The traditional ‘employment contract’ of lifelong personal job security in exchange for dependable performance and loyalty, is now history. So too is the previous corporate security of sustainable market strength based on a track record of quality and brand-name recognition. The past is no longer predictive of the future.
Welcome to the new era of constant, rapid, and unpredictable change!
Computers, telecommunication technologies, and the globalization of the economy have literally transformed our world. We have generated as much new information in the past 30 years as in the previous 5,000. Product life-cycles have shrunk from several years to several months. And the world’s computing power is continuing to increase by 10,000 % every decade, (TIME, Sept. 2014).
It is not just the rate of change that has changed, it’s also its very nature. Traditional change was evolutionary with incremental modifications in processes and structures. Current change by contrast is non-linear, more revolutionary than evolutionary. It’s characterized by rapid transformations into completely different processes and structures.
Ironically, our traditional notion of valuing expertise as mastery of previous knowledge is rapidly becoming a liability, like horse blinders, resulting in maladaptive tunnel vision
For example, at the turn of the 20th century, the eminent scientists, Lord Kelvin and Simon Newcomb, dismissed the possibility of flight by ‘heavier-than-air-machines’ because it violated their Law of gravity paradigm. Similarly, in 1977, Ken Olsen, the founder and CEO of the once formidable Digital Equipment Corporation, stated, “There is no reason for any individuals to have a computer in their home.” Even Microsoft failed to anticipate the explosive popularity of the Internet to their detriment. And more recently the previously high-flying innovator, RIM’s BlackBerry, crashed from the arrogance of not anticipating the competitive emergence of the iPhone.
If you want to survive and thrive in this new era of rapid, unpredictable change, then you must develop the competency to break through the conditioning of the familiar by thinking-out-of-the-box.
Unfortunately, our tendency is biased to think in terms of the familiar. Consequently, about 90 percent of all new products are actually simple line extensions and fail to substantially increase corporate revenues. This used to be classically exemplified by the annual ‘new’ variations and enhancements for existing automobile models, in contrast to the development of the minivan as a true breakthrough product and market segment. Apple is a major, (and very successful), exception with its visionary & market disruptive products like the iPod, iTunes store, and the iPhone & iPad. It’s no wonder that so many of the recent Fortune 500 companies have literally disappeared.
Despite popular belief, creative thinking is not an ability restricted to a few gifted individuals, nor a result of simple capriciousness. It is a learnable competency. So stay tuned to one of our next Blog posts to learn how to enhance both creativity and innovation.
* This Blog post is adapted from part of an article by Dr. Eisenberg that was originally published as, “Become a Creative Breakthrough Thinker: Increase Your Value to Your Organization”, in an issue of Today’s Engineer, and is copyrighted by its Publisher – IEEE-USA.