How Did the World’s Greatest Futurist Predict 2017 in 1970?
“The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
Alvin Toffler – Future Shock
Those words were published in Alvin Toffler’s groundbreaking book, “Future Shock” forty-seven years ago. He spoke of a world speeding up under a new order driven by technology. He spoke of vast opportunities for those with creativity and adaptability. He spoke of the peril for those who looked the other way.
Here is the big dilemma characterized in Toffler’s future, which has become our world right here and now:
- People want change but many don’t want to change themselves.
- Many of us want to change ourselves but don’t know how.
“Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.”
I read Alvin Toffler’s book as a teenager and it changed my life. I was excited by the future he described and envisioned being a part of the solution to the vast changes he predicted. That is exactly how it turned out. In re-reading his book 42 years later, I realize just how spot-on Toffler was with the challenges of modern life.
Change has swept past many of us with such force that it is necessary to develop the skills of self-change. The new world requires shifting from the old model of getting some type of education and settling into a job or profession until we retire. Today, the successful professional learns continually, sheds old roles routinely and grows like never before. The inability to change is at the core of the global disengagement with our work. It is behind the malaise of the long-term unemployed.
Future Shock’s closing words are a missive to the turf protection practiced by many Baby Boomers and Generation X members.
“The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they – at some distant point in the future – will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely… because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile.”
When I launched Inspired Work in 1990, my focus was on providing a platform where people could define the work they would most love and identify, in very realistic ways, how to bring that vision to life. I was so stunned at how life changing the process was, that my life totally changed on-the-spot. What I didn’t see coming was how much the world would speed up in the coming years. In our early days, people came to our programs to transform their relationship towards work. Typically that involved changing whatever was in the way of having a fulfilling life in spiritual, intellectual and practical ways. Today, change happens so quickly that our clients use our curriculum to change all of the time. That isn’t as exhausting as it sounds. Hanging on to the past is exhausting.
Here’s why organizations should take note of Mr. Toffler’s predictions. Employee disengagement is directly related with one’s ability to change. Without those skills, we will continue to live in a world where only 13% of our workers are engaged. How can any organization, outside of a category leader, recruit enough engaged workers? Unless we teach our workers how to change, we will get a workforce that is going through the motions.
For those of us who take up the mantle and learn how to reinvent, to grow, to improve, to unlearn, to relearn, to shed old behavior, the years ahead are exciting. But, these are years filled with peril. The dawn of the Industrial Revolution handed out pink slips to virtually every worker. Tremendous civil and political unrest followed. Today, many of our people are being thrown to the sidelines because they don’t even know or believe they can change. Work doesn’t disappear! History has proven it moves.
We don’t need old jobs!
We need a new vision.
We need new skills to connect with and influence others, to learn and unlearn quickly, and to assess and define our truth continuously.
For those of us who get it, please, this is the time to roll up our sleeves and help others get here as well.
(C) Copyright, 2017, Inspired Work, Inc. – (All Rights Reserved)
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