As you may or may not know TomorrowToday does not have a central office where we all trundle off to between 08h00 and 17h00 Monday to Friday. Let’s face it who does do that anymore? TomorrowToday has what we call a ‘virtual office’ meaning that we are all in different cities at any given time, working pretty independently of one another but constantly connected in to one another via technological devices. One of the most useful tools we have is something called Yammer (www.yammer.com) for those of you who are interested in investigating it. Yammer, like Base Camp and Highrise, for example, are basic social business tools that easily facilitate communication between people who are not physically in the same place but who need to know what others are doing. I think as office space becomes both limited and expensive, as well as cumbersome in over-crowded cities, social business tools will be used more and more in the future. Also, as younger people will increasingly demand work/ life balance, working from home will become more and more normal; and we have the technology to facilitate that. I do believe this is going to have an impact on not only how institutions are built in the future, but also what sort of systems, processes, strategies; and cultures will exist inside institutions.
But despite the virtual space one has to consider that one still has to exist in a real space. My ‘real’ office, certainly at this time of year, is a gorgeous over-sized, old-fashioned ‘stoop’ outside my cottage on the plot near Centurion that I am fortunate enough to live in. Horse paddocks surround me; and this week I have the pleasure of watching a week-old foal explore his new and curious world with bravery. It is a beautiful, boiling-hot, dry; and still South African summer’s day. Luckily I sit in the shade of a huge Jacaranda tree; and in the distance I can hear a cuckoo calling out its familiar ‘Piet My Vrou’ sound. It is with gratitude for these surroundings, as the year winds down, that today I have been reflecting on ‘the year that was’.
The big news at the beginning of the year was Egypt’s political volatility, which was aided by social media. Like all social media stories the transparency this method of communication allows, meant that a kind of spread of oppressive regimes being toppled ensued with governments in Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Tunisia being challenged in different ways with different outcomes. Some of this unrest continues, as perhaps replacement regimes have not lived up to the expectations of the oppressed masses demanding change. But the point is there is change happening and, from my point of view, this ‘Arab Spring’ was an extraordinary example of the role social media has played, and will continue to play, in giving the previously voiceless people a voice and a perspective, for example. How unpredictable ‘normal’ has become.
Like a typical newborn, after much activity, the foal has now collapsed in an exhausted heap in the sunshine.
Osama Bin-Laden was killed by America’s SEAL’s four months before the tenth anniversary of 9/11, which would serve to remind those of us for whom this tragic and life-changing event had become a memory, of the fear surrounding terrorism; and the need that some feel to ‘fight’ the enemies of freedom and democracy. Personally I do think fear has become a weapon that is used all too often as a form of control. Japan was hit by a horrific Tsunami, which saw people banding together in response to a natural disaster that would change the shape of those affected forever. No other disaster has killed more people in Japan at once since the Second World War. Both these events (and very importantly 9/11 ten years ago) would have affects on our now globally connected economy, which generally this year has been pretty turbulent; and of course people’s social value systems.
Most noticeably this turbulence has been felt in the Eurozone, which pretty much hit rock bottom recently with Greece in particular not being able to pay their debts. Although not part of the Euro, the United Kingdom is not immune to the effects of the current recession, made worst by the debt crisis. This economic instability has plagued developed economies really since 2008, whilst developing economies like China and India are fast becoming more significant. South Africa was invited to join the BRICS counties this year and Brazil is said to be the fifth biggest economy in the world, even having to lend money to its former coloniser, Portugal. How the world is changing!
A new generation of little girls got to watch their version of a Royal Fairytale wedding when Will and Kate tied the knot in April. A wedding that an estimated two billion watched. The cost of which ran well into six figures when average folk are wondering whether or not they are even going to be able to afford peanut butter for their children’s sandwiches next year. This is not a joke; people are struggling out there. And of course people struggle differently. Amy Winehouse joined the 27-club in July this year. Like Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison before her, however, perhaps her martyrdom will mean that her music will live on forever.
The foal has now woken up and is suckling his mother hungrily. Being a good mother, she stands ever patient, while her baby is nurtured.
Peter Drucker cautions that it is not the turbulence that is dangerous, but rather our actions based on yesterday’s logic that we are to be warned about. Turbulence is inevitable. Change is not a new concept, what is different today is the exponential rate at which the world is changing, in short, how quickly the world is changing. What we know of change is that it affects people’s value systems. In order words, their understanding of normal. I think that a lot of younger people in particular, are turning to spiritualism, emotional and psychological personal development and environmental concerns rather than just materialism as a way to navigate their way towards success. Recently I have coined the term ‘material revolution’ referring to whether or not people still aspire to only having material wealth in order to define themselves as successful, or whether in addition to that, they can see that material success is not the only kind of success to seek.
So my invitation to you as we say good-bye to 2011 and welcome in 2012 is to reflect on what is important. What in your life, in your place of work, in your relationships is working? And what is not? I do believe the world is shifting in to a new and interesting space. The systems (like banking and management, for example) that we used to know of as normal and stable are collapsing. This is stressful; and my question is: how are you going to respond?
Perhaps we can do things differently for the festive season this year in preparation for doing things differently in 2012. Perhaps we don’t need to eat and drink as much as usual, perhaps we don’t need as many presents (and the ones we do get can be practical rather than indulgent). Perhaps we can get creative around how we entertain our children. Perhaps we can notice details found in nature that we can learn from. Perhaps we could spend time pondering over valuable lessons we have learnt this year. Perhaps we could consider the possibility that being self-aware will assist in believing that abundance comes in many forms; and perhaps this can help dispel some of our fears for the future. Perhaps we can nurture genuine relationships and perhaps we can take time for ourselves rather than just rush through the silly season.
Perhaps then, despite the turbulence around us, we can find peace in our hearts. Perhaps you can go in search of a foal to remind you of this and to guide you along your way. I wish you peace for this season and the next and the one after that.