The future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed.
William Gibson

Next time you visit the beach, walk out to where water meets sand. Then venture a little farther, feeling the waves crash at your feet. Some are large, slow, and come one at a time – others are more frenetic. It doesn’t matter where the wave started or how long it’s been rolling, you’re still standing there getting wet, trying to guess what happens next.

We often don’t know a single wave of change has ended until the next one hits us. This means we operate both inside and in between. This is history. This is destiny. It never ends.

If evolution is the rule, we know one thing: we’re moving one way.  Don’t mistake micro exceptions for macro truths, we continuously evolve in a single direction. Using a network lens to zoom out, we can see five distinct waves.

 

As one wave gives way to another, we continuously evolve from survival to contemplation, from scarcity to abundance. Progress doesn’t mean challenges disappear, only that we now have the tools and expertise to out evolve them, to anticipate them, to leap past them. Not just surviving, but rising.

Digital is a layer – the network is the whole

The shift from industrial to information was still essentially mechanical – digital is an extension of that change, with new machines and methodologies. It’s been information that’s made all the difference, the rise of an ultravaluable new currency alongside new economies driven by intangible assets and ecosystem-level relationships. This is the network age.

The end of history?

While we can’t say the network age is the end of change, we know that it will forever be a lens that comes next, giving us an adaptive framework for managing whatever complexity comes next.

The only thing certain about the next wave is that it’s coming. It’s not a cry for chicken-littleism, but a call to return to the lessons we can learn from natural evolving systems, about resilience and recovery and always designing to orchestrate rather than control.

That’s why surviving this wave and the next isn’t about strength or dexterity or prescience, but an orchestration mindset that leverages all three.

A new speed for the economy, too.

It’s also urgently worth noting that change is coming faster and waves are getting briefer and briefer. This makes leadership even more precious and precarious – it doesn’t last long. It’s not just your imagination, the ground is shifting below our feet. We only need to look to the S&P 500, where patterns of dominance and incumbency are being rapidly replaced through disruption.

Recorded Projected S&P Lifespan in Years

It’s also no coincidence that the math of network business models is amazing as well, yielding win-win-win ecosystems that outperform traditional models in valuation.1

We know that change is ceaseless. Whether it seems faster, deeper, or more dynamic, it’s the same complexity in action. That’s why we say forget answers – buy process.  Ultimately, we’re not looking to survive the next wave, we intend to jump it completely. Network tools give us the scale and simplicity to do it.

Ready to jump?

Learn more about how we’re reshaping everything from agriculture to behavioral health with network lenses and levers.

 


1 Libert, Barry, et al. The Network Imperative How to Survive and Grow in the Age of Digital Business Models. Harvard Business Review Press, 2016.