“Things are not how they used to be when I was young!”. We all heard elders
complain that the world around them changed so much that they struggle to figure it out. Facing relentless social and technological change, we may have a similar feeling ourselves. Like most managerial generations, the current one is convinced to be confronted with unprecedented challenges. To qualify this exceptional world, a new term was even coined a few years ago : VUCA , (Volatile, Unstable, Complex and Ambiguous). But we cannot really claim that a RIPO (Reliable, Immovable, Plain, Obvious ) world ever existed either, can we?
Management discourse has been describing the present as particularly challenging, especially when confronted with a presumably stable past, and opening the way to unprecedented impending changes for a long time now. In “Beyond the hype: rediscovering the essence of management” Robert Eccles pointed out that the mantra of the exceptional present has been sung at least since the early 1950’s .
Maybe this is the reflection of mankind’s difficulty in adapting to the unrelenting technological changes it had to face since the invention of the wheel. One would imagine we got used to change since then, and that actually an ever-changing world should be considered normal rather than exceptional. Or maybe it’s a clever negotiating position, to justify increasing managerial salaries on the grounds that running a business in an exceptionally complex world requires unprecedented and scarce skills. Managing a modern corporation must indeed be the realm of geniuses since the annual compensation of the average S&P 500 CEO amounts to more than twice the money bestowed on all the Nobel Prize winners every year in recognition of their achievements.
Or is there, at last, some truth in the statement? Are we reaching a turning point, approaching a singularity in the history of mankind after which things will be dramatically and irreversibly different? Is the networked society, with new information technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain bringing to life the managerial revolution that has been announced since the middle of last century?
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