Change brings ambiguity and challenges to our lives. So we don’t like it, and our natural reaction is to fight it. But while we may try to resist change and bristle at the stresses that it brings to our lives, we are also its primary drivers.
Consider, for example, the devices we use and the services we’ve come to expect. Were those available to us some five, 10 or 15 years ago? Most likely, many were not. Imagine a world today without smartphones, 24/7 online shopping, or the ability to watch TV programs whenever we want.
In the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” this is what a cell phone looked like:
It was so expensive that only millionaires like the fictional Gordon Gekko could afford one. By the way, the reception wasn’t that great, and it weighed a couple of pounds. Not very convenient.
So what happened? It was consumer demand – ours – that drove the development of technologies and capabilities we take for granted today: a smartphone in the pocket, an HDTV at home, and a hybrid car in the driveway.
No, we didn’t explicitly ask for the many modern devices and conveniences we now take for granted. We never demanded the remarkable smartphone apps that allow us to accomplish a range of tasks that were never before possible. But their development and evolution were driven by our unceasing and insatiable desire for smaller, faster, higher quality, cheaper, more convenient, and easier.
Choices become expectations
These are some of the components of change. Consumer choices become expectations and then demands. And they impact you, no matter your profession. By the way, these are your demands and expectations, and my demands and expectations.
On Monday morning, we go to work to face the unrelenting pace of change. What passed for quality work a few years ago is unacceptable today. It’s practically a firing offense.
As soon as we settle into “normative” behaviors and attitudes as deliverers of services and goods, along comes a competitor that does it better, faster, or cheaper. And we have to match it or beat it, or else we and our company will be left behind.
Our boss’ demands seem greater and more oppressive than ever before. But then, so too are his boss’, as well as the CEO’s demands, and the demands of shareholders for ever greater returns on investment. And those ever-increasing returns come from you and your team’s ability to create and deliver better products and services.
It’s not just our everyday devices like smartphones, TVs and the Internet. It’s health care, transportation and every other component of modern life. Consider just health care.
We’ve seen such amazing advances in our lifetimes. Diseases of our youth or our parents’ youth have been either eradicated or controlled, allowing continued life for many people who before would have been condemned to an early death or impairment.
The health care field – pharmaceuticals, devices, and delivery – continues to improve, continues to impact our lives in ever impressive and heretofore untold ways. Again, those advances are only possible because of people’s ability to adapt to and leverage change. But we have so much further to go, so many horrible diseases to conquer. And that means change and more change.
We build our societal growth and advances on what went before. That is the essence of continuous change: constant improvement on what we now have.
It’s a never-ending cycle, and you’d better get used to it. It’s only going to come at us faster. Then again, we could revert to that shoe-sized cell phone. Somehow, I doubt we will.