The Lonely Frontier

It is cliche to say, but change is never easy.  The kinds of organizational changes I am advocating in my new book- The Fifth Age of Work- are far from easy.  The comfort of familiarity and tradition should never be underestimated.  Established tradition and known routines make the world easier to understand and navigate.  Yet, established traditions and known routines also bring us some of the most stultifying and inhumane cultural practices in the world- subjugation of women (“well, that’s just our tradition”), slavery, the caste system, etc.

Moving forward into unknown futures and frontiers is always scary.  Just imagine what it felt like for early American pioneers when they left their families in Europe and moved out to the prairies of Nebraska. Willa Cather’s world was stark, beautiful, and lonely.  Frontiers always are.  The world of work and organizations that is emerging is also frightening.  Asking established professionals to significantly change their worlds is challenging, to say the least.

“Hey, I know you  used to have a huge office with a big oak desk and two personal assistants, but now we’ve taken that away and you need to work in the cafe with all of the other folks!”

Naturally, few people will want to do this.  However, we are at the cusp of a new frontier, and the comfort of tradition is no longer a good enough excuse for not embarking on the journey and crossing into the unknown.  It’s what I call the difference between slingshots, which propel in one direction into the future, and boomerangs, which go out a bit and then return to where you started.  No question, people do get hurt by rocks flung by slingshots.  But tradition for the sake of tradition, I contend, hurts many more people.

 

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