Dr Gerhard van Rensburg (South Africa)
We have a love-hate relationship with change. In some cases we welcome change with open arms, in others we resist or try to escape it. We love it when the immediate benefits are obvious to us. We hate it when it is demanded of us – when we feel it threatens our comfort, security, or way of life. When we set our eyes on the future and we want to do so in a sincere and meaningful way, not merely as an academic exercise, we need to consider our emotional response to the accelerated change we experience in the 21st century – not only our views about it.
From the earliest days man had to deal with disruptions. The forces behind it were, however simple and recognisable. They were mainly those of nature or hostile people competing for land and resources. Even with three industrial revolutions behind us, we could still be reasonably comfortable with our ability to reflect and learn from past experiences by identifying the cause-and-effect relationships. However, it is our shared experience today that what used to be obvious is not obvious anymore – drafting three and five-year strategic plans feels like a waste of time. It is all happening too fast, too unpredictable and complex. And yet, we cannot be self-defeating, throw our arms in the air and stop trying to apply our minds.
Our challenges with Change
Tackling the future head-on has to do with change – how we respond to it and how we are part of it. It is interesting that when you would ask an audience ‘do you want change?’ most hands will go up. With no specifics, we assume the change will address our needs or wants – new experiences, a bit of adventure, a better, more comfortable world to live in, etc. When we are asked ‘do you want to change’, few if any hands go up. We assume that changing ourselves might dislodge us from our stable sense of self and we don’t want to risk that. And yet, we all want to feel we have value. We all want to feel relevant. So the obvious question is, if indeed we want the change we hope to see, who will take the lead? The pope, the president, the governing party, the CEO, or just the non-specific ‘they’?