The Future Arrived Yesterday for Businesses Worldwide

From Future Shock to Present Shock

The last decades of the previous millennium were characterized by “future shock” where the anticipation of the future to come absorbed businesses and policymakers alike. The current decade is characterized by what can be called “present shock” wherein the arrival of the long anticipated future has happened already. This means that the long awaited future has arrived yesterday to use the phrase, which means that businesses have to constantly be on the move to reap the benefits of the current rapid changes.

Present shock refers to a phenomenon wherein the merging of the past, present, and the future into the instantaneous moment means that more and more businesses are thinking of the immediate quarter instead of the longer term that all of us were accustomed to earlier. In other words, whereas in earlier decades, it was quite common to think about a horizon of decades, now businesses typically think of the next five years or the next decade at the maximum the case.

The Problem of Too Much at Too Fast

Moreover, this phenomenon is not restricted to businesses alone as the current generation thinks in terms of nanoseconds and seconds instead of minutes and hours. In other words, with the advent of Twitter, Facebook, and social media, we are all in the process of a continuous present where the past does not hold relevance and the future is something that is beyond one’s immediate concerns. This has implications for the business world as resource depletion, the ability to solve problems that require patience and time, and the fact that change happens in a glacial manner mean that we need to devote time to the tasks at hand instead of flitting from fad to fad and from trend to trend. No wonder many businesses and their employees are left with stressed out lives where the performance of the past does not guarantee success and where the longer-term future is too distant to behold.

The Digital Revolution and the Compression of Time

The point here is that because of the many converging trends of technology and the digital revolution, time itself is compressed and the companies that have done well in the past are replaced continuously with those who manage to grab the present and these in turn are replaced with those that are incrementally better than they are. With so much of change happening so fast, it becomes imperative for businesses to get a grip on themselves and the fast changing business landscape. This is at the core of the present crisis in the corporate world where even the most successful executives are unable to hold on to the ephemeral present.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, as mentioned earlier, we can only solve problems if we devote time and energy and in the fast-paced world where the present shock is hitting us hard, business leaders need to ensure that their business models stand the test of time and are not geared towards the immediate gratification that has become the hallmark of the present times. This is the sad reality of the present shock and we will be exploring this theme in detail in subsequent articles.


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