon and Zynga, the disruption in advertising and publishing, the advent of mobile ultrasound and other "mHealth" breakthroughs (see "Open Your Mouth And Say 'Aah!'). Online-education efforts are eroding our assumptions about what schooling looks like. Cars are becoming rolling, talking, cloud-connected media hubs. In an age where Twitter and other social-media tools play key roles in recasting the political map in the Mideast; where impoverished residents of refugee camps would rather go without food than without their cell phones; where all types of media, from music to TV to movies, are being remade, redefined, defended, and attacked every day in novel ways--there is no question that we are in a new world.
Any business that ignores these transformations does so at its own peril. And here's the conundrum: When businesspeople search for the right forecast--the road map and model that will define the next era--no credible long-term picture emerges. There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos.
To thrive in this climate requires a whole new approach, which we'll outline in the pages that follow. Because some people will thrive. They are the members of Generation Flux. This is less a demographic designation than a psychographic one: What defines GenFlux is a mind-set that embraces instability, that tolerates--and even enjoys--recalibrating careers, business models, and assumptions. Not everyone will join Generation Flux, but to be successful, businesses and individuals will have to work at it. This is no simple task. The vast bulk of our institutions--educational, corporate, political--are not built for flux. Few traditional career tactics train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.
Now we know that what we saw in the 1990s was not a mirage. It was instead a shadow, a premonition of a new business reality that is emerging every day--and this time, perhaps chastened by that first go-round, we're prepared to admit that we don't fully understand it. This new economy currently revolves around social and mobile, but those may be only the latest manifestations of a global, connected world careening ahead at great velocity.
Here are some key items to pay special attention to:
The New Economy Is For Real
...We know that what we saw in the 1990s was not a mirage. It was instead a shadow, a premonition of a new business reality that is emerging every day--and this time, perhaps chastened by that first go-round, we're prepared to admit that we don't fully understand it. This new economy currently revolves around social and mobile, but those may be only the latest manifestations of a global, connected world careening ahead at great velocity...
You Don't Know What You Don't Know
...The challenge executives face is the same one staring down wide swaths of corporate America, not to mention government, schools, and other institutions that have defined how we've lived: These organizations have structures and processes built for an industrial age, where efficiency is paramount but adaptability is terribly difficult. We are finely tuned at taking a successful idea or product and replicating it on a large scale. But inside these legacy institutions, changing direction is rough. From classrooms arranged in rows of seats to tenured professors, from the assembly line to the way we promote executives, we have been trained to expect an orderly life. Yet the expectation that these systems provide safety and stability is a trap....
Be Not Afraid
...The new reality is multiple gigs, some of them supershort (see "The Four-Year Career"), with constant pressure to learn new things and adapt to new work situations, and no guarantee that you'll stay in a single industry. It can be daunting. It can be exhausting. It can also be exhilarating....
...If ambiguity is high and adaptability is required, then you simply can't afford to be sentimental about the past. Future-focus is a signature trait of Generation Flux. It is also an imperative for businesses: Trying to replicate what worked yesterday only leaves you vulnerable...Nostalgia is a natural human emotion, a survival mechanism that pushes people to avoid risk by applying what we've learned and relying on what's worked before. It's also about as useful as an appendix right now. When times seem uncertain, we instinctively become more conservative; we look to the past, to times that seem simpler, and we have the urge to re-create them. This impulse is as true for businesses as for people. But when the past has been blown away by new technology, by the ubiquitous and always-on global hypernetwork, beloved past practices may well be useless...
There Are No Perfect Role Models
...Many businesses are struggling to recast their strategies, with top execs hunting desperately for successful models that they can replicate. (Which might explain why you've probably heard the phrase, "We're the Apple of . . ." once too often.) But there is no new model; you may well need to build one from scratch...The entire world of business is now in a constant state of agile development. New releases are constant; tweaks, upgrades, and course corrections take place on the fly. There is no status quo; there is only a process of change...
Lessons Of Flux
...Our institutions are out of date; the long career is dead; any quest for solid rules is pointless, since we will be constantly rethinking them; you can't rely on an established business model or a corporate ladder to point your way; silos between industries are breaking down; anything settled is vulnerable. Put this way, the chaos ahead sounds pretty grim. But its corollary is profound: This is the moment for an explosion of opportunity, there for the taking by those prepared to embrace the change...Yet while pessimists may be emotionally calmed by their fretting, it will not aid them practically. The pragmatic course is not to hide from the change, but to approach it head-on...
To flourish requires a new kind of openness. More than 150 years ago, Charles Darwin foreshadowed this era in his description of natural selection: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives; nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change." As we traverse this treacherous, exciting bridge to tomorrow, there is no clearer message than that.
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