Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Career planning 20: career planning while navigating change and uncertainty 2

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on November 26, 2017

This is my 20th installment to a series in which I seek to break open what can become a hidden workings, self-imposed black box construct of career strategy and planning, where it can be easy to drift into what comes next rather than execute to realize what could be best for us (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 459 and following for Parts 1-19.)

I began this series with an initial, orienting discussion of career planning tools and approaches that I have found useful in my own work life and its planning, and that I have shared with others over the years. Then I turned from that, beginning in Part 7, to consider change and how it is redefining work and the workplace, and employability and employment as well. And most of my subsequent discussion in this series has focused on disruptive change in this, and on its cumulative impact. Then I began to turn back to consider career planning tools and approaches in Part 19. And my goal here is to continue that posting’s narrative, which I begin doing by repeating a point from it that I would build from:

• “Embrace change that takes place around you, by adapting new ways and new understandings of what you do, that become possible and that can offer positive value because of those changes.”

I ended Part 19 by stating that:

• “No one can effectively plan forward from where they are now, if they do not genuinely know where they are now that they would have to plan and execute from.”

I at least begin to address that here by more fully considering how disruptive change emerges and takes form and develops, at least as it first comes into effective and meaningful focus. My orientation in that is essentially entirely on how this type of emerging phenomenon impacts upon the workplace, and how the impact of such change spreads out to affect more and more types of work as it does. But first let’s consider this emergence itself.

Where and how does disruptive change first emerge? A succinct answer to that would be “in an initially limited context,” where a new and emerging innovation might only have immediate and direct impact upon the business that first created it, and in the niche market of pioneer and early adaptors who chose to buy into it as it first comes out. This would particularly hold true for completely novel, potentially game changing innovations, but it might even at least initially hold true for disruptive innovations that could potentially meet long-known and long-unaddressed needs too, at least until it has proven itself. Then initial success, and particularly where somewhat later (but still early) adaptors start buying in, would make this meaningful and significantly so for direct competitors to that starting point inventing business too. They would now know that this innovation was not simply a fad or gimmick, and that it in fact might even represent a direct challenge to them and particularly as it has begun to capture and even create market share. And if such an innovation really takes off, it can be expected that this would cause its range of impact to grow and even explosively, and both for manufacturers and for direct-to-market providers (e.g. wholesale and retail stores), and for marketplaces and the consumers who comprise them. But the first real impact in all of this would be small, at least until an innovation has proven itself as offering at least a measure of real and sustainable value. And impact would grow from there.

Consider the internet in this context, with its small initial reach. The tools and resources needed to tap into this new form of information sharing were few and daunting to use. Not many people had or used personal computers at that time and certainly outside of work, and those early devices were all primarily geared towards people who would be comfortable programming computers with their command line interfaces. The nascent internet-specific software tools that were initially available were very limited and they were much less than user friendly for those who attempted to use them. And the only reason why the challenges of searching online to find anything specific, were not a lot worse than they were at this point in history was that there was so very little available to search for online, with primitive messaging and file sharing constituting the vast majority of what was even possible to find and access there.

What happened? Those who were able to tap into this new capability found real value in it, and this created pressure to make this newly forming internet both easier to use and richer in content. Their interest created a market for that. And as a result, several types of change began taking place at once that would address these now-perceived needs, and the business opportunities that they represented for whoever could best meet them: each such change driven by concurrent advancement of the others as values created, combined synergistically. Computers became more and more powerful and less and less expensive and certainly for what they could do, and certainly when the graphical user interface first came out and people at least had the option of dispensing with that command line interface so they could focus on what they were trying to do and not on the mechanics of how they would do it. The advent of the World Wide Web and web browser-oriented content and functionality changed everything too, and so did the development of more and more effective online search tools. And the more all of those internet users began to tap into this emerging capability and use that growing resource, the more competitive pressure there was for others to join in too, with later and later adaptors starting to explore and use the internet too. And networking speed began to significantly increase as this was all taking place, and the cost to connect began to significantly drop as well.

I am offering a very simplistic accounting of a very complex historical narrative here, and I freely admit that the actual timelines involved there were more complex than indicated here. But my intent in this is simply to at least briefly explain some of the underlying dynamics that palpably came into play in all of this: here for the internet but for disruptive innovation and its advancement per se.

Innovation and certainly successful disruptive innovation can be synergistically additive, with effective change both enabling and even actively driving next step change. But not all innovation fits that pattern.

• Win-lose innovations: disruptive ones included are by their very nature self-limiting and do not serve as launching points for next round innovation and disruptive innovation. They do not actively create incentive for other developers to build from because they are so limited in where and how they create value that can serve as a launching point for further development.

Consider the non-disclosure agreements and their recent rampant proliferation as discussed in this series as a case in point example there, where push back and resistance to it is all but certain to roll much of that back, making this example an eventual historical curiosity more than anything else (see for example, Part 10 and Part 11.)

• Win-win innovations, on the other hand, do create development opportunity for new innovation: new disruptive innovation included. And they can and often do create new business sectors if not entire new industries as a result, and new types of work opportunities in the process.

And the internet and its history exemplify that, with the most powerful and far reaching businesses on Earth, now firmly grounded in the online experience and in fact only possible because of that and certainly as they are formed now. To take that out of the abstract, consider businesses such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, as well as emerging giants such as Baidu in China.

This expansion of collective reach and impact and for businesses large and small, is based upon innovation and its effective adaptation. And it in turn facilitates further innovative and disruptive innovative advancement. And the term “creative destruction” comes to mind as I write that, because this means both opening up new opportunity, and closing off old as that at least comes to be perceived to be more obsolete than anything else. And that point brings me directly back to the issues of employment and employability.

• Where and how is innovation in its perhaps still beginning stage already impacting on businesses and the markets that they serve?
• What areas of work and what skills and experience sets are now coming into demand because of this for those businesses, and what ones might be losing their perceived value and significance to those employers as they retool and reorganize towards this New?
• And for a third big and even pivotal question that I would focus upon here: what directions if any, do these dislocations seem to be moving in as the impact and reach of this innovation begins to spread out and expand and both within its initial industry and sector and to others that would pick up on it?

You can safely assume that any skill or experience set that an innovation has already made more vulnerable in one industry or sector, will become at least as vulnerable and career limiting in others too, as a once new and still forming innovation really takes hold and across wider and wider business and marketplace communities. And the questions and issues of workplace and skills set dependencies enter into this here too.

I am going to continue this discussion in a next series installment, starting with three bullet points just offered above and the points raised in the last paragraph before this. And after completing that phase of this overall discussion, I am going to turn back to the issue of specific career planning and development tools and approaches again, that can be applied hands-on in building a work life that more fully meets your needs.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide.

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