Hasn't the World Always Been Unpredictable?

I was recently leading a workshop at HP with dozens of their top managers and engineers. I was going on (as I normally do) about how the new world is unpredictable, how the rules of the game have changed considerably, and how we can’t pretend these changes are not happening. Then, an engineer raised their hand: “You say the new world is unpredictable, but wasn’t it always like that? What, if anything, has changed?” That’s a good question, and quite an important one.

The world has always been full of surprises, crises, and changes. But in the past people could live in their own secluded village, far from all the drama. Nowadays, even if you’re not particularly competitive or ambitious and stay in your own little corner in the world, you can’t escape feeling those storms and changes.

For three years I had implored the kindly, charming, yet unambitious owner of the neighbourhood dry cleaners that he must be ready for future disruptions, and the necessity of getting ahead of the coming storms. He refused to listen. Then, a large dry cleaner chain opened on a parallel street and within three months he lost sixty percent of his customers.

Yet I persisted in visiting him, only to find him often lingering outside his shop, just waiting.

Even an unambitious small-business owner has to market themselves on social media, promote themselves on Google, and compete with the big chain that suddenly opened a store next door - or risk being left behind. The world is unpredictable for all of us.

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