FinancialGuy Writes!

In recent months I have been noticing more and more that the pace of life has changed.

On the one hand, we all know that technology is developing so quickly now – and that the pace of development is accelerating – but it feels more and more as though it is seeping into everyday life as well.

I used to joke that the web works in dog years, but the reality is that the web is much faster than that. Soon enough, life will run in dog years. The web is more like dog years times five.

If the eurozone crisis has taught us anything (and I hope it has) it must be that decisions need to be made quickly and effectively. In financial markets you get the weekend to sort things out – if you are lucky.

But what of other areas?

PRISM and the scandal surrounding online data collection is a good example. You don’t need to be a technical genius to see that the ability of websites and cloud service providers to gather information has far outpaced the speed of legislation. While the Commission and Parliament may have sent letters to the US asking for clarifications and explanations, the information of 400 million or so EU citizens is being harvested today.

While diplomacy often moves at a glacial pace, even glaciers have sped up! Admittedly not in a good way, but it is an example of another policy area where more action is needed immediately but is not forthcoming.

Of course climate change is an area where there are myriad policy issues amongst hundreds of countries. But sooner or later – preferably sooner – people need to recognise that the world cannot wait any longer.

The result in the real world – away from diplomacy – is that businesses need to be able to come up with a new plan and begin executing on it tomorrow. Next week might be too late. With asset prices now so volatile, for example, the impact of accidentally being on the wrong side of something (the price of oil, for example) can be crippling.

Anyone in business that has a five year plan is either an idiot, a liar or in possession of an intelligence way beyond the rest of us. And what of the EU? Umm, Horizon 2020…

There are undoubtedly opportunities arising amongst all this. But they fall to those that are best prepared mentally and willing and able to act at short notice without waiting for a committee meeting or board approval. That, of course, is unfair. All major decisions need board approval, but some companies can get it tomorrow while most need to wait for the next quarterly meeting to table a first proposal.

To quote American marketing guru Eben Pagan, “Speed of implementation will soon be the separating factor between success and failure in business”.

This, I find interesting. I know of a couple of businesses that have been established for decades that have closed in the last few months. Not being involved in the companies I do not know the full stories. However, from the information I have been told, it seems as though a failure to adapt was a core problem for management – they simply were not ready to invest in their technology and clung to the “old ways”. Now they are closed.

Even more interesting is that many business owners cling on to power in their companies to the very last day – just as we have seen Middle Eastern dictators do. These owners may not realise it, but their time is over and if the company is to survive, it needs younger more tech savvy people at the helm.

At what point will the same credo apply to governments, civil servants and diplomacy?

With the world rapidly crowdsourcing everything, from demonstrations against bankers (the Occupy movement), to overthrowing governments (as in Egypt twice and many other countries), to crowd funding projects for finance and social media tools for connections, the people are taking over some of the decision making roles of governments.

The world is decentralising, while the EU (at least because of the eurozone crisis) is collecting more powers in the centre.

The game is changing forever and the genie is out of the bottle. You can’t put it back in. Politicians and those in power need to start streamlining their decision making abilities. Somehow they need to find a way to make national and international decisions much faster and in a way that does not compromise democracy, but if they do not, it is they and their power bases that will be compromised.

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  1. The educational system is already facing irrelevance!

    Thanks to financialguy for this sharp comment.

    I am trying to explain some of the same challenges to educational politicians: reality change is developing according to exponentials logics, while educational change is developing according to linear logics.

    Even taking into account the limitations of such mathematical metaphors, the result is an ever increasing gap between reality and education.
    This increasing gap will cause drop-out, disengagement and… irrelevance.

    The European Commission promotes re-thinking education, but while the politicians are re-thinking, the gap increases.
    It is not enough to (re)think – educational change is needed here and now, or Europe will be looking forward to times of great difficulties.

    Should such efforts be at the centre of the new Erasmus+ program?

    1. Thanks Jan for your thoughts. I don’t know all that much about the changes underway in education, but I can imagine that the same problems are visible there as well.

      It isn’t necessarily the fault of schools or teachers, it must take a long time to put a curriculum together, but still, they must be being outpaced now by change – everyone else seems to be 🙁

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