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More, Moore, More

Optimize Blog - November 26, 2012 - 0 comments

In 1961, one could buy a Ferranti computer for the princely sum of $360,000. Your spanking new computer would take up the whole room and have a memory of 1K. A typical mid-range laptop computer today has at least 250,000 times the memory, is 4-8 million times faster and costs 1/500th of what the Ferranti cost as a computing platform.
This acceleration of technological capability is known as Moore’s Law and we have referred to it plenty of times before in these blogs as a proxy for the pace of change. Since the late 1800s, the rates of technology adoption and diffusion into society have kept getting faster. Here are some examples…
While the telephone took approximately 50 years to reach critical mass, television took just half that. Mobile phones and PCs took about 12-14 years (half again), and then the internet took just seven years (half again).
New technologies and initiatives such as the iPod and Facebook are now being adopted by consumers en masse in timescales that are now measured in months, not years. Apple sold more mobile devices in 2011 alone than all the Mac computers it had ever sold in the 28 years prior. This was the same year that saw the internet surpass television and newspapers as the primary news source for much of the developed world.
All of this change has given rise to a new kind of employee – those that consider “new” as normal. If this is normal for employees, then what are the implications for leaders and why is it so compelling to debate the nature of future leadership?
How do our traditional assumptions about leadership hold up in a new era — one shaped by rapidly changing technology, modern warfare, severe economic pressures, natural disasters, and an explosion of social media? If the old leadership models are no longer relevant, then what should replace them?
Despite rigorous science, philosophical argument, inspired storytelling, refined commentary, witty blogs, gossip, and thousands of books written about the subject, leadership remains an enigma.
This is because leadership is a timeless and universal feature of the human experience. The demands of leadership are shaped by the necessity of our times. As the nature of work itself has changed and evolved, the requirements of leadership have shifted, as well.
For a growing proportion of business activities today, leaders simply cannot “lead” in the traditional ways of the past. The nature of much of the work today comes from the creativity and responsiveness to the moment; leaders cannot specify exactly how the work will be done.
This complex environment makes it impossible for any leader to know all the answers. Even the day-to-day activities, common for leaders in the past, are being rendered impossible by shifts in the way work.
The role of the leader in the future will be that of delivering a nurturing environment, enabling the options and encouraging others to grow. Today leaders need to frame meaningful questions that tie individual discretion to business purpose, to recognize the range of options available and to encourage creative solutions. They will need to bind the organization together through the expression of authentic and meaningful values.
Some thoughts to help you –
1. Stay in contact with the real world and understand the pace of change and the impact on your organization
2. Develop the ability to handle change with resilience
3. Seek alternatives and innovate – accept that what might be ‘new’ is now ‘normal’
4. Welcome the contributions of diverse individuals
5. Be pragmatic and take a practical approach to bringing value to both today’s organizations and tomorrow’s world.
The pace of change will continue to accelerate. As leaders we need to make sure that our thinking and behaviors keep pace…….

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