A Ring Of Change

The Diwali break had me talking, traveling and meeting friends. I hope you had an awesome time too. During my travels, I met a friend who was recently laid off. Change comes quietly. He had been a top notch professional and he hadn’t seen the layoff coming. When I met him, he was reflective and poignant with his comments. One statement stays with me. “If we don’t carefully hear silent murmurs and shifts, we have to deal with the loud unpleasant ring of change”.

A Ring Of Change or Is It Something Else?

Incidentally, another story was doing the rounds recently. Did you hear about an industry that grew up for want of change? Well, that industry has been upended.

If you haven’t already read it, the story goes like this. In India, adoption of digital payments has been at a rapid pace. So much so that ordinary transactions with hawkers and small time grocers have all gone digital. That’s a good thing you would argue. One unintended consequence is that it killed an entire set of factories.

Here are some details. Until recently cash was the primary mode of transaction at local grocer and other Kirana stores in India. And when when the store owner didn’t have the small change to hand over to you after you had paid the round figure in cash, do you recall what they would give you instead of small change? Yes, two or three toffees! I don’t know about you, but I would take those toffees and walk away. 🙂

With Digital payments, you pay the exact amount and there is no question of small change! Small change had to step aside and take the toffee along with it. Now, if you were the manufacturer of those toffees, what are the chances that you saw this coming? What if you didn’t?

Such disruptions aren’t new. A cursory search will throw up several similar examples. In recent times, Uber and Lyft decimated revenues of many airports in the US. You may wonder how. The US has very little public transport. Customers who used to drive to airports, park their cars for days on end (and pay parking charges) and take flights to other cities, suddenly found ride hailing to be a far better option. Very soon, parking charges disappeared from the revenue streams of airports that put their survival in peril.

At an individual level there are several lives that have been upended by the ring of change! Ask a typist. Or a bank teller. How about a telephone operator? These were serious job options not so long ago!

The First Response

In my line of work, I get to work with various business leaders dealing with change. And one of the first responses I hear when I speak about large scale disruption is this” “It won’t happen to me / my industry / my company”. And then one day, a loud ring of change is felt.

There is a popular commentary that 85% of the jobs that will be in vogue in 2030 are yet to be invented. Where does that leave those with jobs right now that will extend into the 2030s and 40s? I mean, what will we do? Unless of course, change!

I take conscious effort to remind myself that change is coming my way, whenever I feel there is smug air hovers around me.

Readying For Change

For every person out there, focus ought to be two fold. One is to provide well for the needs of today. And the other is to build readiness for tomorrow. Readiness for change that is.

Here are three suggestions on readying for change. You see, the point about the ring of change leaving a bruise is not the change itself. It is in not being ready to face the change.

  1. Learnability: If you are good to learn, unlearn and relearn on a constant basis, you are readying yourself for change. Here is a simple exercise.
    • Name one skill or one situation you are super adept at.
    • Try accomplishing it faster, cheaper, better. I mean, work with enough constraints that force you to look at your chosen domain differently.
    • Review the change in 2 weeks and reflect on what’s happened
  2. Diversity: Sit down and map out your friends with whom you converse. List down the different industries they belong to. How diverse are their experiences? Their gender? Orientation? Age? Some time ago, one of my most painful realisation was how confined all my conversations were to a closed circle of friends with homogenous interests, backgrounds and thought. It provided me comfort and a great time. But didn’t quite ready me for the change. Diversity just helps you have more dots on the board. When there are more dots, more connections happen.
  3. Technology: Heres a quick question for you. When was the last time you learnt a new technology? It could be a simple skill or a tool that you really stuck with and applied to your domain. Like it or now, technology is going to play a major role in our lives in the future. The only way we will be able to swim the giant tides that are coming our way, is to keep practising on a regular basis. Even if our practice is restricted to the shallow end in the pool of change!

How does that read for you? The conversation with my friend who got laid off is still fresh in my mind. I am sure he will find a different gig for now. That is not the point. Forced change when we are not ready for it, bruises us badly. And of course, readying for the future, is a life long exercise!

OWL Despatch
OWL Despatch

The OWL Despatch

For a while now I have been putting together The OWL Despatch. A short essay and five links to interesting pieces I have read in the last fortnight. Last week, a group of friends nudged me about reimagining The OWL Despatch. A ring of change is coming here. Soon. In the meantime, here is this week’s edition.

Just reading this piece got me thinking about what we aspire for and how vacuous that desire may seem, after we have gotten there. A man went out to space and fell in love all over again, with Earth!

Nat Eliason wrote a lovely piece about the allure of money, financial independence, running, writing and much else. There is one line that stands out for me. It is this : “Be careful what you do to pay the bills. You might just succeed at it.”

What if a new ring of change told you that your social media accounts have been hacked? What should you do? Well, here is something that I read with some interest.

The workers leaving their dream jobs. Very interesting piece. “But if a person can recognise themselves as more than just their job title, their new ‘less interesting’ career doesn’t have to be the end of their passion”

The world’s wildlife population has declined by more than 2/3rds from 1970. Did your heart skip a beat? Mine certainly did. Incredible! This ring of change is going to wreck our futures if we don’t do something about it soon.

That’s that for this week. Remember to check in how you would want to work with change that’s coming your way. Stuff that you are aware of and more importantly, what you don’t quite know yet.

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