Why do some disrupt, while others observe?

It is evident that change continuously and relentlessly disrupts our structured lives built on optimistic illusions of stability. So if we know this, denial of the obvious cannot be the only factor that holds us back from reconfiguring the way in which we live. There are many reasons why people are resistant to change and they differ from situation to situation and setting to setting as we will discover throughout the book, but there is one all-encompassing and pervasive reason why a symbiotic relationship between us and the phenomenon of change does not exist – a lack of knowledge as to what change really is.

Waves of change towards a more interconnected world?

Throughout the book you will be introduced to social, networked and interconnected behavior as being critical to a clear understanding of the landscape in which we all exist. This new landscape is showing signs of the ever-nearing third megawave. What has proved to be the real hindrance in understanding change holistically and therefore the appreciation of our placement in the world, is the presentation of change theories that are situation specific. The three megawaves are not set out to displace old theories but to present an opportunity by which to understand the bigger shifts that have transcended all spheres of activity and encompass all of human experience. I try to show this as a superwave to indicate that radical shifts across our understanding of the world are imminent.
What this story has also shown is the increasingly complex nature of developing in an increasingly interconnected world. As we will come to realize, innovating in the modern world is no longer a straightforward affair, it requires knowledge of technologies, lifestyles, habits, individual desire, and most importantly an understanding of the tension between a growing consolidation of technologies and their imminent divergent nature, a concept we will revisit later on. This is partly what has been responsible for the rise of super powers as they develop and conquer, and also what has provided the platforms for some of the most disruptive changes in modern history. But we’ll get to this.

Do we really understand the mega-waves of change?

History is never objectively recorded. It’s interpreted, contextual, perceptive, and generally subjective. The future is never reasoned about objectively. We make extrapolations, projections, and form views based on view of the past.

So, in Built to Thrive (the book) I’ve taken a stab at presenting a story about the historical future of change.

Looking ahead into 2011 where do we see ourselves?

I have dedicated much of my thinking to what I perceive is happening in the landscape around me. Ideas of innovation seem to meet me at every street corner these days, so how do I make sense of what it truly means to innovate in a world where the term itself has become generic and old.

Change is another term that we hear everyday, but I find it has more utility. I see three megawaves of change encompassing the human experience as we know it, the first began with the human race and the third is imminent. The gradual transition from the second megawave to the third is taking place as I write this and it calls for a new way in which we view ourselves, contextualise our experience and navigate through our contemporary landscapes.

Individual needs encompassed much of the everyday experience of humans in the first megawave of change. This gradually shifted with the introduction of commerce and trade and the second megawave of change saw an increasing tension between the individual and the collective – the individual now existed in opposition to the collective. What we are experiencing now is a paradigm shift into a whole new means of looking at the world. In the third megawave of change I see the dissolution of geographical boundaries, the rise in transparency in organsations and a shift into an era where the world consists of integrated, interconnected and interdependent networks of social behaviour and human experience. The collective experience is imminent.

What does this mean for innovation in the future? Firstly that the future is now, changes in the landscape are no longer subtle they are tangible and fast. Technological advancement and the networking abilities of the collective are happening at an increasing rate. For the economic entity built to thrive, a whole new means of thinking is required.

We have to reframe our thinking, stop using knowledge of the past and re-envision ourselves in the now. We have rid ourselves of strategies and look towards emergent ideas, building business philosophy that can guide our behaviour rather than dictate our actions. We need to view the landscape not as a fixed phenomenon but as an evolutionary, ever changing ecosystem, wherein social activity and integrated behaviour between organisations, their clients and even their competitors not only exist but exist as part of something bigger.

How do we restructure our view of offerings and capabilities in light of this new understanding? What we knew to be true 50 years ago has changed; I argue that what we knew to be true five years ago has changed. How do we break free from the constraints of old knowledge and change the way in which we think about the future? Maybe the answer lies in the uncontaminated generation, those who have never been imposed by ideas that trap them in the ways of the past, who see the world for what it is, emergent. Who will accept that a child may have more ability to operate in the future than you do?

Built to thrive is the journey through this new way of thinking.