By Dave Kahle

Navigating Complexity In a Rapidly Changing World – An Analogy

I just received a notice to upgrade one of my software programs from version 7.9.1 to the latest – version 7.9.2.  You know the drill, as it happens almost daily. Log in to your computer and you’re almost immediately confronted with the latest upgrades. ‘Click here to download the latest version.

I appreciate the software publishers continually improving their products.  That’s part of what I expect for those monthly fees. However, it is more complex than it seems.

Every one of those upgrades and minor improvements should be studied, and if it requires some change on my part – a new feature, for example, or a change in the way one part of the program works – then I should review that, practice it a time or two to make sure I’ve gotten it, and then change the way that I use that program from here on out. That’s how it would work in a perfect world.

What’s More Important?

But I have other things to do that are more important than this. If I spent all the time I should spend on keeping abreast of the updates on the software I use, I would probably become the most efficient computer user around, and, as a result, the most unproductive executive on the planet. Not only can I not afford to invest the time to learn the new detail, but I don’t use half of the existing features on the software that I have been using routinely for years. I still have trouble putting someone on hold on my cell phone to take another call, for example.

Software, and its growing complexity, is just one of the more ubiquitous manifestations of a characteristic of our times – every aspect of our jobs, our businesses, and our lives are changing rapidly and growing more complex. Richard Swenson, writing in the book, “Margin” had it right when he said:

“The spontaneous tendency of our culture is to inexorably add detail to our lives: one more option, one more problem, one more commitment, one more expectation, one more purchase, one more debt, one more change, one more job, one more decision. We must now deal with more ‘things per person than at any other time in history.”

If that were true in the year 2000, when the book was published, imagine what it is like today. The pace of change has increased, the growth in complexity has increased, the amount of information has exploded. Today’s environment makes Swenson’s observation in the year 2000 seem like the good old days.

Unprecedented Times

Everywhere we look, we see rapid change and growing complexity. I wish software were the only example. But look around. I could cite thousands of examples, but you already have a sense of the extent to which our world is changing.

The pace of change is so great that it is unprecedented. In the course of human history, there has never been an extended time when changes have occurred so quickly and universally. The greatest challenge for all of us is to navigate complexity and thrive and survive in this turbulent environment.

Our ability to effectively manage this pace of change in our businesses and our lives will be the single biggest challenge we face for the rest of our careers.


Copyright MMXXI by Dave Kahle. All rights reserved.

Originally published: Navigating Complexity in a Rapidly Changing World – An Analogy | Dave Kahle Wisdom

About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and eleven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of salespeople and transform hundreds of sales organizations. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Good Book on Business.