We are endlessly bombarded with talk of the frantic pace of modern life.
More than any other time in both our personal and professional lives, it appears that things are chaotic.
Everything seems to change fast, to be new and to be different. We're surrounded by destructive potential of "digital disruption". It's fashionable now to see that small eats big, that fast, agile companies are the way ahead. We want open plan offices, collaboration software, funky meeting rooms, these are the physical manifestations of companies that get it.
People say they want to be anticipatory not fast to respond, they want to "be the change" not respond to it. It all sounds so tempting.
What if that wasn't enough? What if it wasn't about this? What if progress came from something more simple; making more decisions, more quickly?
There only three things that strike me about life in 2017.
1) The speed of change and how it’s accelerating.
Whether it’s adoption rates of technology, the length of time things move from trend to fad, to the way we snack on media and binge on tweets not books; our attention span is dwindling and life feels increasingly frantic. Pokemon Go goes from the next big thing to what thing in a few weeks.
The reality of business in 2017 is that it seems things approach faster than ever before, that we’re expected to understand the meaning of things before they’ve come into view. We read about businesses lasting shorter, the case studies of companies that got disrupted grows longer, we idolize companies that reached 100m people faster than ever before and people who made their millions in record time. And yet the pace of this change appears to increase.
2) The degree of uncertainty in life seems greater than ever.
It appears that few saw Brexit coming, we didn’t learn with Trump, the rise of the Dow seems odd, 3D printing companies share prices slump, Apple seems to be faltering and the Amazon Echo appears from nowhere to become the hit of 2017. Unlikely things seem to be likely. Change used to be the biggest issue, but is it now unpredictability?
Few in the USA or UK can make decisions with the assumption that the world will remain within “norms”. The standard deviation of life seems to be increasing, and technology coming together in so many new ways that it’s hard to see how patterns will emerge.
Will something like Magic Leap launch and make TV’s seem anachronistic? Will Self Driving cars take off and change the fundamentals of urban development? Will 3D printing undermine the entire retail landscape? Will Drones make infrastructure on the ground seem shortsighted? What does VR mean for anything or everything?
More than any other time it seems very hard to know how life will look in the moderate and sometimes near future.
There is too much news, too much content, too many items to buy, too many decisions to make and in a world where 2bn people have cameras, where everyone is told to tell their story, to write their blog, start their app or hack their hardware, abundance is the main problem for the most fortunate 50% of the world.
From the maker movement to the Shenzhen ecosystem churning out endless projects, to home launched beauty companies and music careers, we need more help making decisions than ever.
Have you read?
The Simple Solution.
We assume the way to deal with this is faster, smaller teams, we think that better software, being more connected, having open plan offices, and slack like systems will make our funky office the company of the future. We talk about “fluid” structures, of “scrums” and agile teams and it all make sense. But what if it wasn't about this?
I think we need to get much better at making decisions.
We need to make more decisions, more quickly and with more commitment. I see companies paralyzed by the fear of bad choices, live endlessly in indecision. I see companies needing to making informed decisions swamped by data. I see the result of decisions lead to inaction, and quite frankly it’s killing me.
There is a tremendous about of bullshit out there. We live at a time where making terrible decisions, with bad data and bad understanding of data isn't punished because it was data supported.
At the same time, the reward for moments of genius, based on superb ideas, founded in a spark of creativity and deep empathy are zero because many think of it as fortunate at best and reckless at worst.
We think data will light us the way but increasingly it’s blinding us.
We think that Data is dispassionate when it reflects the agenda of those sharing it, not reality.
All of the time we undermine the quality of feelings. If you ask a world class Cricketer to explain how they know when to swing, they look confused, they can’t explain why, they can just feel it. Yet on further analysis they are analyzing subconsciously far more data than they know. The feel the bounce of the pitch, the humidity, the Bowler's body language, the shape of the wrist.
We can easily dismiss what is innate because it’s unknown.
As a person generally concerned about the rising levels of silliness and stupidity in the world, it’s notable how few road crashes there are. At a time when most of us are idiotically liking photos, while driving, while listening, while thinking about our plans, how is it that we don’t crash more? And how is it that the worst driver on the planet is still better than the best Self Driving technology. It’s because we are FAR better at seeing and feeling our way around things than we think.
The crisis is industry isn’t technology driven, it’s not disruption, it’s not complexity, it’s for me in the inability of companies and people to lead, to make decisions faster and more innately. Jeff Bezos talks about two decision types, ones you can reverse easily from and those you can’t, in particular we need to get better at those who do the former quickly.
I think we should celebrate people who take risks, we should reward those who learn fastest, indecision should be a bigger crime than well intentioned decisions that turn out bad.
We need to be certain at all times of our mission in our role, but always uncertain of the route there. But that journey always starts with walking, even if not always in the straightest line.