Writing to learn, learning to disrupt

Photo Credit: Phil Long. Working in the sun. https://www.flickr.com/photos/skyfire/6872281806/

I’ve been pondering about starting this blog for months, wondering what I can say that has not already been said, apprehensive about putting myself out there, sharing my thoughts with the most important people in my career. Then I came across this quote:

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” – George Adair

Finally I hit the publish button and here I am, taking those first tentative steps on the other side of fear, curious about what I might discover, what I might learn, who I might meet.

And anyway, why should I be afraid?

We’re all living together on this little planet, orbiting the sun, sharing the same air, the same water, the same so many things. We’re participating in the unfolding of our shared history, and what an amazing period in history! I want to throw myself into it, get involved and make a positive contribution, no matter how small.

And it’s not like I’ve never published anything on social media before. I have written a blog about living abroad, traveling and photography. But this is different, this is aimed at people with careers or businesses. I will need to learn to use lists, bullet points, infographics, charts and attention-grabbing headlines such as The one skill all great Project Managers must have. But for now, I will just write. And if it deters someone from offering me a new opportunity, then it probably wasn’t the right opportunity.

I am now into the second half of my career, and things are changing rapidly.

The world population has increased by about 2 billion during my career, changing cities and landscapes, putting pressure on natural resources and taking some species to the brink of extinction. With new technology, we are entering the realms of science fiction, offering both hope and concern about its impact on different aspects of our lives.

We used to talk about competition. Now we talk about disruption.

Competition from established players in the market. Disruption from new entrants who throw away the rule book, turn things upside down and create their own markets.

We used to talk about change. Now we talk about exponential change. 

The rate of change is accelerating. In the early stages of an innovation, the change feels very slow, meaning it’s deceptive. I wonder how many people really believe we will have driverless cars in the near future? In January, I overheard someone ask ‘Will this be the year of Artificial Intelligence?’ Seven months later, I’m still not sure of the answer. But eventually, we will reach a tipping point after which there will be growth at a phenomenal rate, rather like we did with the internet when Web 2.0, increased processing power and smartphones transformed it into something that could be used for almost anything, by anyone, anywhere.

Only this time it’s not just the rate of change that’s increasing, but also the breadth of change. Robotics, drones, cloud computing, big data, IoT, 3D printing, blockchain – the list goes on and on. These technologies overlap and interact to create an ecosystem in which the tangible things we once owned become services we access from our devices and in which some of the things we once did become automated by machines. This is the Fourth Industrial Revolution, although it’s not just about industry. It is about us. A fusion of technology and people, as I once read somewhere. Our gadgets, wearables and smartphones are becoming an integral part of almost everything we do, whether it is going for a run, driving a car, relaxing at home, going shopping or at work, technology is close by our side. We are no longer surprised when a machine beats a world-class chess player. What will no longer surprise us 5 years from now?

And these new technologies have already provided a platform on which we can trade. Anyone can now sell their services (e.g. their ability to repair a bathroom, design a computer system, develop an app) or rent out their assets (e.g. their house or their washing machine) to anyone who logs into one of the many websites that make it their business to bring together customers and suppliers. Many love the convenience and value for money offered by these sites, but many fear what is might mean for employment rights and tax revenues. Political establishments and legislative bodies and are struggling to keep up.

I want to keep up.

I’m not going to be left behind, waiting to be rescued. The Internet has created jobs that weren’t even thought of when I began my career. And more traditional jobs like mine need to change. They are already changing, with exciting new ways to collaborate, communicate, innovate and automate.

I love being part of this transformation and want my enthusiasm to attract work-related opportunities until the 2030s. But it would be foolish to think that I too don’t need to change, to learn new skills, to push myself into areas where I am uncomfortable, just like I am now by writing this!

Writing is a great way to learn.

Rather like paraphrasing to make sure you’ve understood what someone’s just said, writing helps you to process what you’ve read, heard or observed to gain a deeper understanding. It requires research, careful thought and further discussion with those who give feedback. You learn more by sharing what you’ve learned.

In a year from now, I would like to know and understand more, be better connected, more capable of inspiring others to reach beyond their self-imposed limits, to be the best version of themselves. I have no plans to be a professional writer, although perhaps that would be nice. But more realistically, it is just one of several things I plan to help reinvent myself for the modern world with a fresh, creative and youthful outlook on life.

And a final thought.

One of my favourite podcasts at the moment is Disrupt Yourself by Whitney Johnson. Inspired by a conversation she had with one of her guests, Raju Narisetti, I started to think of when I did things for the first time in my career – my first big presentation, my first project, my first negotiation. These were pivotal moments, followed by a period of substantial personal growth, which is precisely what I hope to start by creating this blog.

And with that thought, I now complete my first disruptive move of recent months!

If you would like to give any feedback or follow me on this journey, then I would be very grateful.

Thank you for reading.

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