Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bonanza Column 227 – Will We Change or Will Change Change Us?

In a recent article Daniel Burrus, one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists, made a strong case for what he calls a “hard trend.” A trend is something that may happen; a hard trend is something that WILL happen – it’s a prediction, not a probability. The trend Burrus was positing was that the accelerating rate at which things are changing will continue indefinitely.

In the past, Burrus points out, stability and change were two contrasting states: when you achieved stability, you did so despite change. Today you can achieve stability only by embracing change as a continuous and permanent state. It used to be, you could find something you do well, learn how to do it, and just keep on doing it. Not anymore.

There are two kinds of change: change from the outside in, and change from the inside out. The first happens to you. The second is an initiative that you take through conscious intention. Burrus asserts that today there is an urgent need to anticipate and take the initiative to change from the inside out, even as all these transformations are coming at us from the outside in. The highway is littered with the corpses of companies that failed to see this, and governments, from nations to municipalities, are not immune from the impact of this trend.

As a consultant to companies ranging from Fortune 100 to middle-size businesses, the truth of Burrus’ analysis has been apparent to me for some years now, but I find that when I work with governments and non-profits, their resistance to this truth is at the level of the resistance of businesses like IBM and Kodak twenty years ago (both these companies famously lagged behind revolutions in their industries; IBM recovered, Kodak did not).

The current tempest in a teapot that the organization called the Village People is trying to stir up regarding IVGID is a close-to-home case in point. A vocal minority of residents in Incline Village and Crystal Bay has been trying for years to stem the tide of change like Horatius at the bridge. It seems they would strip IVGID of all but the most necessary powers, roll back taxes (good luck with that one), and shut down most of what makes IV/CB unique, and based on the response by IVGID to the VP’s advertisement in the Bonanza a few weeks ago, it would seem they are not above the very crimes they accuse IVGID of – distorting the facts, lying, and obfuscating. I guess they think their “cause” is so just that they can use any means necessary.

In past years this vocal minority has tied IVGID up in lawsuits, claiming to represent a constituency they don’t identify, they have managed to get out enough votes to defeat the perhaps less passionate voices that favored becoming a town or a county, and have managed to block any substantive results from some very good conversations in Incline Vision and TRPA Place-Based Planning – conversations that had the potential to initiate the kind of change from within that would get us as a community out ahead of economic and social changes that could overwhelm us.

The sad thing is that the Indian Chief, the biker, the cop, the cowboy, the construction worker, and the GI – oh, sorry, wrong Village People – could get their way. It’s hard to gin up the passion for embracing change than for trying to keep anything from changing, and in the not too distant future we may find ourselves ill-equipped to meet the change that will, inevitably, be forced on us. If the imperative is “change or die,” this community as it’s developed over 40 years or so could die. We could become one more Sun City – a community of retirees and second home owners who are here part of the time – no young people, no children, no life.

One last thing – a couple of people pointed out to me that something I said in last week’s column lent itself to misinterpretation. I did not mean to imply that all part-time residents didn’t care about the community. On the contrary, a great many do care a great deal – Chuck Otto and others in the golf community, Jim Peterson and the Veterans Club come to mind and there are a lot more. Still it is undeniable that there are part-timers and absentee owners who don’t really care much about the quality of life here for those who are here year-round, and there are a few who make noise out of proportion to their numbers, who just want to stir up controversy. I wish they would do it somewhere else. Absent that, it’s time for those of us who give a damn to start making our voices heard.

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