If one word was used to describe the year we have just lived through my choice would be “change”. For most businesses, change is both inevitable and unnerving. Change is a New Normal, and our notions of reliability, predictability and poll-ability are coming to an end.
According to legend, an ancient king of Persia once asked his wise men, “What thought can make me happy when I am sad?” After some consideration, these wise men came back with the reply, “This too shall pass.” Supposedly, this gave the king much comfort, until he realised that this axiom held true when he was happy, as well as when he was sad.
And so it is in today’s business world. Global stock markets are approaching all-time highs, many economies appear to be recovering from the Great Recession of a decade ago, and several long-running conflicts have come to, or are approaching, their end. At the same time populist movements in dozens of countries, destabilisation in Asia and the Middle East, and the disruptive impact of new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence stand to undermine traditional business models around the world.
Looking back on 2016, it seems reasonable to observe that it was a year of surprises. From Brexit to Trump, an attempted coup in Turkey to the end of the world’s longest-standing war in Colombia, the world of politics went topsy-turvy this year. Businesses were far from immune to these changes, as demonstrated by Pokémon Go, the collapse of the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the release of the Panama Papers, which revealed the extent to which the wealthy are able to hide their capital in order to create more. If one word was used to describe the year we have just lived through my choice would be “change”.
For most businesses, change is both inevitable and unnerving. Managers know that change is ever-present, even as we implement more and more systems, processes and procedures that operate under the assumption that things do not change; or at least they change in predictable ways. This illusion of understanding and control has grown from our relentless application of the concepts of operational quality, automation, statistical process control and scientific management.
About the Author
Christopher Surdak is an Engineer, Juris Doctor, Strategist, Tech Evangelist, 2015 Benjamin Franklin Innovator of the Year, and Honored Consultant to the FutureTrek Community, Beijing, China. He has recently launched his own consultancy firm Surdak & Company. His latest book is Jerk: Twelve Steps to Rule the World. He is also the author of Data Crush: How the Information Tidal Wave is Driving New Business Opportunities, which is GetAbstract’s International Book of the Year for 2014.