I’ve held a belief through much of my adult life and 30 year business career that “change” is merely a temporary phase of transformation separating two “steady-state” periods of lengthier stability. The goal in this mental model is to reduce the time spent in the transformation state to the shortest possible term. In recent years, though, this belief has been severely tested. In business, for example, it’s now very difficult to foresee any twenty-first century “steady state” – at least as I once understood the term.
Today, the business process of “creative destruction” has never been more vigorous. Continual waves of profound business change are enabled by a myriad of new transformative tools and capabilities. Hedge fund driven privatization, corporate globalization and outsourcing, increasingly fluid global capital markets and radical innovation are only a few of the most prominent contributors. Companies who survive in this state manage to preserve their core values and purpose only if willing to extensively and painfully adapt such things as their corporate cultures, their business models, their strategies, and their operating procedures. Lot’s don’t.
What’s now become clear after several recent years of participation, is that the “steady-state” of our new millennium is a continual process of renewal and transformation and that the greatest risk of all is in standing still.
This applies on a personal level, as well. Millions of Baby Boomers will soon cross another transformative threshold – from the workforce into retirement. No doubt, many like me face this prospect both hopelessly expectant and stubbornly cynical. For, underneath the gleaming patina of a 30-year life of leisure hides the hideous underside of gradual decline and dependency. What’s more, retirement means leaving a career from which we often derive much of our personal identity and sense of purpose.
So, what’s life to be on the other side? A permanent daily tee-time? A well-worn easy chair?
Sure, I expect some of that. But in my better moments, I also expect several other things, too. A new career, perhaps… one that serves a larger purpose. A new education…one that enriches my understanding of the world. A new passion…one that renews my spirit. A new appreciation for family and friends…one that strengthens our lasting bonds. And, yes, ultimately… A new set of limits and physical challenges….ones that might finally put me in that chair.
In the meantime, in my moments of greatest clarity as that fateful day gradually but inexorably nears, I say bring on the transformations! After all, it’s the way the world is now working. And, I’ve come to believe that the greatest risk of all is in standing still.
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