Proactive Change Management:
Observing What Is; To Create What Might Be
In 1964 the New York Times commissioned futurist Isaac Asimov to visit the World’s Fair, then being held in New York City. After his visit he wrote about what he saw and would expect to see at a World’s Fair 50 years hence, were he then still around (he died in 1992.)
Keep in mind; Mr. Asimov wasn’t predicting the future based on what he knew others were planning to do. That would have been his observation of their change management, a phrase that was itself 15+ years in the future. He was simply observing the world around him speculating on where it was headed 50 years hence.
Let’s take a look at what he foresaw for our world today.
- Humans will be working in windowless buildings living in underground houses. As he put it, “men will continue to withdraw from nature”.
- Auto prepared home meals, ready to eat at specific predetermined times.
- Robots common although not all that useful.
- Computers much advanced and miniaturized.
- Home appliances without power chords, powered by radioisotope batteries, themselves the by-product of fission power plants, which will be supplying half the world’s power needs.
- Large solar power stations in a number of desert and semi desert areas.
- The World Fair of 2014 will include models of space power stations, beaming to earth power collected from the sun.
- Crowded highways with special lanes devoted to buses.
- Increasing emphasis on vehicle and personal transportation that requires no contact with a hard surface. Jets of compressed air will raise the person or their vehicle a foot or two off the sidewalk or road.
- Vehicles with “Robot-brains” that can be programmed for a specific destination thereby eliminating the need for human control.
- The proliferation of moving sidewalks in downtown areas.
- Telephone conversations where you both see as well as well as hear the person on the other end.
- The ability to speak directly with residents then living in moon colonies.
- Unmanned ships will have landed on Mars with a manned expedition being planned.
- Television that has evolved to “wall screens” capable of displaying 3D images.
- A US population totaling 350 million, world population of 6.5 billion.
- The Boston-Washington corridor will become one city, the most crowded area of its size on earth.
- Due to over population on land increasing numbers of people will opt to live in underwater housing on the continental shelves.
- Increased microorganism farming will be necessary to feed the world’s population. Popular meals will include “mock turkey” and “pseudo steak”.
- The world will react to over population opting for humane birth control, however, not enough to prevent major problems.
- Life expectancy in some parts of the world will be 85.
- Most routine jobs will be done by machines resulting in the need for a large numbers of “machine tenders”.
- Schools will increasingly use closed circuit TV and programmed tapes as teaching aids.
- All high school students will be taught the fundamentals of computer technology, becoming proficient in binary arithmetic and trained to perfection in the use of computer languages.
- Mankind will suffer from increasing boredom, and as a result, psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty.
He concluded by saying “Indeed, the most somber speculation I can make about A.D. 2014 is that in a society of enforced leisure, the most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work!”
So what do you think?
When it comes to prediction accuracy I’d say he had some spectacular hits (“Robot-brains” eliminating the need for human control vehicles) and misses (“All high school students . . . trained to perfection in the use of computer languages”), with a few of the “misses” being relative “hits” if you squint a bit. Don’t see it? Just ask the long-term unemployed unable to find new work who are now unwilling members of the “society of enforced leisure”, how they feel about “. . . the most glorious single word in the vocabulary will have become work.”
It is normal to consider accuracy when reviewing someone’s past predictions at the point in time when they were supposed to have come true. I knew you couldn’t read this list and not think about how good a futurist was Mr. Asimov. And now we’ve done that so let’s put it aside and get to what is my primary point.
What is the value of 1) thinking about the future, to the point of 2) making predictions concerning what will happen? Nothing if you are content to simply let come what may.
But if that’s not good enough for you (it shouldn’t be) than knowingly or not, you are a candidate for practicing change management in both your professional and personal lives.
A little more than a year ago I completed a 4-year study of why companies, and by extension, people, fail to achieve their goals. You’ll find the detail of that in my book, “The 7 Keys to Change”, along with the steps everyone should take to achieve greater success. There is much to that but suffice to say here, if you don’t observe what has and is going on around you, there is little chance you can successfully do anything to change manage yourself to a better future.
So did Mr. Asimov change manage the predictions he made 50 years ago, so many of which turned out very near to dead on correct? In a word, no. But he did observe enough to make those predictions, no doubt including a few that were acted upon by others, to the point that Mr. Asimov looks pretty clairvoyant in retrospect. He and those paying attention to what he said and wrote were all observing events and the actions of others, which lead them to create a different future for themselves and the rest of us. A form of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Do nothing and change will come; you don’t need change management for that to occur. However this isn’t about just any change. This has to do with proactively managing the change that will determine the successes and failures for your professional and personal lives.