“I feel the need, the need for speed,” said actor Tom Cruise, playing Maverick in the movie “Top Gun.” While this dialogue served as simple fighter-pilot bravado, it could just as easily be the refrain of today’s top business executives and consumers.
Futurists Stan Davis and Chris Meyer, in their books “Blur” and “It’s Alive,” describe how economic lifecycles have dramatically shortened through the course of human history. The hunter-gatherer economy lasted about 100,000 years and was followed by an agrarian economy that lasted 10,000 years. The 1760s ushered in the industrial era, which lasted a mere 200 years before modern society had the economic rug pulled out from under it again. The information economy began in the 1950s with the invention of the semiconductor, and it is now being replaced–after just 50 years–by an economy built around molecular technology.
Put into this context of human history, today’s change is quite breathtaking. It also illustrates that technology changes not in a linear fashion, but rather in an exponential fashion. Ray Kurzweil, one of the most important modern-day inventors, said not long ago, “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress.” Like it or not, we’re at the tip of the bullwhip as it’s getting ready to crack.
I recently found tangible proof for this lofty socioeconomic analysis in–of all places–my freezer. That’s where I found a box of “Uncrustables.” What the heck are Uncrustables you may ask? They are pre-made peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches with the crust ripped off, each individually wrapped in plastic, of course. Throw them in your brown bag in the morning, and by lunch they are thawed and ready to eat.
So it’s come to this (in my own family no less). We now have a society where we are too busy to make a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. It really should have come as no surprise. After all, I’ve been using salad-in-a-bag for a couple of years now, get cash from a drive-through ATM, expect next-day delivery of any purchase, talk with my friends around the globe (for free) using instant messenger and receive answers to most of my questions within minutes using Google.
Whether as individual consumers or as senior business executives, we all want it now. We are so busy that we want everything just in time, with as little effort as possible. Our marketplace is changing so rapidly that we, too, must create, learn and react as fast as possible.
In order to survive and thrive in this breakneck current your company must be able to continuously respond and adapt to change. If you want to be viewed as mission-critical, if you want to be seen as a strategic asset, you should position e-learning as a vital component of an agile organization:
- If you want to increase the speed of new product deployment, you will have to increase the speed of product training.
- If you want to decrease the time it takes to respond to your competitive threats, you will have to speed up your competitive analysis and communication.
- If you want to be able to quickly recover from a natural disaster or other crisis, you must be ready to distribute your contingency plan and new process workflow at a moment’s notice.
- If you want to build deep customer engagement, you must answer customers’ questions instantly, 24×7.
- If you want to harness the productivity gains that come from new technology, you must quickly and continually provide IT training to your employees.
Do the words “flexible” and “agile” describe your company? Is your department able to turn on a dime? Do you feel the pressure of time? Do you feel the need, the need for speed?
Kevin Kruse is a president of AXIOM Professional Health Learning and facilitator of www.e-LearningGuru.com. For more information, e-mail Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org.