The Nature and Pace of Change • We are looking here at change as a variable, not just a phenomenon. So once more, it is the process that interests us and not just the effect. • Historically speaking change is a relatively new phenomenon, and most of our ancestors did not expect or anticipate change other than disasters. The word “progress” would have meant nothing to a European in the Middle Ages. The Manchu Emperors sat beneath a sign saying “Change Nothing.”
The Nature and Pace of Change • Indeed, to our ancestors change represented a danger to the existing order, and was usually classified as heresy or treason and both of these were known to be very bad for your health. • The strength of society rested in an established order, a tradition of how things were done, how people dressed, even what you ate. To step outside this established order was to ask for trouble.
The Nature and Pace of Change • Change came with capitalism and the rise of a class outside the existing order (kings, priests and peasants). The capitalists were the main instrument for change. • Then came changes in religion, the development of rational science, the concept of evolution (which is the study of one form of change), and the spread of secular education
"Why is it that all our institutions seem to be going through a simultaneous crisis? Why is it that the health system's in crisis, the justice system's in crisis, the education system's in crisis, the value system's in crisis -- you name it -- why? There must be something that cuts across all of these. ... And why is it happening in Tokyo and London and Italy and so forth? Why is there a political crisis throughout all the political countries? The answer is that we have sets of institutions that were designed either for agrarian life ... as parliaments were, or ... the Industrial Age, but no longer meet the requirements of today. And the problem used to be -- it took what? Three months for a message to get from Ohio to Washington? And vice versa? And the idea was the Senate would be a chamber for leisurely deliberation for the major issues. Well, come on! Nobody has two minutes of uninterrupted time. So the external conditions are radically changed. So the question is how flexible are the existing institutions themselves. We're fortunate, the Americans are lucky, because our system is generally more flexible and certainly more decentralized than the other industrial states. Which gives us a better shot. But I don't believe that the system can continue in its present form." Alvin Toffler 1996
The Nature and Pace of Change • But change is now not only accepted, it is considered necessary (consider the concept of Economic Growth) • Change as a process has been accelerating since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. (see figure of waves) • But, there is a question of how much change, and at what speed, cansociety absorb without stress and collapse--Alvin Toffler’s concept of Future Shock
The Nature and Pace of Change • Obsolesce and fashion are manifestations of change, so is the breakdown of the Western family • Basically we make several mistakes about change • 1. We underestimate its speed • 2. We underestimate its impact • 3. There is an institutional bias toward preserving the status quo
Just supposing, in 1989, someone had predicted…. • The disappearance of the USSR • The end of the Warsaw Pact and Cold War • End of Apartheid--and President Mandela • Unification of Germany • Invention of the WWW • End of Yugoslavia • 23 new members of the UN…….
The Nature and Pace of Change • The key question about change, since it is now an accepted part of life, is “what do you do about it?” • You can either wait until it happens and try to deal with it (some form of crisis management) or you can try to anticipate it by strategic thinking and planning (strategic management) • Again technology has a lot to do with it, but the question is “do we remain the master of technology, or do we become its slave?” That depends on anticipating change and not being its victim.
The Nature and Pace of Change • There are two types of change, and it is difficult to define them exactly, but there is incremental change, which means that things change within an existing broad order, and there is a paradigm shift in which change occurs that fundamentally alters the basic rules. In politics you could think of the emergence of liberal democracy within a social order, and contrast that with the Russian Revolution, which totally overturned the social order (though it came back after 70 years!)
The Nature and Pace of Change • There is a problem, however, that no-one can accurately predict change, and there is always the wild card of technology. Consider the case of the Rev. Malthus and the question “was he wrong?” • Can we ever account for technology? If we say that the forecasters were always wrong because of this, the danger is we construct technology as an act of faith, saying “don’t worry something will come along to save us, like the Green Revolution did.”