Addressing change at work is an essential theme for individual success in today’s economy.
I’ve seen a lot of writing lately on the “future.” Most of what I read contains dubious (or obvious) predictions of what’s to come. I can’t and won’t claim to be prescient, and don’t want to predict the future. In fact, two things I’ve learned as an entrepreneur and an advisor to some of the world’s most innovative companies are that predicting the future isn’t the smartest game to play, and that the best time for action is always now.
Without waxing too philosophical, I agree it’s true that the future doesn’t exist and the past is already gone. I tend to concur with renowned author William Gibson (who coined the term “cyberspace” in the early 80’s) when he talks about the “perpetual toggling between nothing being new, under the sun, and everything having very recently changed, absolutely.” As I reflect on where value is for businesses and individuals today, there is one key “evergreen” theme that I see driving value for our customers, our employees, and our economy. One’s ability or inability to adapt to change can be the difference between success and failure. I’ve learned that the best way to “future-proof” myself is to recognize that the only constant is change and to embrace change wholeheartedly.
The ability of an individual to adapt to change is the most important skill in business today. We’ve heard for years about innovation and the ability to adapt to change at the company level. Libraries have been written about the need for firms adapt to change or perish, and it is no secret that business will face unprecedented change over the next decade. Of course, that pace of change is quickening. We all know that the ability to adapt is a differentiator for companies, but that same ability is required for individuals if they are to remain relevant in today’s economy. If the companies and organizations where we work are facing massive disruption and an increasing pace of change, then we as professionals must also adapt or become irrelevant.
In the case of our firm and with our clients, we consistently see the need for individual employees to embrace and drive change in order to be successful. Whether one is working in a well-established corporate role in an “old economy” firm, in a cutting edge start-up, or as part of the “gig economy,” the ability to master change in all its forms is a consistent differentiator for individual performance. As individual employees attempt to address disruption and stay relevant, agility and rapid response time become core survival skills.
Recent research has outlined key capabilities for individual success in our increasingly disruptive economy. I happen to believe that the key to our success as individuals in the workplace lies in our willingness to accept change and to respond at lightning speed to the demands placed on us by our environment. Admittedly, it’s normal to resist change, to try to bargain and negotiate things back to the way they were, and to feel frustrated when the change inevitably continues. But neither the economy nor our competition care about our frustration. To survive in our rapidly changing economy, individuals need to accept change for what it is: the natural order of things. Those who master change and become part of that natural order will not only survive, they will thrive.