As we look into the clear night sky, all looks peaceful and serene. Yet what we are seeing is the product of enormous change and dramatic events over millions of light years. For us in a way, the sky actually masks the foundations that created it in the first place.
As we look into our own world today, we sometimes forget the massive changes that have helped to shape the world as we know it, both physical and social. In recent times, our world has been impacted by a number of what I call “world changers” that have had a profound impact on the way we think, how we live and how we interact with each other. There are seven of these that I have selected.
1. Television in the 1950s
TV arrived in full measure in the 1950s, and grew dramatically in the 1960s. It provided a more personalized and realistic experience of seeing the world in action. Activities were no longer shackled by static images. The moving image in the lounge room of the family home was a revolution in the way that information was disseminated. The ability for organisations to craft more powerful and compelling messages to consumers for instance was a major change provided by the widespread adoption of TV across the world.
2. Electronic data processing in the 1960s
The emergence of the computer in businesses provided a big step-up in the way they could operate. The ability of organisations to process large amounts of data created different business models, faster business activity in areas such as retail, and different opportunities to expand into new markets and geographies. It opened up new capabilities and new ways of doing business. Doing things better and faster was the mantra.
3. Jet travel in the 1970s
The British Comet heralded the start of jet travel in the1950s, but it was in the 1970s that jet travel really came of age. The advent of wide-body jets and falling airfares made air travel available to the masses. Travel in the 1970s changed the way the world was connected. Distant places, friends and markets were now readily accessible. According to IATA, air travel since 1970 has expanded almost tenfold whilst real prices to consumers have halved in that time.
4. The PC in the 1980s
The PC came to symbolize that information technology was available to all, and more importantly was easy to use. Up to this point, information technoloogy was seen to be in the business domain only, and useable only by those with programming type skills. But the PC changed all that and expanded knowledge, created new capabilities and convenience at home. It also dramatically changed productivity in organisations by way of greater access to information and communications.
5. The internet in the 1990s
The early forms of the internet provided a very clunky and somewhat underwhelming experience. But as web browsers were developed, the internet triggered an explosion in the nature and spread of communications globally. Transactions could be done over the web, and information could be instantly obtained or provided. All this could be done on the PC which had become faster, and with more useable software and connection. The internet had become the essential tool in both the office and the home.
6. Mobile devices in the 2000s
Mobility has become a real focal point in how we live and work. The development of smartphones, tablets and wireless connected devices have revolutionised the way we go about our daily lives. People now assume and indeed demand that services can be accessed via mobile devices, whether it is an airline transaction or a weather forecast or a restaurant booking.
7. Social media in the 2010s
Social media has taken the world by storm in so many ways. People are using social media to connect with friends and family in ways never imagined a few years ago. Consumers are now driving major changes in the way they can influence providers of products and services, whether they be retailers or government agencies. The activity of consumers connecting with consumers is changing the way organisations need to operate.
All of the above “world changers” over the past 60 years have delivered profound shifts in the way that individuals and organisations operate. They are very much about shaping the way that people are connected and the way they interact. Collectively they have shifted the way we think. Looking ahead and particularly as we embrace a new year, it is worth reflecting on how the next wave of change may impact us as individuals and as organisations.
Albert Einstein offered us some good advice on this front when he said, “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”