The pace of change

You can only lose when you race against time

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a business article must begin by declaring the unprecedented and accelerating pace of change in our global hyperconnected era.

The rate of change may not be entirely unprecedented; I suspect the Victorian era experienced and inflicted some real shocks. But where there is rapid external change to deal with you have two choices.

You can meet the change head on and accelerate your own pace to match. This risks an arms race of frenetic activity which burns out your organisation.

Or you can go the other way, and focus on the enduring truths which do not change – the classics if you like.

The Lindy Effect (popularised and developed most recently by Nassim Taleb in Antifragile) claims that things which have already endured a long time stand a good chance of enduring longer still. They have proven their resilience. If the world gets faster, maybe you should reach back further.

This is particularly true in planning curricula for example. Schools can try to keep up with changing fashions and fads and seek “relevance” but, especially if you’re teaching young children, by the time they’re old enough to apply these lessons they’re already out of date.

It’s not much use teaching today’s must-have software package to ten year olds. It will be of more use to teach the fundamentals of computer science, and greater use still to teach mathematics.

Numeracy and literacy are not going out of fashion in the digital era. We have not yet reached the end of history. Every market crash reminds us that the fundamentals of economics have not yet been transcended. And Shakespeare still has something to teach us about motivation.

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