Present Shock

There’s a new book out by Douglas Rushkoff — “Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now”.  New York Times book reviewer Janet Maslin analyzes the book – with this concluding paragraph:

“But in the end only some of the ills in “Present Shock” can be chalked up to dehumanizing technological advances. “I am much less concerned with whatever it is technology may be doing to people that what people are choosing to do to one another through technology,” Mr. Rushkoff writes. “Facebook’s reduction of people to predictively modeled profiles and investment banking’s convolution of the marketplace into an algorithmic battleground were not the choices of machines.” They were made by human intelligence, because present shock’s ways of targeting, pinpointing and manipulating aren’t just shocking. They’re very lucrative too.”

Paul Miller from The Verge interviewed Douglas Rushkoff and it’s available here.

Mr. Rushkoff’s position is that the future has already arrived and that we’re living in a world where everything is expected to be immediate.  This expectation of immediacy results in paralysis of long-term thinking and intolerance of a steady state.  Mr. Rushkoff uses the term “overwinding” – the need to be ultra-efficient in order to handle the amount of information flowing to us and our drive to respond.  Even though we may have been sent an email as an atemporal point of communication with no expectation of immediate response by the sender, we drive ourselves to immediately respond, thereby bringing the email into our temporal timeframe.

Michelle and I have discussed the idea of needing to be nimble and flexible in change.  There may be pretty compelling market reasons for why you’re tackling a change initiative, including needing to be quick to market in order to ensure your company’s survival.  Speed may be of the essence and may be expected of your corporate culture.  Recognize that there is intrinsic stress in this expectation and there may be a price paid by your people over the longer term.

We also think that being thoughtful is crucial.  The space for thoughtfulness will not automatically be available, this is something you need to advocate for and consciously make a decision to maintain.  If at all possible, as you’re planning your change effort, build in some time and make sure it’s on somebody’s task list to just stop, reflect, and think throughout the process.

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