The Challenge of the Future is the Ability to Adapt to Change

The Challenge of the Future is the Ability to Adapt to Change


It is not secret that radical change is coming in the next 10 to 20 years. Numerous people, including me, have written about this. Futurist and author James Canton writes “The future of business will not look like anything you have seen before. Many of the power players, the usual suspects and leaders of today, will not make the cut into the future.” The question is will you be one of the ones that is prepared? If you don’t think so you need to ask “What can I do to be better prepared?”

Be adaptive

Most people don’t like change, at least not radical change. Things that occur that are disruptive are generally not well received. However, as Canton says, the inevitability of radical change is going to require that we “become adaptive, embrace learning new things, be innovative, and above all, look to the future.” Naturally that begs the question “How does one go about doing that?”

Steps to take

I do a program called “Seven steps to becoming a practical HR futurist.” The purpose of this program is to help people look forward more than they normally do in their day-to-day HR jobs. Here is a variation of those seven steps to give you some idea of what you might need to do to become “future ready.”

Step 1 Engage in systems thinking and understand your mental models.

You cannot think of HR as occurring in a vacuum. What you do in HR is part of the overall system of the company; the company is part of the overall system of the local economy, the industry, the state economy, the country economy and ultimately the global economy. Without an understanding of how these parts interrelate then you are not going to be able to recognize what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and when it needs to be done.

The mental models are those assumptions you and others have made about people, thing and processes, that guide how you interact. Everyone’s mental models are going to be radically challenged in the coming two decades. However, you will not be able to accept these challenges until you understand where everyone in your organization stands. No consistency in mental models will mean no consistency in adaptation.

Step 2 Embrace you past but don’t be stuck in it

Knowing where you are going is tied to where you have been, or at least it once was. Unfortunately, due to rapid and radical changes, especially in technology, your past is becoming irrelevant. A knowledge of the past may be able to provide people with some continuity, but increasingly less so.

Step 3 Scan the environment

Adaptability is going to require a constant awareness of the world around you and how you adapt to changes will affect you. You are going to have to be a reader and embrace learning. You are going to have to embrace changes in technology; the disruptions in political and economic worlds; the dynamics of changing demographics and in particular you must pay attention to the pace of change.

Step 4 Look at trends

You will need to be more widely read, especially outside your comfort zone. Read everything with an eye to how that might change what you do and what your company does. Explore new things to see whether that is something your employees, your customers or you might use to better adapt to change.

Step 5 Develop scenarios

You will need to become a storyteller. As you identify trends, as you identify changes, you will need to develop stories that will tell the good, the bad and the ugly of the possible futures you have identified. Stories can prompt action.

Step 6 Forecast

Using both the information you have collected and information experts can provide you need to develop those stories into a forecast. These become more detailed stories with plans associated and potential outcomes identified. These forecasts are not meant to be 100% accurate. Rather they are meant as guides for responding to situations that may ultimately develop.

Step 7 DO!

Reading this post means nothing if you don’t act. Nodding your head and saying “I need to do this” means nothing if action is not taken. Set some time aside each week to read, learn, and identify things that may be affecting your future.

Are you Future Ready?

James Canton says that “Most organizations are not Future ready. Over 25 percent of all business will not change quickly enough and will either be merged, sold, or acquired out of existence.” (See pages 103-104)

He concludes “The speed of change is unforgiving for those who are sleeping on the job, so to speak. Innovate or die is the mantra you want to live for.”

I agree with words and hope these seven steps will help you move you to become Future Smart.

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Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.


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