What do you do when the earth is moving beneath your feet, the wind is about to carry you away, and the temperature has dropped 40 degrees? Suddenly you realize that it’s been that way for a while. It’s not a blip—it’s the way the world works today.
You’ve come into hyper-change. The world has been changing rapidly since the Industrial Revolution, but now we’re in a new environment that we have to learn to navigate to survive.
In the age of dinosaurs, some say the swamps dried up, but more currently the theory is that a huge asteroid struck the earth and that was lights out for dinosaurs, the biggest, baddest beasts ever to tromp the earth. They could no longer survive in the new environment. This creature that dominated the earth for millions of years was now gone.
Extinction has happened many times. In fact, archeologists tell us that 99% of all the creatures that have ever lived have gone instinct. They also will tell you that extinction is good for the development of the planet, but if I were a dinosaur, I don’t think I’d like extinction at all. I’d like to be roaming through Jurassic Park even as we speak. 😊
We haven’t had an asteroid strike our planet, but the changes to our environment—our world—in the last century are as profound as we have seen: WWI, WWII, Korean Conflict, Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan. And that’s just to name the wars and conflicts that most immediately impacted the US.
I’m working hard not to become extinct. I’m an avid and enthusiastic observer of what’s next, and I want to find a way to survive and thrive in the next decade and be a part of what’s next.
Technological and social change have continued to accelerate into what I call “hyper-change.” It is a change so fast that it is like a Ferrari speeding along at over 100 mph down a winding dirt road with deep potholes and blind curves.
Here are a few examples of what I call hyper-change. None of the trends I’m describing are likely to go away—if anything, they will simply accelerate. If we don’t adapt to things as they are, we’ll become the extinct dinosaurs of the 22-second Century.
- Nature is Not Daily Being Found in Trees and Forests but on Handheld Devices. We still have strong relationships, but they come filtered through the technology of emails, texts, and social media. Online meaning is very different from face-to-face meaning. Interpretation is often much more powerful than the sender’s intention.
- Online Influencers and Groups are the Most Powerful Motivators for Many People. The voice of people we come into contact with is a less powerful force for many than unnamed people who bring them “the real truth” from cyber sources. People they know have less credibility than the online voices they hear.
- Work is Permanently No Longer Permanent or even Long-term. It is short-term, often emotionally disengaged, and frequently a gig for millions. Employee/employer relationships are viewed as a game by many who see who can use whom the most successfully. Quiet Quitting makes a lot of sense to millions of people because employers, for all their rhetoric about valuing employees, don’t act like they value them. Meta (ex-Facebook) for instance, is now heartlessly laying off people by algorithm. Employees realize they are utilities that the organization will cut when it suits their best interests.
- Education is in Free-fall and is Unlikely to Recover. Teachers are leaving education en masse because of pay, bureaucracy, culture wars, and fear of shootings and other violence. Because of the inability to fill teaching positions, many classes will be taught online and it could very well be the norm. University enrollment is plummeting and the whole concept of liberal arts—with emphasis on English, history, literature, etc.—is seen as rapaciously expensive and ineffective in the real world.
- Politics Is a War Zone with No Sign of Change. There was a time in the careers of many elected official when there was little difference between political parties. Incredible as it may seem, the average age of our national representatives is in the 80s with few younger politicians in the wings. Politicians of different parties are careful not to be seen at lunch together. Issues are seen as black or white—no shades of grey allowed.
- Communities of Faith No Longer Connect People and Are Unlikely to Be Revived. As a person of faith, I regret that religious communities no longer speak to most people. No other institution needs to adapt to a new environment.
- The Belief that the Majority Rules is Losing Ground. At best we live in a world where all our opinions are minority opinions. In order to accomplish anything we have to form alliances with people we don’t agree with—but to many people compromise is just plain wrong. Majority rule is a bitter pill to many who believe they have the right and only answer.
- Agreement is Now Silent Disagreement. Friends who used to discuss differences now remain silent. Golf, dominoes, or even repelling from steep cliffs is not as dangerous as sharing what you really think, even with close friends. Transparency is great in management literature but very dangerous in practice.
So how do we navigate hyper-change? How do we escape becoming used-to-be, extinct dinosaurs?
- Understand that We Will Never Return to the Way Things Were. You have to adapt to the new environment
- Don’t Long for the Past—it was Not a Perfect Golden Age. The similarities among people often made them less apt to be in conflict, but those who marched in lockstep locked out people different from themselves and imposed huge social penalties on those who marched to a different drummer. Many of the changes in society have opened up new roads for many.
- Get Ready for the Amazing! In the times of my parents, radio was a new technology. It’s been less than a hundred years since rural areas in the US had electricity. It’s only a little over 100 years since Einstein proved the existence of the atom.
I want to be around to see the advances. Artificial Intelligence will automate driving a car and household chores will become a thing of the past. We’ll see the moon and Mars explored and perhaps colonized. What we can’t even imagine will happen somewhere. It’s pure faith, but I believe that humanity will escape destroying itself and technological progress will be unimaginable.
- Embrace Change and Learn Agility. There will be no new normal and status quo is a thing of the past. Most current jobs will not exist in just a few years. AI will do most of what is now being done. Technology will create new jobs for those who can use the skills they presently have to apply them in jobs that have not yet been invented. Successful careers will be a transition from what we’re doing now to what we’ll be doing them.
I have no intention of being a fossil of the past, the bones of the dinosaur that used to be. In order to make the transition, it will take skill and an ear to the ground to see what’s coming next. I’ll meet you in the future that we can experience with excitement and anticipation.