Discovering Requisite Agility: A New Integrated Approach to Value Creation in a VUCA World | Part 1 | Living With Future Shock

© 2022, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved.

The world we live in today is shocking.

This is not news. Alvin Toffler coined the phrase future shock in 1985 to describe the psychological distress and anxiety people experience in coping with the accelerating pace of change. He wrote about it at length in his best-seller Future Shock.

Whether we like it or not, the quickening pace of change and rising discomfort that Toffler identified has not abated. If anything, this emerging hyper-pace of change and the increasing tempo has left us no choice but to discover new and better coping mechanisms to advance our ongoing desire for personal and social improvement, wellbeing, and happiness.

As human agents, we are constantly striving to improve our current state of being and remove felt uneasiness. With every choice we make and each action we take, we pursue a future state of being that initially resides in our imaginations and which we have the power to bring into the state of creation. We imagine different outcomes and pursue different goals. Some people with modest ambitions may have a fuzzy vision about how to do their best and strive to retire with sufficient wealth to live out their years. Other may seek with more clarity and drive a clear audacious path to enable a better world, change the path of humanity, and make a dent in the universe. 

We are each free to approach our lives differently, and that’s how it should be. Diversity of thought leads to diversity of discovery and diversity of action.

As the totality of distributed knowledge grows and is applied to production opportunities and challenges, so too does our wealth grow, which further enhances our ability to meet our basic needs and to invest in higher-order, more complicated, and more satisfying outcomes. This is part of an organic and extended evolutionary process and spontaneous order in which we are all involved but of which nobody is in control (see A. Smith, F.A. Hayek, etc.).

We think, we innovate, we produce, we consume, and we align and realign resources as individuals and in aggregate based on entrepreneurial judgment and ultimately consumer preferences. Billions of people participate every day, day-after-day, seeking new values they believe will enhance their well-being, and in doing so unintentionally contribute to the well-being of a much wider community of like-minded value seekers.

We live in a huge ineffable interconnected system that is ubiquitous, ever changing, ever evolving, ever becoming more complex and at times even chaotic, all at an ever-quickening tempo. The system itself is what we choose to do and how we choose to do it. We each participate, we each contribute, and there is no way out. We are the thing and the thing is us. We are each both producers and consumers—creators, and users—both of which are two sides of the same coin and both parts of the same system.

As producers we cooperatively create and align resources to fulfill human needs, wants and desires. We follow the lead of entrepreneurs, who create bounded entities aligned to serve the insatiable thirst for enhanced human welfare, powered by distributed knowledge and resources (land, labour, capital, knowledge) of which we ourselves are an active part.

Many of us have sought and acquired leadership roles in organizations of various sizes, with varying degrees of influence in affecting the larger total system (business/government/social sector). Each and all strive to achieve net positive outcomes in what we hope is a (desirable) road of progress towards a more desirable state of being. 

In simpler times, perhaps when there was little or unchanging stable technology, it was easier to operate within clearly defined boundaries. You worked on a farm, or you ran a craft shop, or you provided a defined service commensurate with your training as a doctor, lawyer, educator, or parish priest in your small town or village. Knowledge was transferred formally via apprenticeships or informally through schooling, training, and skill transfer, but that knowledge rarely changed or advanced over one’s lifetime.

Citizens who two hundred and fifty years ago experienced the changes brought forth by the industrial revolution must have experienced their own emerging complexity from simpler but less satisfying subsistence living to emerging alternative ways to produce, consume, earn a living to survive, and ultimately to flourish. The pace of change experienced then must have felt just as shocking as what we experience in our own time.

The complicated problems of growth and industrialization that the early entrepreneurs struggled with are seen today as simple by comparison. By contrast, the degree of complexity we pursue, manage and control successfully today is immense. Our capabilities stand on generations of discovery, learning, savings, capital formation, division of labour, wealth creation, competition, cooperation, and evolving stabilizing social systems. All are emergent, necessary, and desirable to maximize human welfare.

Our lives are complicated because the world is complicated, and it’s that way because we want it to be that way. On aggregate, our lives are better for it, by almost any dimension of measurement, and the alternatives are perceived by most to be much worse.

Next: Part 2 – The Source of Requisite Agility

Barry Linetsky is CEO of Cognitive Consulting, Inc., and a Partner with The Strategic Planning Group in Toronto, Canada, where he and his colleagues have been helping executives and owners define and align their business purpose with customer values since 1994. Barry is the author of the acclaimed business biography The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success (2017, Theme Park Press). His most recent books, Understanding and Creating Vision and Mission Statements (2020), Understanding and Creating Strategic Performance Indicators and Business Scenarios (2020), and Understanding and Creating Critical Success Factors (2021), each co-authored with Dobri Stojsic, are available from amazon. Barry’s thought-leadership articles have been published by Ivey Business Journal, Rotman Magazine, Mises Wire, and the Economist Intelligence Unit in conjunction with Harvard Business School. Barry is also a writer, researcher, analyst, photographer, and business strategy enabler. Read his blog and learn more at Follow him on Twitter @BizPhilospher.

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