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Are You Benefiting from the Turbulence Around You?

May 11, 2011

Are You Benefiting from the Turbulence Around You?

The pace of change in our lives and the world in which we live seems to be continually accelerating.   Technology, world events, economic conditions, cultural norms and mores, and much more are always in a state of flux. These changes are usually uneven and have both upsides and downsides.  As individuals, most of these changes are beyond our control.  Organizations may see them as representing both opportunities and threats.  Personal and organizational success often hinges on our ability to respond constructively and strategically to them.

Peter Drucker, a highly regarded management consultant, author, and “social ecologist,”  said, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”  This holds true for both people and organizations.   Our values may remain firm but it’s important that we reexamine our assumptions in the face of change about how we navigate toward future success, regardless of how we define it.

Professionally, I advise nonprofits.  I also serve on various board and committees.  I have noticed that many organizations have been very slow (and often reluctant) to change or modernize their approach to fulfilling their missions, and as a result find themselves in deep trouble.   In a sense, they are still operating with a 1950s business model and wonder why it’s not working as it once did.  They now have websites and emails but their overall how they conduct business and serve people has not changed much.  They have made superficial adjustments but little more.  For example, most have not asked how advances in technology can help drive their business, only how to utilize it in its most basic sense.  Or how changes in the lifestyles and preferences of younger generations require they develop new strategies or risk obsolescence.  These revolutions represent both opportunities and threats.  Relatively young organizations, which have been created and are thriving in this era, amaze leaders in many traditional organizations.  For example, which “leverages the internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions” to alleviate poverty in underdeveloped countries through microloans was founded in late 2005. In just five years, and during this terrible recession, it has made over $212 million in loans and created a network of nearly 600,000 lenders.  This is an organization that has harnessed technology to help over 550,000 small entrepreneurs.   Yet, many nonprofits are reluctant to look at such business models and ask:

  • What can we learn from them?
  • What parallels exist for our organization and mission?
  • Which assumptions that we have relied on in the past are now obsolete or far less useful?
  • How can we harness cultural change, technology, and modern lifestyles more effectively to drive our future success?
  • What investments should we make to transform our business model and approach to better achieve our mission – to get ahead of the curve rather than simply scrambling to keep up?

As a colleague of mine was fond of saying, “The truth is changing around us.”  The truth of the past may not hold today and today’s truth may be obsolete tomorrow.  Therefore we must continually challenge our assumptions about how to best create the future we desire.

While most of this post has been focused on organizations, it also applies to our individual success.  There will always be turbulence in life.  What is the new logic for you, as an individual, for navigating through it successfully – and becoming stronger as a result?  You can ask yourself the same five questions above.  Simply recast them.  Think about people who are thriving in the turbulence of the times and achieving personal success and fulfillment.  What can you learn from their example?  How can you harness change . . . and turbulence to achieve your goals?

Steve Weitzenkorn

Our book, Find Fulfill Flourish, was named a Finalist in the Self Help category of the 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times calls it “an inspirational tour de force” Click here to purchase it. Click here for an overview and here for a free sample chapter. Book readers also receive FREE access to all premium exercises and content on our website.

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