Are you a member of Generation Flux? This isn’t just another name for the generation to follow the Millennials (although it could be.) Unlike all the others generation descriptions, Generation Flux has no age requirement.
Gen Flux is less a demographic designation than a psychographic one, focused solely on interests, attitudes, and opinions. What defines Gen Flux is a mind-set that embraces uncertainty and ambiguity. It tolerates, if not embraces, recalibrating careers, continuous innovation, fluid business models, and vulnerable assumptions.
Up until recently, change progressed at such a steady, almost rhythmic pace that it allowed the innovator and entrepreneur to co-exist in a world of moving forward while retaining its hold on the past. Whether he created a new product, strategy, service, or developed a specialized skill, he created an asset that could sustain itself for decades. Often times, the innovation survived multiple generations, allowing the creator to pass the business or royalties from a product or service on to his children and their children.
But within the past few decades and especially since the turn of the century, this paradigm shifted.
The life expectancy of a typical business or product model has shrunk from decades to years. In many industries and businesses, the life of a model is now measured in terms of an Internet year, approximately 90 days. That means while delivering this year’s model to customers, you need to simultaneously prepare for its extinction while creating and preparing a newer, improved model for next year. That shifts the entire course of strategic planning
This unprecedented confluence of innovations has compressed the time between creation to extinction. Change is not only constant, but constantly accelerating. Nostalgia is dead. Status quo is eventually lethal. What we perceive as normal is subject to the blinders we’ve grown accustomed to – inherited from and grown in the past. For any business so in love with its past that it can’t imagine a future without it, its own demise is set in motion. Management feels the ship moving but ignores signs it is sinking.
Change itself isn’t the only cause of self-induced extinction because change is something that has existed since the beginning of time. What is different this time is the almost exponential increase in the velocity of change. For example, it took 38 years for 50 million people to adopt the radio but only 13 years for 50 million people to own a television. It took Facebook less than 5 years to acquire 50 million users and by 2013, nearly a billion people signed on.
Years have no move to days. When the Palm introduced its Pilot hand-held device, it took 18 months to sell 1 million units. It only took Apple 24 hours to sell its first 1 million 4S phones.
The business climate, it is turning out, is a lot like the weather. If you don’t like what you see, wait a few hours. But once a storm passes, it doesn’t mean things go back to the way they were. Just like the earth around us, every weather event changes the environment and landscape. The same goes for business.
The problem is that our ability to see and predict the future accurately is declining, fueled by all the complex interactions set in place by the intersection and interaction of technology and globalization. Predicting what will happen next has gotten exponentially harder. Ambiguity and complexity has invaded management’s boardroom and worker’s cubicles.
Any business that ignores these transformations does so at its own peril. Despite recession, currency crises, and tremors of financial instability, the pace of disruption is roaring ahead. The frictionless spread of information and the expansion of personal, corporate, and global networks have plenty of room to run. And here’s the conundrum: When businesspeople search for the right forecast–the road map and model that will define the next era–no credible long-term picture emerges. There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos. (Fast Company)
To thrive in this new normal requires a whole new approach. Not everyone will join Generation Flux, but to be successful, businesses and individuals will have to work at it. Unfortunate for many, the vast bulk of business, institutions, and organizations are not built for flux. Few traditional career tracks or educational curriculum train us for an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills.
Future-focus is a signature trait of Generation Flux. Trying to replicate what worked yesterday only leaves you and your business vulnerable. There is no question that we are in a new world. Therefore only some people and some businesses will thrive.
Will you be among them? Do you have the right management and workforce to steer your ship through the uncharted and unpredictable future?