The future is messy

Seth Godin’s short post, The Future is Messy, is thought provoking when you continue the thought process: anything that is messy is risky, while what has happened before is neat and consequently carries little risk.

When we have organisations who are obsessed with avoiding risk, especially if they are concerned about what the media might say, then is it any wonder that we continue to do what we have always done? In a world that is constantly changing, that means that we don’t train people for the world that might be coming, we focus on what the world needed last year or last decade. This is a cultural issue, it is not the domain of any particular sector.

It is demonstrated by:

  • companies recruiting with a very narrow job specification, based on the view that getting the perfect person for today’s job is better than getting someone who has demonstrated the ability to change and learn.
  • the avoidance of the use of simulators for training vocational skills: because “that wasn’t the way I was trained”.
  • the difficulty in getting funding approved for training for jobs for the future. No one will take a risk “because it is public money”. Absolute figures need to be proven. In the meantime, the vacancies have been exported.

The future is inherently risky; no one can predict what is going to happen. BUT, if we do do nothing – otherwise known as meetings, consultation, conferences, briefing papers, etc. – how will we move forward economically and socially? 200 hundred years ago, the British were renowned as engineers and people who got on and made things happen. The same 100 years ago. Now? We need a meeting to decide who needs to be invited to the meeting to discuss who should be involved in setting the scope for the people who will write a briefing note on how the project could be configured. By the time that has happened – and actually nothing has happened at all yet – the jobs have gone elsewhere.

Successful organisations manage risk and make quick decisions. They also sometimes make mistakes. But better that than the alternative – stagnation.



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2 Responses to The future is messy

  1. Hugh Marcy says:

    A predictability model could be important, but I believe more important is change management. Predictions and action plans need to be structured. Different people/ divisions within a company may be change agents. Change isn’t comfortable to most, but is critical to the longevity of any organization. The plan normally falls apart quickly but the planning and flexibility are critical.

  2. tom Bremer says:

    Well written! I think the key drive for companies is to meet the challenge of constant change, by focusing on predictability. There is no doubt companies have to change, in order to have a viable position in the future business environment. Companies like Kodak, Nokia, HP and other major international players have felt, or feel the messy future, only because they did not adapt to change early enough to meet the future. By putting your company’s focus on predictability within your operations, you as a CEO need to strive for the organization to have the right focus, adapting to change instead of fighting it and apply predictability within your organization. The future is bright, but only with the right sunglasses!

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