The Speed of Life

One of the ‘truisms’ of our age is the volume of change is increasing, and the speed of change is accelerating.  So change is bigger and faster than ever.

The agents of change have, and always will be, people. So what is now allowing people to create a whirlwind of change?

The first, often overlooked, global trend is the continuous reduction in social barriers to participate in society. The spread of three key phenomena, the stability of the food supply, an increase in material well-being, and Western concepts of freedom have increased the number of people participating in their societies.  The spread is far from complete, even in the West, but efforts to stop it have not succeeded.  A cursory glance at history clearly shows less people are being marginalized than ever.

In short, people have more influence on the society around them.

Second, there are simply more people.  Advances in health and nutrition have allowed populations to explode.  Even though the rates of growth are slowing in some areas, overall, there are more people walking the Earth now.

So if people create change, than more people means more change. 

The third, and more commonly known, is the advent of communication technology.  The creation, distribution and opportunity to respond to information, is increasingly easier to do.

The geographic barriers to communication are vanishing.

These three trends are dovetailing.  They are the source of ever increasing change.

Yet, so many leaders believe that change can be slowed (even stopped), or channeled to specific ends. So many people view this time of continuous upheaval as an aberration – things will return to ‘normal’.  The challenge for business, government, religion and other organizations is how to react to onslaught of ‘new’.  Short of a near extinction event, a rapid rise in totalitarianism, or the collapse of the supporting technology infrastructure, there is no reason to believe change will decelerate soon.

If one or more of the above occurs, then none of what I wrote here today will matter anyway.


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