Creativity – Embrace the accelerating rate of change

Check your assumptions at the innovation door.

Creativity – Embrace the accelerating rate of change


Over the centuries, an adage has developed that there are two things in life that are permanent: death and taxes. 

Many years ago, Sophocles (400 B.C.) suggested a third: change. 

Today almost everyone agrees with him, because this state of change is much more in evidence than ever before. In his book “Future Shock,” Alvin Toffler points out that we are living in an age not just of change but of rapid change. This acceleration is now so great that many people are unable to cope with it and are being, as it were, “shocked.” Most of us have been trained to function in a more stable world than the ongoing state of instability and uncertainty we find ourselves living with today.

You might be interested in watching part or all of this documentary.  It’s a blast from the past, and produced in 1972, it is based on the book Future Shock.  Watching this video alone proves change is always accelerating.

Science suggests that mankind has been on earth for about 50,000 years. This represents about 800 lifetimes. Amazingly, people did not “emerge from the cave” for the first 650 lifetimes. Toffler suggests that, by the time a person reaches age 50,97 percent of everything known in the world will have been learned since the time he was born, We have enjoyed having the electric motor only for the last two lifetimes. Thus, the curve of knowledge development over time looks like this:

In other words, the rate of change in knowledge is in rapid acceleration. The amount of change one person might have experienced in a lifetime in the 1800’s is experienced in about five years by a person in the late 1900s. Toffler illustrates this further by estimating the shrinking length of time it has taken to

turn various technological concepts into practical executions of the concepts.

One needs only to look at some common examples to underscore this idea: It took 140 years for the photograph to be invented (implemented) from the time someone actually conceived the idea of photography. It only took the radio 40 years; television 12 years; and finally the transistor two years. We are now becoming so sophisticated that we can make new ideas practical in almost no time at all.

What does all this mean? 

First, there are two postures a person or organization can take toward change. One is defensive – fearing change, reacting toward it reluctantly, and wishing it would disappear; in short, being controlled by change. 

The second is to treat change as something that is a fact of life: 

How might I adapt to change and turn it into an opportunity?” Thus change is like a knife, one can grasp the blade or the handle view it as a threat or an opportunity.

If society or business didn’t accept change and innovation, we still might be rolling around in a horse and buggy.

Your organization has the ingredients already to create change, it’s just a matter of putting it together.

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