Time is of the Essence

“Changing the world is always disruptive."  - Rachel Gutter

Few understand the true nature disruptive change. Disruptive change is usually viewed as unsettling, and well, just downright disruptive to the status quo – which certainly is a much easier and lazy way to plod through life.   Unfortunately for many communities, they are ill equipped to cope with major disruption.  In fact, most when faced with disruption changes or trends tend to double down on the old fashion thinking and put up the protective walls hoping the disruption will pass them by.  In today’s economic and business climate, that is the sure way to irrelevance and destruction.

We are most likely in the largest and most profound economic disruption period in human history.  This disruption isn’t just a state issue or a United States issue; it is a worldwide issue that is very unique in human history.  In the book, the Tale of two Cities, it states, “It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.”  That is so true today, we have the vastness of information available to us in seconds, we have the ability to shop from our couch, and we have the ability to see friends around the globe in seconds.  While all that is the “best of times”, in other economic terms, it can be the “worst of times” for many cities. 

Fighting and winning against economic disruption is not an easy task and few are up to the challenge. 87% of the companies on the Fortune 500 in 1955 no longer exist, in large part due to failing to deal with disruptive forces.  The disruptive forces that are starting to weigh heavily on communities are just in the beginning stages; the disruption will only intensify.  The e-commerce of the Internet will increase, wages will remain challenged, communities and states will have fewer resources from which to call upon and the list of potential disruptions continues to mount.

When faced with disruptive forces, what ought communities do?  First and foremost, they must recognize the danger they face. One of the biggest reason those 87% of the Fortune 500 companies are no longer around is that they remained faithful and clung to their previously successful business model not taking seriously or fully understanding the true danger they faced until it was to late.

In order to overcome the disruptive forces, communities must switch from the slow and plodding approaches of certain issues and spring into action.  They must look at the cause of the disruption and determine if they should fight the disruption or if they should marshal the forces of the disruption to their advantage.  Both can be very effective and at times it might be a combination of the two approaches together.

Regardless of the approach, one thing is certain; doing what has been done in the past is rarely the right approach. In fact, it will be more about not getting it exactly right all the time, but being less wrong than you were before.  Change isn’t about being right all the time, it is about calculated trying and knowing that some of the tries will fail. 

Those resistant to change will always be the biggest roadblocks to success.  Some just don’t have the DNA of change and will resist to the end.  Look for those in your community that lead change; those are the ones that have hope. Look for those leaders seeking new paths and directions; they at least understand the severity of the situation.  Much like a race against time, the clock that determines the winners and losers in the new economic business climate has already started. If your community hasn’t got out of the starting blocks, it isn’t to late. But if they are still surveying the track and weighing the pros and cons of the race, they are most likely already dead man walking.

As always, balance is still the key, there are many traditional approaches to issues that are certainly still viable options, but more often than not, it will be a few of the traditional methods sprinkled in or combined with new approaches that win the day.

John A. Newby is the author of the "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street" weekly column dedicated to helping local communities keep their consumer dollars local. He can be reached by email at: john@UniquelyUSA.net