If You Feel Like the Pace of Life Is Speeding Up, You’re Not Alone

From the Mensa files.

The international advisory firm for which I work, the Brunswick Group, just released a global survey of more than 40,000 people from 26 markets gauging sentiments on financial, political and social issues. Throughout the world, we found, people see the rate of change accelerating, creating new tensions and animating old ones.

As just one example of this acceleration, consider the National Intelligence Council’s study of the length of time between a technology’s invention and its distribution to 25 percent of the U.S. population. It took 46 years for electricity to reach a quarter of the country. The telephone took 35 years. The radio took 31. Color TV took only 18 years, mobile phones 13 years, and the internet only seven years from commercial inception to adoption by 25 percent of the country.

We live in a world dominated by the technologies only science fiction writers foretold: Dick Tracy-style two-way wrist TVs, talking computers, weaponized lasers, cyberwarfare, cryptocurrencies, virtual reality and robots. It’s little surprise then that our global research among 42,965 citizens speaking 25 languages found large majorities operating in a technological fast-forward. In North America, 72 percent of respondents reported that the pace of technological change was moving “quickly.” In just the U.S., this number was 83 percent! By comparison, 67 percent of Europeans and 70 percent of Asians report technology changing quickly in their country. Everyone is feeling technological acceleration.

And, not only are the people of the world feeling this acceleration, they are expecting it. At least half of the people living in both emerging and developed markets expect telecommunications, automobiles and energy to change “a lot” over the next 20 years. They are expecting technological revolution in the energy they use, their mobility and their communications. Talk about a changing world! And with such change comes conflict.

Creative Destruction

Our global perception research identified three significant tension points:

  1. Hope versus Fear
  2. Independence versus Interdependence
  3. Man versus Machine

These three tensions are especially critical for Mensans to understand because in many venues Mensans are driving the accelerating change around us, leading organizations and communities through this turbulent period of creative destruction.

Graph of corporate lifespan
Image: Creative Destruction Whips through Corporate America (Richard Foster, Innosight Consulting)

To illustrate one aspect of this creative destruction, Richard Foster at Yale University studied the average “lifespan” of a corporation on the S&P 500. In 1920 that lifespan was an average of 67 years. By 1958, the corporate lifespan had dropped to 61 years. By 1980, the advent of the information age, the average S&P lifespan was 25 years. By 2012, the average corporate lifespan for concerns on the S&P 500 was only 18 years.

Not surprisingly then, people across the planet are expecting creative destruction of their employers. In our global research, 16 percent of employees in emerging markets and 22 percent of employees in developed markets reported that it was “unlikely” that their employer “will exist in a similar form” in 20 years.

Interestingly, of all the people on the planet, Japanese employees expected the most creative destruction, with one-third saying that their employer is unlikely to exist in a similar form in 20 years. Japan, a high-tech leader, has the greatest expectation of technological disruption and reinvention.

Full story by Robert Moran at Mensa

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