Don’t Predict the Future, Be Open to It!

by | April 29, 2021

future robot asimo holding up "love" in ASL

Do you fear change? If you ask most people this question, the answer usually tends to be, “no.” Generally, we tend to acknowledge that to progress and move forward, we need to not be scared of change. However, if you do some introspection, our actions can sometimes be at odds with our words. It can be easy to understand why this is. The status quo is comfortable. There can be a benefit to not rocking the boat and sticking with what works. However, what happens when the status quo looks like it’s going to be disrupted? Do you adapt and go with the flow, or do you resist because the uncertainty inspires fear? 

As someone who likes to be aware of and/or involved with the “next big thing,” I often find myself learning about disruptive technologies. Regardless of what it is, I like to learn about it. This drive to always learn has recently led me to immerse myself in the world of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH), NFTs and blockchain technologies as a whole. 

Don’t go though; I know what you’re thinking! This isn’t an article where I tell you to liquidate your 401k and go all in on “internet money.” It also isn’t a primer on an introduction to these technologies. There are countless resources on the internet that do this already. In learning about an emerging technology, there is a certain sense of wonder associated with it, at least for me, it’s like being present to history in the making! I bring this up because in my life, there have been a few key instances where I’ve felt this sense of wonder before. For those not as interested in technology like myself, the feeling can be compared to watching a really good movie, reading a great book, or listening to your favorite album for the first time. 

The most notable ones where I was old enough to appreciate the gravity of the transformation was the rise of social media sites such as MySpace and the rise of the “smartphone.” 

I’m old enough to remember when MySpace was viewed as gimmicky and not worth knowing about. Fast forward to today and not only are social media sites ubiquitous but it is practically a prerequisite to know about Facebook and Twitter to maximize success for one’s business, even if MySpace is a shell of what it once was. Similarly, in about a decade, smartphones went from a novelty to a point where I would be willing to bet that most everyone reading this owns one. That is a tremendous leap in adoption of a technology! 

This CNBC article has a great illustration of the doubt surrounding a new technology. The year is 1995. The new technology? An up and coming star called, “the internet.” Bill Gates does an interview with David Letterman on the Late Show to promote Microsoft’s new tool, Internet Explorer. Remember, it’s 1995! 

In the clip, Letterman jokingly quips if “radio rings a bell” when he says that you can “watch a live baseball game on the internet.” When Bill Gates says that the internet would allow you to watch it whenever you wanted, Letterman again jokingly responds, “Do tape recorders ring a bell?” Now if you want to get your David Letterman fix, you can watch his Netflix Original, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. I would be willing to bet that the David Letterman of the past would be shocked at what today’s Letterman is up to! 

Of course, Letterman’s 1995 exchange with Bill Gates is played up for the sake of good television but it’s really interesting to think about what the “next big thing” will be. While you don’t necessarily have to be able to predict what that is, it is worth asking ourselves if we are ready for the next big thing when it arrives. For every Facebook and Twitter, there are tons of Friendsters. For every Google, there are many AltaVistas that didn’t make it. I also remember thinking that we would be watching movies on HD DVDs as opposed to Blu-rays in the future. 

In a previous post, I discussed why it is important to improve your cognitive fitness but the key takeaway here isn’t that we need to be able to predict the future. Rather, we just need to work on improving our ability to adapt and be receptive to it. Regardless of your thoughts on HD DVD vs Blu-ray at the time, it’s important to make sure we aren’t clinging to Betamax

It can be scary to adopt something new for your small business but taking that leap can pay off in a big way. It was only a few years ago that online ordering for your typical restaurant was still not as widespread. During the past year or so, restaurants who were already receptive to online ordering were well positioned to move to curbside pickups for the pandemic. The pandemic wasn’t anything that could have been predicted but the receptiveness to an emerging technology in the restaurant industry ended up being a big help for those who took advantage of it early. What was once nice to have quickly became even more important. At least anecdotally, many restaurants in my area that had previously shown no interest in online ordering scrambled to do so in March and April 2020. 

What’s something new in your industry that you don’t really take seriously but could potentially need to in the future? Maybe it is one of the aforementioned technologies? Maybe it is something else entirely? The key thing is to not let complacency be our downfall. We don’t necessarily have to dive head first into something, but by getting our feet wet with a new technology or process, we can hopefully be in a future where we feel less like Blockbuster and more like Netflix.

Don't let complacency get the best of you. Break the status quo.

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