Master the art of predicting, navigating, and thriving in the tsunamis of disruptive innovation
Let me begin by explaining the whacky title. The perpetual adolescent is a metaphor that I use to describe myself with a passion for mastering the digital world and eagerness to leverage technology to engage a wider audience for my keynote speaking business and readers for my books ‘Design Your Life’ and ‘Million Dollar $econd’. Life has not ceased to excite me for the last 68 years I have spent on earth as a time surfer.
Time surfing is about negotiating change, which is like a wave in the ocean of time. To surf is to anticipate a wave on the horizon, navigate it, and ensure that we stay on top of it when it comes to us. Living as we are in an age of digital disruption, only the time surfer champions who play with change will stay in the game. The rest will find themselves either in the water struggling to stay afloat or at the bottom of the ocean, out of action. Time surfing is, of course, a metaphor for negotiating change that disruptive innovation will keep bringing at an ever-quickening pace. Only an always-willing-to-learn attitude will come in handy in this new age of fresh tsunamis at every moment.
The question, dear reader, is how to we become time surfers in such a world? Firstly, by training one’s reflexes as we do it in the army, building stamina, developing emotional intelligence, and being open to customizing one’s response to every challenge. Then, we train ourselves to predict changes that are on the horizon and time our ascent in a manner that will find us on the top of the wave instead of under it when the wave achieve its maximum height. This is a matter of timing, which always involves an element of gambling. Not all predicted changes will come to pass exactly in the way predicted, but the factors that will create the world-to-be are already present—rising population, worsening environmental conditions, internet revolution, and further spread of globalization and transnational trade.
Once we form a clear idea of the nature of change that will become an on-ground fact, we have to prepare for it by flexing our muscles in anticipation of the arrival of the wave. In the real world, this involves continuous reeducation in new ways of thinking, emoting, expressing, and working. It may also include a hard component like mastering new technology.
A change—any change—can impact an individual, a family, a team or an organization in three ways. Either it affords an opportunity for improvement, or it threatens old ways of thinking and doing, or the new wave of change has minimal or zero impact on them. In all three cases, one has to have a response plan that will help one stay relevant and competitive in the changed context in which they are operating. Only if this understanding is clear can an organization keep changing. Only then can it meet emerging challenges and thrive by exploiting new opportunities the Amazon, Ali Baba, Facebook, or Netflix way.
New tsunamis are on their way. Are you a good enough surfer to ride the waves to success? Are you adolescent enough to learn new tricks?