We’ve just had a public holiday in the UK. An extra day off gives us the chance to visit friends and family too far away to get to in a normal weekend.
Take a child along on this trip and invariably they’ll hear, “ooh, haven’t you grown?”
Children do grow. If you see them every day it might not be noticeable. See them occasionally and it’s obvious.
As a repeating trend, this is a good example of being too close to the phenomenon (parent) or simply forgetting that it’s a cycle that hasn’t been broken yet (grandparent/uncle/godparent).
Things change, whether we see it happening or not. Disruption lives here.
And when stuff changes, if we don’t make the effort to take note, it’s easy to be lured by the siren song of what we know: expected, normal, traditional.
Sheffield’s Lord Mayor is coming to the end of his tenure and plans to become a Green Party MEP. Magid Magid is a Somali immigrant who became the youngest ever mayor when he was elected in 2018. A social media-savvy zoology graduate, his unconventional approach could not have been more different to the city’s first mayor, wealthy businessman William Jeffcock, in 1843.
Things change, we know that. But we don’t necessarily plan for it, or like it when it happens – even though the signals of that change may have been clear for some time. The siren song of what we know is really strong.
As the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, #magicmagid, says:
“People are suckers for tradition. What is tradition? It’s peer pressure from dead people.”
If you see a change coming but aren’t sure what the signals mean, you have a choice: ignore it or try to understand it. Allow it to become a threat, or get a grip on it and create an opportunity.
For example: as with AI, facial recognition and mobility autonomy, 5G is around the corner, but few people know what it might mean for them in real terms. By the time Alpha Gens are in university, 5G will have expanded so that every one of us will be permanently connected to a network. Not like now, by choice. Permanently.
Even today, you give off a digital dust every 18 seconds if you have a phone or a wearable on you.
Inside ten years, your car will predict your routes based on your diary; your house will know your routine and replenish your grocery shopping based on a meal plan for your personal dietary needs; your running shoes and bike will both be connected, so you won’t need the AppleWatch/Garmin Polar/Suunto on your wrist – and will anticipate caloric intake to order enough groceries. Every purchase you make will be super-analysed.
Some of this happens now. To see how closely your habits are tracked, experiment for yourself. Try buying (or searching for) products out of habit. Someone in an extra-marital relationship might start behaving unexpectedly (flowers, tattoos, motorbikes, midweek breaks). Make a few of these searches and see how quickly you start seeing adverts for divorce lawyers and single bedroom apartments. Other examples are available.
Feeding spinach to the kids
Helping your staff to see disruptive trends and act on them is a bit like getting your kids to eat their greens.
Your team knows things are changing out there – they are consumers, after all – but they typically aren’t paid to disrupt your efficiency, so it’s hard for them to see it as a good idea. Your company has taken a long time to get good at what it does, so ‘change’ and ‘disruption’ are unwelcome at the operational level.
The question is whether you ask your staff to keep doing what they want to do, or what you know they should do.
Given the choice, kids will eat chocolate, slumped in front of TV programmes they’ve seen before, but we know they need to eat their greens and expand their knowledge, so we send them to school and slip spinach into their smoothies.
room44 makes the idea of disruption less scary. Like kids who won’t eat the spinach, we have to get clever about introducing ‘innovation’ into company culture in a way that makes it palatable.
Start here by assessing your true condition, or wait until Grandma says ‘ooh, hasn’t that problem that was tiny last time we saw you grown.”
Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.