Blog Post

How to Adapt to Our World of Exponential Change

Ira S. Wolfe

President, Success Performance Solutions

We are living in a world of constant change. It is not slow, linear or incremental—it's exponential. New technology, in particular, continues to adapt at an increasing rate. The Angry Birds app took off in 35 days, when the telephone took 75 years to become accepted into society. In 2016, Pokemon GO left those in the dust when it reached nearly 20 million users in the United States alone in less than one week.

Exponential change is also why half of those employed in the United States are at risk of losing their jobs to automation in the next decade, and new careers like data scientist, information security analyst and android and iOS developer didn't exist only six years ago.

The U.S. Military uses an acronym to describe this constant state of change—VUCA. It stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. As a result of the pervasiveness of these factors, economic policies, business strategies and employment models aren't working like they used to. According to A.T. Kearney's Turbulence Index, our operating environment is twice as volatile as it was 10 years ago.

So how can the workforce overcome our volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment?


We all need vision, whether you're one person or an organization. Vision gives us meaning and purpose. A personal vision might be to be the best parent or spouse you can be. It might also be a "massive transformative purpose" (MTP) to eradicate illiteracy, cure cancer or eliminate poverty. But a company vision might be as simple as wanting to be a good corporate citizen and improve the quality of life for every employee.

Growth Mindset

A growth mindset says "our journey is only 1 percent complete." Those words provide a daily reminder that continuous success isn't a destination, but a journey. It implies that old assumptions must be shed and new ones must be acquired and shaped regarding recruitment, selection, management and retention.

We must understand the trajectory of projects for future employees, how many workers your organization will need, where and how staff will plug away each day and how you will attract them when you need them.


Our volatile, uncertain, complicated and ambiguous world requires individuals and organizations to continuously adapt. Curiosity is the skill of forward progress. Ask questions. Accept and welcome feedback. Look carefully for perplexing and unusual answers. Ask more questions. Surround yourself with a diverse group of people—especially those who don't always agree with you.

To succeed it's essential to accept that permanency in the modern world has a short shelf life. Learn to become comfortable with mistakes, and think of failures as stopping points along your journey.

Photo: Twenty20

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