“In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking. Now, Heaven knows, anything goes. The world has gone mad today, and good bad today, and black's white today, and day's night today...” —Cole Porter
The global economy is poised at a set of historical, technological, economic, political, and social inflection points.
So, now what? Probably alarm, confusion, and weariness. Perhaps—as poetically phrased during the Great Depression by Cole Porter—we’re "fighting vainly the old ennui."
Managing it all—urbanization, consumption, technology, competition, labor demographics—challenges our imagination as much, or conceivably more, than our competencies and skills.
Space Matters — Mashore Perspective
At the dawn of the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes predicted that in a hundred years our standard of living would have increased by four to eight orders of magnitude. Despite being unable to predict World War II, the Cold War, or the Great Recession, he was right. Our standard of living is now at the high end of Keynes’ prediction.
It’s clear that in some ways we should be concerned that we’re headed towards the worst of times—yes, I’m looking at you, polluters of the oceans. However, it’s also true that we’re headed towards the best of times:
- Thanks to more abundant food, electricity, vaccinations, and telecommunications, countries are becoming less unequal
- The world is getting richer, and we’re living longer, healthier lives
- In the years to come, hundreds of millions of people will rise from poverty and enter the middle classes
In our organizations and workspaces, as in our lives, navigating this new age will require an intuition reset.
Successful people trust a great deal, explicitly and implicitly, in their intuition. Imagine a 19th century courier, whose horse has seen him through every adversity, being introduced to the automobile. The transition certainly would be awkward and challenging, yet the opportunities would be clearly unlimited.
Intuition is the product of life experience and a hard-earned understanding of the world. Not surprisingly, the McKinsey & Company publication, No Ordinary Disruption, found that from 1995 until 2009, US companies almost always allocated resources on the basis of past, rather than future, opportunities.
The way forward, though, is illuminated by the McKinsey findings: cultivate curiosity and embrace agility.
No matter your organization, community group, government, company, or nonprofit, there is no generic prescription. As changes unfold in our industry sector or our communities, organizations that can adapt nimbly will capture the new opportunities.
Agility needn’t be expensive. A satellite office rather than a full relocation; a pop-up store rather than a new mall location; a food truck rather than a restaurant.
You can also create agile strategies for your workspace by asking the right questions when setting your organization's mission and strategy.
John Maynard Keynes didn’t rely on a trusted formula, an algorithm, or his past experience. He wasn’t paralyzed by the uncertainties of the Great Depression.
Challenge your imagination. Resist the temptation to focus solely on the hazards; look more closely for the opportunities.
And when in doubt, you can always put on some Cole Porter!