The More Things Change.…

Shuf­fling through molder­ing over­heads, I found an old pre­sen­ta­tion I used to do called, “Strate­gies for Rein­vent­ing Your­self.” It began with a recita­tion from peren­ni­al man­age­ment guru, Tom Peters. I’ve lost the cita­tion, I’m afraid, but since this is ancient his­to­ry, cir­ca 1993, it prob­a­bly came from a book, speech or arti­cle of his around the time of Re-Imag­ine! Busi­ness Excel­lence in a Dis­rup­tive Age. Whether or not you are a fan of Peters, lis­ten to this:

We are cop­ing with the biggest eco­nom­ic change in two cen­turies. That’s self-evi­dent. But what does it mean?

It means that to be scared out of one’s wits is sen­si­ble. To be cer­tain of any­thing is suicidal.…

1. Don’t wor­ry if you’re feel­ing nuts. In fact, wor­ry if you are not. There are no cer­tain answers. We don’t even know what ques­tions to ask.

2. Don’t even think of hid­ing. There’s no such thing as insur­ance against bicen­ten­ni­al change. Over­all, Amer­i­cans’ increas­ing demands to be pro­tect­ed against any and all unto­ward events amounts to an enor­mous drag on our abil­i­ty to adapt to this tec­ton­ic shift.

3. Rein­vent your­self. Cor­po­ra­tions and gov­ern­ment must be trans­formed. And so must you and I. The race will go to the curi­ous, the slight­ly mad, those with an unsat­ed pas­sion for learn­ing and daredeviltry.

4. Remind your­self that you’re in the midst of some­thing real­ly big. Maybe that, in and of itself, will make us a lit­tle more recep­tive to the next cat­a­clysmic dis­rup­tion that will sure­ly come our way.

I had to smile. I guess we’ve been with this longer than I thought. Plus ça change, plus la même chose.

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  • Dick Richards wrote:

    Gosh. Thanks for the reminder. I sup­pose we have encoun­tered “the next cat­a­clysmic disruption.”

  • Inspir­ing insights (!), but per­haps not as ancient as you imag­ine. His Re-imag­ine! book came out in 2003, but that was still well before most of us were imag­in­ing the cur­rent cat­a­clysmic disruptions.

    My favorite exam­ple of change [not] was on the not-so-recent top­ic of infor­ma­tion over­load, shared by Paul Dour­ish at the CSCW 2006 con­fer­ence:

    One of the dis­eases of this age is the mul­ti­plic­i­ty of books; they doth so over­charge the world that it is not able to digest the abun­dance of idle mat­ter that is every day hatched and brought forth into the world.

    — Barn­a­by Rich (1580–1617), writ­ing in 1613 (!); quot­ed by de Sol­la Price in his 1963 book “Lit­tle Sci­ence, Big Science.”

  • Joe, thanks for the cor­rec­tion. My googling did not reveal a source for the exact words from Peters I’ve list­ed above, but I’m sure they are from Sept, 1993, not 2003. You are right that Re-Imag­ine! must not be the source. Loved the quo­ta­tion from Barn­a­by Rich.

    Dick, thanks for stop­ping by. I agree with you.

  • Mary Allison wrote:

    Nice work on per­spec­tive Dan. And Joe — thanks for the Rich quote. It is hard to mea­sure what is “good” when all is abun­dant. Reminds me that I must lis­ten to my heart to know what it good for me.

  • Found it! [Via googling for “unsat­ed pas­sion for learn­ing and daredeviltry”]:

    A Very Big Deal Indeed
    Post­ed on Sep­tem­ber 03, 1993.

    Mary: I like the way you expressed your view on good­ness and abun­dance. My take on it — not sure if that’s what you intend­ed — is that “if every­thing is ‘good’, it’s all back­ground noise”. Indeed, I sup­pose it could be argued that scarci­ty is what cre­ates [rel­a­tive] val­ue. I’ve been [re]thinking about abun­dance and scarci­ty amid the grow­ing reces­sion. Found a recent, inter­est­ing arti­cle on The Psy­chol­o­gy of Abun­dance and Scarci­ty:

    Just as the after­math of World War II required a burst of cre­ativ­i­ty result­ing in new struc­tures, process­es, and orga­ni­za­tions that have helped order inter­na­tion­al eco­nom­ics and pol­i­tics, the cur­rent cri­sis offers unmatched oppor­tu­ni­ty to redress excess and mod­er­ate the psy­chol­o­gy of abun­dance with a dose of the psy­chol­o­gy of scarci­ty. What is need­ed is a blend­ing of eter­nal Amer­i­can opti­mism, vig­or and action with Euro­pean longer-term per­spec­tive and struc­tured process, a bal­ance between the psy­cholo­gies of abun­dance and of scarcity.

  • Joe

    Wow! Thank you! You are a mas­ter­ful googler — at least more mas­ter­ful than me. 

    Mary, thanks for your com­ment, too. My own two cents is that what’s get­ting cor­rect­ed right now is not abun­dance but excess. And while scarci­ty may play a pos­i­tive role to some extent in the cor­rec­tion, my pre­ferred direc­tion is to rede­fine what we mean by abun­dance to be some­thing clos­er to “suf­fi­cient.” As I under­stand it, the orig­i­nal mean­ing of the word, abun­dant, was some­thing like “over­flow­ing,” which by nature sug­gests excess, while the root of suf­fi­cient is more like “meet­ing the need of.” Abun­dance and scarci­ty rep­re­sent polar ends of a spec­trum, smack­ing of West­ern either/or think­ing. Suf­fi­cient, to me, sounds clos­er to a nat­ur­al state.

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