The Shift Age: Positioning Your Company for 2011 and Beyond

The Shift Age: Positioning Your Company for 2011 and

Beyond, by David Houle *

Reflections by Gail Schaper-Gordon, Ph.D.,
Win-Win Founder & Senior Consultant,
On a “Fridays with Vistage” Webinar

Business leaders stand today at a pivotal juncture in a new industrial revolution, amidst the transition from the Information Age to the Shift Age. The Information Age started 30 years ago in the 20th century; the Shift Age has now ushered us into the 21st century, into a place, time, and global marketplace that is and will be radically different. The transition between these two ages has been at times both disruptive and painful, as the old structures and practices are replaced by new ones. … During these uncertain times, it is imperative that executives arm themselves with the information they need to fully face the 21st century and lead their companies through transformative opportunities developing in the next 10 years.

— Webinar Introduction to Speaker David Houle

Respected futurist David Houle sees the Great Recession we have just experienced not just as a very disruptive period but as a “reorganizational recession,” like those that preceded the transitions to the Industrial Age of the 1960s and the Information age in the 1980s. He believes that we are transitioning into a new period — the “Shift Age” — characterized by three fundamental forces:

  • The Flow to Global.
  • The Flow to the Individual.
  • Accelerated Electronic Connectedness.

Globalization is no longer just an economic term, but a force across all aspects of human society. Yet, at the same time, the individual can be connected globally anytime, anywhere. Time or distance no longer limits human communication. These forces have created the ability to work anywhere. Work and place can be separate physically; functionally, “place” can be considered in terms of human collaboration.

Houle describes our electronic connections as moving us from the physical to the nonphysical, creating an alternate reality, if you will: a “screen reality,” operating separately from the physical reality. Business leaders must transform their companies if for no reason other than to stay current with the new environment and to function within these two realities.

According to Houle, we are in the Transformational Decade (2010 – 2020), in which we are becoming the first full members of the 21st century in terms of human thought, leaving behind the “legacy thinking” of the 20th century. He believes that human thought will begin “facing forward,” rather than looking back, and thus will begin creating the 21st century.

Houle sees this Transformational Decade characterized by accelerating change and disruptive changes. The disruptions will create innovation and opportunities; but leadership and management will need specific qualities in order to succeed during this dynamic, even turbulent period:

  • Adaptability.
  • Resilience.
  • Collaborative and on-going reorganization.
  • “The Morph Corp” mindset.

Houle cautions against building management structures or hierarchies to manage change. Organizations will need to be flat, resembling a net where managers are the nodes, interconnected to one another. There will need to be on-gong collaborative re-organization, in which titles are forgotten and people who have the talent to match each task are brought together to plan solutions. There will need to be a change in trust and authority, such that the individual is trusted and the people who can make the changes will be heard. Organizations will need to anticipate being in a constant state of change, continually morphing to address the changes, in order to take advantage of the new opportunities.



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