Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Reexamining business school fundamentals (reconsidered) 16: what goes around, comes around – in variations

Posted in reexamining the fundamentals by Timothy Platt on April 2, 2017

This is my 16th and concluding installment to a series of brief, single issue sketches in which I reconsider each of a set of core issues that I first addressed in this format in a 2010 series. See Section II of my directory: Reexamining the Fundamentals for that earlier related series. I have been successively addressing essentially the same set of underlying topics and issues in this series as I touched upon in that earlier one, with each of these new 2017 installments lining up with a same order-listed counterpart one from my 2010 writing.

I add this posting in here as a note of overall conclusion to what I have been doing in all of this, here seventh year effort – at least for where matters now stand at this point in time. But perhaps more significantly I write this series installment to this effort as a more proactively forward-facing thought piece than I have offered in its earlier topic-by-topic installments leading up to it. And I finding myself writing this, thinking of the months and years to come until I begin adding in a third series iteration to this now progression of connected series – and I am planning on doing that too.

I would begin this posting itself by explicitly noting the tritely obvious: I do not have a working crystal ball and I am not clairvoyant. So I am limited in what I can predict, by the completeness and accuracy of the data and processed knowledge and evidence, suggestive included, that I can gather and by the limits of my analytical capability, and by the timeliness of the evidence that I do gather in, and by the impediments of having to identify false leads, factual error, unidentified bias and all of the other sources of friction that would have impact on any understandings reached. In short, my crystal ball simulation attempt, such as it is, comes with a warning that its surface can get a bit smudged and cloudy. It suffers from at least occasional astigmatism; it can be a bit out of focus. I write this concluding note with the prospect of evolutionary change in mind, that can in fact be predictable and sometimes even quite so, and certainly for overall pattern and direction and even when projecting and planning long-term. I also, and perhaps more tellingly write this with the prospect of the emergence of the disruptively new and novel: the unpredictable in detail or form as it unexpectedly arises.

• The election of Donald Trump as the 45th United States president in 2016 comes to mind as a currently very topical, quintessential example of the novel, disruptive and unexpected in that.
• And the fact that the seeds of change were already in place and sprouting in 2010, that have brought us from an assumption of a general global opening up and flattening of 2010 to our current 2017-era push-back against that, shows that evolutionary change can and does happen too – and even when we are not effectively able to perceive such change until a more dramatic turning point is reached in it – such as the emergence of widespread resistance to and even assault upon international trade deals and free trade zone agreements, and yes the election of a Donald Trump.

Both of these basic forms of change: evolutionary and revolutionary, and all of the potential forms of confounding in understanding as to which is which in them that can arise, have taken place between the then of 2010 and the now of 2017. And both of these two basic forms have their elements of unpredictability and particularly when in the case of evolutionary change, it takes place in manners that we do not actively address or even fully recognize, in the underlying assumptions that we ultimately base all of our analyses and planning upon.

I am writing here of the past seven years; I am perhaps even more explicitly writing here of the years to come and of change, evolutionary and more revolutionary to come too. And what basic underlying principle could I cite here, that might offer at least a vague and general direction for understanding this ongoing flow? I would take my basic answer to that from Newton and his laws of physics:

• Every action engenders an opposite and equal reaction.

The seeds of push-back against global opening up, driven by the anger and anguish of those who felt themselves left out of the benefits of it and as losing from it, were there when the drive towards and the expectation of a true global oneness and connectedness were peaking. And that perception of a possible and even inevitable globalism as an emerging reality peaked, at least in part because of this opposite and equal reaction and its dynamics, as it began to grow in reach and influence.

The seeds of push-back against that next step response that we see now, are already palpably visible and growing too, and perhaps particularly because of the election of a Donald Trump in the United States and the growing emergence of his counterparts in positions of power and authority in the European Union and elsewhere. Those faces and voices might represent an alt-right vision of an apotheosis of conservative values as they see them – but it is at least as likely that the election of Donald Trump will be viewed as an unstable and fundamentally unsustainable high water mark for a tide that his election would turn, for the wave of resistance and pushback that it would empower.

• Every action – and certainly every impactful one tends to develop an equal and opposite reaction, and that is the one predictable truth that we can essentially always expect in the types of systems that I write of here.
• And while disruptively novel change might not be predictable in its detail or in its exact location or timing of emergence, it can be predicted to recurringly arrive and reliably so.
• And these more disruptive change events, by their very nature tend to be among the most impactful that we face, as it is their impact level that brings them to our attention in the first place as they rise up out of the more random background static of in-detail unpredictable smaller and less consequential change that is always happening anyway.

I just made note of the seeds of yesterday and of our current alt-right pulling away from openness and connectedness. And I just made note of the emerging equal and opposite push back against that closing off, and against the widely recognized xenophobic and bigoted forces that so vocally contribute to this pulling away. That side of this 2010 to 2017 reaction, which has effectively captured much of its movement as representing its defining face, will compel a reaction back away from its extremes. And our ubiquitous everywhere-to-everywhere and at any time connectedness, and the ubiquity of social media in all of this, makes any such shifts and reactive push-backs all the faster, stronger and more readily sustainable as they take hold. The cycles of change that I write of here can only be expected to come faster and more forcefully as they do. The shift from 2017 to what comes next will arrive faster and harder than the one leading to our current 2017 did.

• Change begets change, and both linear and trending change and cyclical change,
• And both evolutionary and at least in principle predictable change, and unpredictably new and disruptive change and with that pulling everything off of any readily anticipatable track.
• And the faster they arrive, the harder they all become to tell apart.

So I find myself writing here in this blog of 2010 and its then apparent seemingly stable realities, and 2017 and its for-now seemingly set and stable realities, and …. What’s next? I am going to return to that and to the issues raised in this series and my earlier parallel one as a meaningful answer to that begins to take shape and coalesce. And I conclude this posting, and this for-now completion of this step in what I anticipate to be a still longer term endeavor, with one final organizing thought: by raising a point of distinction between two competing views as to what the longer-term shifts that I write of here, actually represent. And I begin addressing that by positing two very different understandings of reality that enter into and shape the world views that in turn drive all of the change I have been discussing.

• The dynamics of the equal and opposite reactions and the forces of change that I have been wring of here, lead to shifts away from and back to what can often and even usually be considered recurring equilibrium points – conditions and patterns of at least tacitly accepted expectations that offer stable positive value and that can and do reach recurring acceptance.
• Or equal and opposite reactions and the forces of change lead to shifts, but to new homeostatic balance points. According to this, the “what comes around goes around” of the title of this posting, is always going to mean returning what at closest might only be a similar approximation point to an older expected “normal”, and with new balance points always reached when a more stable point of balance is sought out.

Think of the former of these as representing the conservative world view, and one that is so pervasive there, that it can become as invisible to those living in it as the water that fish live in can be to them. To cite a simple example of that, that has not itself explicitly raised its head in the current political debate in the United States, but that nevertheless informs it, consider the issue of original intent and original interpretation, as presumably held by the founding fathers of the country as they drafted the US constitution. That piece of set equilibrium point thinking underlies virtually all understanding of constitutional law in the United States, and not just for those who would identify themselves as conservatives. Words like “liberal” and “progressive” as more commonly used, do not in fact offer especially valid alternatives to “conservative”, as I am more traditionally using that term here (as opposed to its more alt-right reactionary use of today.) But to stretch one of our current labels, and perhaps unfairly, I would argue that the second of those world views comes closer to fitting a more progressive vision of change – where new balance points and understandings are both possible and even fundamentally necessary.

As a final point of observation for this posting and for this 2017 series as a whole, the conflicts that we are now entering into in 2017 and the ones that led us to where we are now, from our once more-2010 world vision, are ones of fundamentally conflicting world views – that just happen to be playing out now in the arenas of closed and restricted or free trade, and xenophobic walling off or openness to travel and commerce and even immigration between nations, among other specific-case issues. Those are the details here; the devil as they say is in the details and that is where all of this carries impact so they are vitally important here, but they are the more surface details, nevertheless. But there are deeper factors underlying what we see in the news and underlying the detail and process dynamics that shape that. In order for a narrative of the type that I attempt here in this now two series progression to offer value, it has to at least acknowledge that, and hopefully shed at least some light on it. And that has been the higher level overall goal of this 2017 series in particular of that effort, going beyond the specifics of its individual posting installments. An iteration three of this, as announced as being planned for above, will follow.

As a side note, and as a pointer in the direction of the seeds of 2010, I am not the only one to have noted their possibilities earlier on. To indicate something of my then concern for what was becoming possible in that, I offer a link here to a posting that I added to this blog on February 3, 2010: Online Social Networking and its Impact on Social Discourse and Democratic Processes. I wrote my first installment to the 2010 series that I have been developing this one from, to go live on the blog on July 22 of that year, a number of months later. I am sure that more mainstream news and analysis pieces will be readily available when I start working on iteration three of this progression of series, from today’s news and commentary and from many sources that in retrospect will have outlined and identified the new, next step seeds of change that are just sprouting now in 2017 and that will shape the context I will find myself writing about next.

You can find this and other related postings and series at Reexamining the Fundamentals, with this series offered as a new Section VII in that directory.

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