Change, can we do better?

Penny: We talk a lot about change today but as Chris Adam, Director of Strategic AM Pty Ltd, Brisbane, Qeensland, points out in this post, change has always been with us – and we have survived. But consider our reactions to the changes that have occurred within the last 100 years. Have we really done much better than just blunder through?  And, can we do better now?  Indeed, “how” do we ‘rethink the future’.

Do we just fight fires?

1. The Inevitability of Change

We need only reflect on the last century to recognise the inevitability of change:

  • The second decade of the 20th century was defined by “the war to end all wars” which brought destruction and dislocation on a scale never before experienced
  • The 1920s were a decade of social and economic change finishing with the most disruptive stock market crash of all time;
  • The 1930s yielded the depression with further social and economic dislocation on a grand scale;
  • The 1940s was defined by WWII with death, destruction and dislocation on a scale that dwarfed our previous efforts;
  • The 1950s were a massive social and economic challenge as the world rebuilt and millions immigrated;
  • The 1960s sexual revolution;
  • The 1970s energy crises;
  • The 1980s “greed is good” decade;
  • The 1990s with the “dot com bubble”

My point is not to undermine the idea that current forces are not indeed a major challenge but to demonstrate that change is inevitable and, as a species, we have a proven capability to respond to such challenges

2. How do we “Re Think” the Future?

We tend to see change as a threat and prefer it didn’t occur, so how do we address this challenge and avoid a “head in the sand” attitude?

We need to take the future seriously but predicting the future is problematic. With the possible exception of WWII, practically no-one forecast the massive changes that characterised each decade of the 20th century. Current predictions that IT will lead to massive unemployment as machines take over reflect the exact same claims in the 1990s where it was forecast that traditional retail was “dead” as people would abandon shopping (as an inefficient and limited way to produce what we want and need).

3. So, if we can’t predict the future, how do we “take the future seriously”?


One Thought on “Change, can we do better?

  1. David Hope on January 20, 2018 at 5:00 pm said:

    We can do better – but our system of government is holding us back. Why do we continue to have a system of government that is adversarial – exacerbated in the current climate by far right and far left ideologies? When governments change many good programs get ditched as the pendulum swings as a different political ideology takes over – witness the current situation in the USA.
    While the rhetoric of the government and the opposition is probably tempered in parliaments and parliamentary committee processes, the perception of the community seems to be that the politicians on the different sides of politics are at one another’s throats both literally and metaphorically. Woe betide a government that tries to do something new and it has the slightest problem in implementation. The opposition will have a field day! And invoking the 80-20 rule will get short shrift.
    And therein lies the problem. A problem that was explored well by the Canadian Public Policy Forum in a paper entitled “The Risk Not Taken”. This paper explored the lack of progress in implementing innovation in the Canadian public sector. Summarising the argument in the paper, perhaps too simply, the finding was that innovation involved risk-taking and that politicians were risk-averse, even if they wanted innovation. Politicians have held senior public servants accountable when innovation has not had the success expected, partly to avoid themselves being blamed by their electorate and the broader community. And obviously to give the opposition less ammunition.
    So the change needs to include our systems of government, but perhaps that is a step too far!

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