By Simon Swanepoel, CEO of RocketNet
The idiom goes, ‘change is as good as a holiday’. For most of us, being on holiday is a relaxing, stress-free experience. Change doesn’t always feel like a holiday. It can be stressful, unwanted, and challenging.
No matter how difficult, change is a constant in life. And especially in the times we are living in. When change happens, we may feel out of control and uncomfortable, especially when we aren’t the ones driving the change. During Covid-19, we’ve all experienced many changes in many ways. One of the most impactful changes has been the acceleration of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the digitisation of our lives. This revolution is happening, and if we manage our emotions and thoughts about this age of rapid technological advancement, I believe we can retain a sense of calm and peace in the process.
The truth is that we are all making decisions about changes we face every day. There is change within our control, like choosing to start exercising or consuming less of what we know is bad for us. We choose to embrace change, or we decide to resist it and maintain the status quo. Accepting change can be difficult if we think that negative consequences are involved, but easier to accept if there is a reward. As difficult as it is to accept changes that affect the way we live, work and play, the 4IR holds a world of opportunity and reward if we prepare to embrace and understand it. In fact, embracing change is essential for survival, not only in business, but also if we are going to win the race to become carbon neutral and preserve our planet.
Embracing change requires intentionality
Innovation is not just a ‘nice to have’ for companies today. Businesses need to adapt and transform for operating in a Covid-19 reality, where their biggest marketplace is now online, and consumers have changed their behaviour because of restrictions to their physical movements.
Education needs to evolve and embrace 4IR changes if we hope to have a workforce that will be ready for the careers of the future. According to the Institute for the Future (IFTF), 81% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. If we insist on preserving the way we were educated, our children may find it difficult to be gainfully employed. I’m not saying throw the baby out with the bath water, but as the world changes, so must education.
What was unthinkable before – that school would one day not take place in a physical classroom – is happening now. I see the University of Cape Town and the St Stithians School in Johannesburg are offering online high school tuition for students at a fraction of the cost of private school education. I imagine it could be quite challenging to study to be a doctor or an engineer if your lectures are purely online, and I do think there are certain areas in which change is not necessarily helpful. The more opportunities we provide for our young people to study and work online, the better their chances of participating in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Outschool is one global example of an educational platform that has made waves by using the crises to launch new business models. Outschool was launched in 2015 and was initially serving home schoolers, but they grew exponentially during the Covid-19 pandemic when parents across the world signed their children up for online lessons and extra-mural activities at affordable rates. Today, Outschool offers over 100,000 live online classes to almost a million learners across the globe.
Don’t deny that a technological revolution is happening
Denying change is our human way of protecting ourselves from pain. We carry on as we always have, telling ourselves that nothing has changed, ignoring we’ve been told anything about a change and making excuses for non-participation. Even if, deep down, we knew change was coming, we might still linger in denial. The quicker we face change head-on, the faster we can move on and make the most of it.
4IR is not just changing the world of work but also transforming how we live, interact, and play. Technology has changed the way we work, where we work, how we engage as employees and how we relate to our customers. Technology does not stop changing, and the upside is that the possibilities are endless. The 4IR is the most rapidly growing industrial revolution. Not only that, but 4IR is the most advanced revolution and will be the longest-lasting. Opening ourselves up to the endless possibilities and committing to being a student for life are the only options to avoid being excluded from the future global economy.
Most businesses in the past never thought about their environmental impact, or the impact of their business on broader society. However, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) concerns have become a priority for international investors and even local businesses must take a position on ESG issues. How we produce and manufacture our products and what we do with our waste (Environmental), how we treat our workers and communities (Social) and whether our business practices are compliant and ethical (Governance) are becoming essential for ensuring your business will outlast you.
To change, is to master yourself
I don’t believe resistance to change comes from being obstinate, misguided, or difficult. We’re human, and we need the time to adjust and adapt to change without being too hard on ourselves. It requires patience and renewing our minds, but at the same time, the quicker one can adapt to change and continue the journey, the faster success will find you. We can choose our reactions so that life doesn’t just happen to us, but it requires self-mastery.
One question we should all be asking ourselves is ‘What hopeful future am I denying for myself when I refuse to embrace change?’ To master our fear of change, we can motivate ourselves with the rewards that lie on the other side of change. In fact, refusing to embrace change is most likely going to lead to a horrible outcome, whether it be personally or professionally. Embracing the discomfort of change now leads to true satisfaction later.