By Dave Kahle

Are You Ready for The Age of Turmoil?

The biggest challenge for the rest of your career.

Do you have a sense that the world is changing around you at a pace that is unsettling and in ways that are uncomfortable?

If so, then you are not alone.  And your sense is accurate.  Dive a bit deeper into the issue and you’ll realize that the change is more pervasive than you may have imaged.  In fact, it spells a new age – The Age of Turmoil – and our ability to successfully navigate it will be the biggest challenge for the rest of our careers.

Let’s take a closer look.  The concept of a whirlpool amid turbulent waters provides a great analogy to understand what is happening. Just as currents in the ocean crash together to form turbulent seas and whirlpools, so too currents moving through our society have come together to create an environment that is treacherous.

Here are some of the currents that form this perfect storm:

Rapid Change.

In the year 1900, the total amount of information available to mankind was doubling every 500 years.  One hundred years later, in the year 2000, the pace of information-creation had multiplied, and it was doubling every two years.  Think of a bell-shaped curve charting the amount of information available in the world.  The curve would be going almost straight up.  And today, the best estimates are that the total amount of information available to mankind is doubling at least every 30 days.

This increase in information drives innovation and causes change.  New information seeps into every area of our life and our businesses and causes change.  Since the growth in the amount of information is unprecedented, so is the rate of change.  We’re seeing entire industries being disrupted, products and processes coming and going in a figurative blink of eye.

Not only is the pace of change unprecedented, but so is the depth of change.

Ask yourself this:  In your life and your career are things changing faster today than a few years ago?  Are they changing at a deeper level?

Growing Complexity.

The explosion in the amount of information not only drives change, but it brings rapidly growing complexity. Everything is more complex and sophisticated today than it was just a few years ago.  For businesspeople, it can be something as mundane as the products and services sold.  Almost every product today is more complex when compared to what was being sold for the same application a few years ago.  Not only is every individual product more complex, but the breadth of product lines has grown in almost every vendor, in every industry. Five years ago, a company that had a product line consisting of 20 items, today is selling 40.

As computer software continues to develop, it only gets more complex and sophisticated.  Look at any software that you use today and compare it to the same software five years ago.  The number of features and options has multiplied.

While software is an easy target, growing complexity is moving through every aspect of our jobs and our lives.

Ask yourself this:  Is there any aspect of your life or you career that is not more complex and sophisticated today compared to a few years ago?

Rise in Social Media Influence.

We are all aware of the incredible growth in social media. And, while there is a whole slew of negative impacts, I’m more concerned about the impact it is having on fundamental human relations.

Because its algorithms present us with only those posts and products to which we have shown some interest, it gradually removes any competing ideas from our view. React to a couple of posts from MSNBC, for example, and you’ll likely never see anything from Fox News. While this is great for selling products, it destroys a fundamental building block of a democratic society – the respectful exchange of competing ideas.  Since we only see things and people that agree with us, we think that anyone who doesn’t must be a radical outlier.  The impact of that threatens our democracy and manifests in everything from the Portland riots to the Capital Storming.

Ask yourself this:  Has your use of social media made you more convinced of the correctness of your positions or less?

Death of Journalism.

Gone are the days of Walter Cronkite.  In earlier days, the news media prided itself on its objectivity.  No one, of course, does today.  What used to be news is now unabashedly propaganda media for one side or the other.  The legacy media now selects the stories it wants to publicize, as well as those it doesn’t.  Then, it highlights and presents an intentionally biased rendering of that story.  Finally, it knowingly presents half-truths and distortions, and doesn’t acknowledge or apologize when the truth comes out.

What used to be reliable sources of information are now intentionally distorted propaganda.

I could go on with still more currents flowing through our society.  But I think I’ve made my point – our society is changing at a pace and a depth unprecedented in human history.  Welcome to the Age of Turmoil.

Our ability, both individually as well as organizationally, to successfully navigate these turbulent times is our greatest challenge for the rest of our careers.

What to do

We can formulate all kinds of big-picture solutions — anything from breaking up Facebook to multiplying charter schools to making congress live by the rules it creates for everyone else, but my concern is more for individual responses.

How do we, as individuals, successfully navigate this Age of Turmoil?  How do we see ourselves and our families through it?

The first step is to become aware of the situation.  The next is to accept responsibility for dealing with it.  After that, the solutions may be as varied as the people reading this post.  Care to offer a solution?  Feel free to offer your take on this in the comments section below.

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.