Complacency Is The Enemy Of Progress
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Complacency Is The Enemy Of Progress

In difficult periods, people are quick to focus on the bleakness of the moment and be pessimistic about the future. But, have you seriously considered the positive elements and expectations a pandemic offers? No, I didn't think so. Historically, in times of tragedy, the human species has come out stronger and better than prior to the event. It is no different this time, but it will be more impactful. One of my beliefs is that "complacency is the enemy of progress." I embrace this in my personal life to ensure that I'm not complacent.

Even though the human species is meant to embrace change, human societies build infrastructures that often impede progress. Yes, we have steadily progressed over time but in the last 20 years, our progress has been sluggishly incremental. By this point in our lives, we were supposed to be seeing flying cars, jet packs, and habitats on Mars...well, that was the sci-fi promise when I was a child. Way to go society! Failing to live up to expectations...again.

Sarcasm aside, it's normal for society to build infrastructures that, upon appearance, are meant to foster progress but ultimately will slow or even resist progress. The underlying reason is that it potentially undermines the benefits for those vested within the current infrastructure environment. Consider the tale of the goose that lays the golden eggs but in this revised version, the goose lives, making society beholden to a constant flow of golden eggs and ultimately, complacent. It's human nature to progress as a society; however, when it's for self-interest, humans resist, stemming from the benefits they're extracting from the existing environment. This is normal and unsurprising behavior.

Naturally, there must be some stability to progress (I know, this sounds like an oxymoron). The problem arises when stability becomes too pervasive that it begins to foster complacency. Complacency is insidious since it is not something you notice happening unless there's a shock to the existing infrastructure or environment, like a pandemic. Only then do you notice complacency. That's the good news! The pandemic reveals our collective complacency.

It appears our society progressed significantly, however, this pandemic reveals our progress is fundamentally complacent. We, or rather our society, are in a rut and the pandemic is shaking out the cobwebs. Look around. Prior to the pandemic, society moved forward with innovation fully shackled to a legacy, out-of-pace infrastructure.

Allow me to provide specific examples. Consider how we work. It hasn't changed since its inception at the start of the Industrial Revolution. In our knowledge/technology-driven economy, a 9-to-5, on-location work infrastructure is completely out of date and out of place. Another example is how organizations continue to place emphasis on valuing tangible assets over value-creating intangible elements such as knowledge and human capital. Or consider how our cities depend on public transit to support an industrial economy construct financially dependent on physically displacing people for work. Even all levels of government collect vast amounts of various tax revenues from building vast downtown cores and on the need for physical office space.

This pandemic exposes how we silently accepted an infrastructure and environment that are completely out of sync with the progressive reality we collectively aspire to become. It's showing us we don't need to displace in order to work (remote working), learn (eLearning), or engage with others (web-based collaboration). It's forcing us to be more innovative and creative in what we do and how we do things. It's challenging us to discover what we are actually capable of achieving. It's making us, collectively and worldwide, re-evaluate our needs and priorities. The pandemic is making us question everything. That's a good thing.

Now, this is all nice and philosophical, but the question is, how do we actually go about changing? That's the funny thing about the human species, adapting to change is an integral part of our being and survival. It's instinctive and natural and we are already in the process of doing so. Consider that the "how do we change?" question was asked when the Greek Empire shared their innovations and inventions. It was asked when the Roman Empire modernized many aspects of human society we embody today. And the most recent modern-era change is when the Industrial Revolution 150-years ago automated everything we now take for granted. This pandemic is simply the "kick in the ass" society needs to remind them to progress.

This won't be easy. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. There will be naysayers and those that want to return to the "way things were." The aftershocks and changes from moving to the new world will hurt, but recognize that the pain is only temporary. Just like when society fought the progress to a more automated industrial approach 150-years ago, this will also be short-term pain for long-term innovation and growth.

What's In It For You?

What does this mean for you, personally? What do you need to watch out for? While most of society is worried about the now, you need to worry about, or rather look to the future. Economies won't function as they once did and there will be many changes in how they will function. Rather than playing the helpless victim, be one who takes control of their future and dictates what happens to you. Here are some things to prepare for:

Prepare For A Complete Rethinking About Where You Work

The reality is that many companies will continue to remote work even when we conquer the pandemic. This is mainly for selfish, profit-focused reasons through the reduction of physical locations. Expect to see a reduction of office leases and related expenses in the coming years since remote working seems to be working out well.

Prepare For A Rethinking About How You Work

Office spaces will continue to exist, albeit reduced significantly (see the previous point). The workspaces that exist may no longer be open spaces or even cubical land. With, and even without, COVID, social distancing may be here to stay both out of safety and also suspicion, so expect to see staggered work schedules and possibly a fading of the 9-5 grind. Organizations will avoid any liability issues, so expect a completely new physical work environment whenever you return to the office.

Expect Even More Technology And Automation In Your Personal And Professional Lives

Are you feeling overwhelmed with technology? Guess what? It's going to exponentially accelerate. Expect even more technology and automation in your personal and professional lives for years to come (maybe even in the months to come). Our society sees technology as a panacea to our woes...and that was before the pandemic. Technology is now front and center so expect even more apps, mobile technology, and virtual and automated environments, especially the latter. Companies will use social distancing as their reasoning to further reduce costs and increase profits.

Expect Companies To Be Even More Agile And Adaptable

Expect companies to be even more agile and adaptable while expecting workers (you) to do the same. This is not inherently bad news, rather for progressive leaders, it means complacency avoidance. For lagging, striving to survive, living on borrowed time organizations this means "keeping up with the Jones's."

Expect Predictive Knowledge And Predictive Analytics To Be Front And Center For Organizational Leaders

Even though this space was growing prior to the pandemic, it's the pandemic that's making leaders realize scenario planning through predictive analysis will help mitigate future risks. One thing is for sure, no organization will want to be exposed, as they were with COVID, to unforeseen threats or any other possibilities. Leaders will expect employees to develop and apply critical analysis skills to every decision-making activity.

Knowledge, Learning, And Education Will Be Leaders Weapons Of Choice

Every change listed is fantastic news for those involved with learning and education, should they tangibly demonstrate skills application value to supporting these points. With work changing and being remote, how employees actually do their work, an emphasis on technology, and the need to leverage data to predict future outcomes will require learning to play a central role, contributing to organizational success.

But Wait, There's More

The world is in flux. Change is not only constant but more unpredictable than ever before. Yes, there will be some people who will resist and want to return to the way it was. But there will also be many others, like you, who will want things to change for the better and progress. If I were a betting man, I would put my money on the latter.

Recognize, however, that preparing for the future new world is more than addressing these expectations mentioned; it's also about being observant, diligent, and curious. Unpredictability is something for you to leverage and use to your advantage. Doing so will demonstrate your value and build stakeholder confidence.

Please share your thoughts and feedback with us. We’d enjoy hearing about your efforts. And who knows, it may be the topic of our next eLearning Industry article. Also, please check out our LinkedIn Learning courses to learn more about developing your business credibility for your learning efforts. Please share your thoughts and remember, #alwaysbelearning!

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