“When will things get back to normal?”
That question has been asked countless times since the economic meltdown of 2008. Most people want to know when the job market will bounce back; the economy will return to something close to sustained growth; uncertainty will subside; or the rate of change will slow to a more manageable pace.
The answer they want is a time table for returning to stability. They hope for a world similar to the one in which they knew how to compete and succeed.
But, what if this is it? What if instability, rapid change, and uncertainty are the new normal? And, what if I’m wrong and things bounce back quickly? If you can succeed now, you will crush it then.
Humans have a tendency to believe that their initial experience with a situation is the first time that it has occurred. Every change that makes you nervous, uncertain, and sometimes a little crazy has occurred in some form before.
New technology has always been a disruptive and beneficial force in how people work and live. The folk legend John Henry was a steel driving man who raced against the steam powered hammer that revolutionized the building of the railroads. The telegraph opened a new era of communication that created new jobs while making others unnecessary. Business has always looked for ways to do things faster, better, cheaper, or friendlier; and technology has played a major role. Why would that be different today?
Globalization has existed since the beginning of time. Overland trade routes between Western Asia, the Mediterranean region, and China date to the second millennium BCE. The travel took longer and was much more precarious, but it brought imports, exports, new jobs, and competition for existing jobs between countries and individuals. The opportunities and threats of globalization today are the logical extension of a history of expansion into new markets to sell, purchase, and produce goods and services.
The Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637 shares an eerily similar feeling to the banking and mortgage crisis of 2008. Tulips were the speculative currency of the time in Holland. Fortunes were made and lost daily as tulip traders speculated on what appeared to be an investment that would only increase in price. Then someone didn’t show up to pay for their tulips. Wide spread panic ensued. Tulip prices plunged to virtually nothing, and the Netherlands was forced into a depression that lasted years.
The News for You and Me
All change creates moments of instability, and anxiety. Now is not the time to be timid. Timid companies don’t anticipate the future. Timid people don’t take the actions or invest in themselves that enable them to quickly adapt.
Now is the time to:
1. Focus on value given and value received. In uncertain financial times, investors run toward value. Your customers and your employers do the same thing. Your challenge is to add so much value that doing business with you takes away any anxiety or fear they may have.
2. Strategically invest in your future. The biggest threat most of us face is irrelevancy. Your customers are asking, “Why you? Why now? What makes you relevant?” Now is the time to strategically invest in the areas that will make you successful five years from now while continuing to add value today.
3. Prepare for the worst and look for the best. Long-term anxiety and instability breed a lack of confidence. And, that lack of confidence closes our minds to opportunity. The Great Depression of the 1930’s saw lots of companies go away, but it also gave us companies such as Motorola, Texas Instruments, Hewlett Packard, and Converse.
Fifty years from now, we’ll look back on this time as the crucible that spawned legendary brands and businesses.
There are a number of factors that affect your success. The only one you can control is what you do to see further and adapt faster than the other guy in the new normal.
Randy Pennington is author of Make Change Work: Staying Nimble, Relevant, and Engaged in a World of Constant Change (Wiley, 2013) from which this article is adapted. For additional information: contact via telephone at 972.980.9857; or on the Internet at http://www.penningtongroup.com/make-change-work/.
©2013 by Pennington Performance Group; Addison, TX. All rights reserved. This article may be downloaded for personal and professional development. Copies may be shared within an individual organization. All other uses of this material are strictly prohibited without written permission from the author.