Embracing The Future With Confidence “Future Shock”

14/07/2018 2:11 PM

Farhad Manjoo wrote in Portfolio. “Do we have an inability to deal with ever-faster change?” Manjoo’s article is a wonderful reminder of Alvin Toffler’s book, “Future Shock” which was published in 1970.

It may be nearly 50 years on, but as each day passes, it seems there are further examples of “our collective inability to deal with ever-faster change”.

Farhad Manjoo reminds readers that “future shock wasn’t simply a metaphor for our difficulties in dealing with new things. It was a real psychological malady, the ‘dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future’. And ‘unless intelligent steps are taken to combat it’, he (Alvin Toffler) warned, ‘millions of human beings will find themselves increasingly disoriented, and progressively incompetent to deal rationally with their environments’.

The wonderful imagination of many writers and commentators have already provided great insights into possible, if not probable, future happenings. Alvin Toffler however seems to have most accurately articulated the challenge facing individuals and groups, when writing that “Change is avalanching upon our heads and most people are grotesquely unprepared to cope with it.”

The Ailment of Unpreparedness

The presence of unpreparedness within many organisations appears to be linked to a fragility within their leadership teams and resultant poor decision-making. These organisations struggle to identify what are the fundamental issues, let alone consider what may be a meaningful and effective solution to this ailment. For many it continues to remain beyond the reach of a satisfactory resolution. Ultimately, it needs to be addressed by an organisation’s group of leaders and decision-makers, otherwise it will balloon into an inertia of epic proportions.
Some of the immediate questions for any of the organisation’s leaders, including directors, CEOs and senior staff as the decision-makers, concerns whether it is aware of:

  • a shared inability amongst the leadership group to know how to act and/or recognise valid responses?
  • a failure to generate regular credible and reliable anticipatory information and/or solutions?
  • an inability to fully comprehend how “future issues” can impact “present practices”?
  • an absence by the leadership group in pursuing resilience within their organisation? And finally
  • a complete failure to articulate a value proposition for pursuing resilience within the organisation especially making any connection to it underpinning high levels of organisational performance?

An Urgency for Resilience

While organisational resilience has been long-recognised as being important, recent events have catapulted this into the urgency lane. Organisations need to operate with people who are strongly and confidently encouraged and supported to be both responsive and decisive when managing their own day-to-day environments.

Future shock tells us that there are and will be definite foreseen and unforeseen; and predictable and unpredictable forces, that will operate within all our environments.

While the world of reality is no stranger to rejection; the prevalence of its rejection has reached epidemic proportions, and brought many leaders as well as organisations into the jaundiced eye of the public.

The apparent leadership readiness fragility in the face of overwhelming evidence failures, has compounded the seemingly paucity of solutions.

The ability of any organisational leadership group to have its people positioned with confidence to anticipate and recognise foreseen and unforeseen; and predictable and unpredictable forces, and to know what and how to act, is considered as the substantive key to an organisation’s resilience and competitive excellence.

In essence, what this demands of people having a governance role, is to operate through a whole-of-organisation approach. In this way, governance can be focussed on what are organisation purpose specific activities; rather than ignoring its importance, or offering lip service to its presence and role.

This approach is encouraged or at least supported because so many organisations operate without too much negative things happening on a day by day basis. On an everyday basis, the organisation continues to operate without being either in the news or needing to call a crisis meeting. Many leaders assume that this means the organisation is operating well. It is in fact the ‘curse’ of generating a sense of organisational well-being, which in turn enables complacency to creep in.

In other words, because there is nothing unusual happening, the leaders question what they ought to be looking for if everything is pretty well OK?

And if it is OK, then why would I want to be looking for something that doesn’t most likely exist anyway?

Yet like the swan, calm on the top of the water and much activity underneath, there is still much happening, it is just that being unnoticed it has “become part of the furniture”.

Passive or Active Involvement

Leaders may need reminding from time-to-time that organisations operate regardless of what goes on within and around them. Likewise, Boards seem to overlook the possible reality of their organisation having a separate life of its own. It can and certainly does occur, where an organisation seems to be operating on a frolic of its own. At least that is what the Board would have others believe following a mishap or serious adverse event occurring.

It is the acuity of an organisation’s leaders knowing that their “nothingness” does not lead to no everyday activities, nor that bad things only will result from those activities. It is even more important for them to be aware of and to monitor and intervene in a timely and proper manner in those activities.

Governance is asked to be cognisant of not only the laws, compliance/risks, and finance elements; it is now more than ever asked to consider the everyday matters and activities, because this is what will happen anyway.


Organisations need to now concentrate on ensuring that the everyday is going well. There must be more successes than yesterday and the day before. By possessing a more immediate knowing, understanding, present awareness, indicator i.e. ‘footprint’, it offers a real and active nurturing and management opportunity of the everyday activities. This leads to generating organisational sustainability and resilience as an inevitable and invaluable benefit.

Expressed in another way, it is about the priority levers or high-impact drivers that are generating real positive contribution to the organisation’s ongoing day-to-day performances. It is therefore about measuring the actual contributions of each lever/driver; and connecting to the meaningful and timely feedback for more immediate adjustments once any underutilisation is identified. It also accommodates the opportunity of strengthening those elements which render enhanced contributions; and further to ensure that those same levers/drivers are operating at the level considered appropriate to the present organisation’s plans and purposes.

The outcome is real and lasting success as it is about being more holistic and truly sustainable. Surely the compelling conclusion is that organisational resilience is key to our “future shock”. This ensures having real confidence for embracing the future and gaining success.

For further information contact Damien Smith on +61 3 8862 6315 or