Why knowledge is power

Information technology is changing the way we communicate and interact at an unprecedented rate. If we do not read the signs and are not prepared to change, we could drown in a tidal wave of change. But if we keep upgrading our skills and keep a flexible attitude, we could very well survive and emerge even stronger.

The distressing visuals of the devastating tsunami of 26 December 2004 are etched in our memories. For many people there was no escape as they were overwhelmed by the immense force of nature. But one 10-year-old girl can take credit for saving many people’s lives: Tilly Smith had just recently learned about tsunamis in a geography lesson at school and recognised the warning signs. On seeing the receding water and frothing bubbles on the sea’s surface, she realised a tsunami was in the making and alerted her family who, in turn, alerted others. That beach was one of the few where there were no casualties. By implementing what she knew she changed the course of many people’s lives.

One could say that information technology is the tsunami of modern day communication. It moves at breakneck speed and, often, we don’t see it until it is upon us. It has had an enormous impact on the way we interact, work and connect. If we do not read the warning signs and/or if we refuse to make way for change, the impact could be devastating. And, while many still see the less frenetic “good old days” as “the norm” it is important to understand i) why these changes are happening; ii) how to make them work for us; and iii) what we need to do to ensure we are relevant in the future.

In his 1970 book Future Shock futurist Alvin Toffler states: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and re-learn.” Forty years later, this opinion has been vindicated over and over again, especially in the workplace. The three main challenges there are:

  • Different generations in the workplace, each of which thinks very differently;
  • A power shift from the corporation to the individual; and
  • A change in longevity that dramatically affects how much we need to save.

These changes require us to make our own changes, or face the fact we may become redundant and irrelevant:

  • We must take note of how differently younger or older generations perceive the world. Understanding generational theory and being able to connect with others in “their” world will help build relationships that increase our own richness of understanding, but which also make us more valuable to others.
  • The company has lost its Big Daddy status. That’s great on a level, but it also pushes extra responsibilities on to us. We need to take charge of our own affairs and look at financial life planning as the way of the future.
  • The third challenge is that, through increased longevity, we need to save more for that longer life journey.

CHANGE COURSE

How do we know we are on the right course? Consider a fly stuck in a room behind a closed window. In an effort to escape, it keeps flying smack into the window, then falls to the sill. It gets up and repeats the process endlessly, desperately trying to get to freedom on the other side of the glass.

Eventually its energy runs out and it dies. If that fly only knew just how close it was to freedom. On the opposite side of the room was an open door. If it had looked in another direction from the one it was so focused on, it would have been home free.

Have you ever felt like this in your business or in your life? You work harder every year, but don’t make much financial headway. Maybe, like the fly, you would find a whole new world opening up if you tried another route. Perhaps it is not the world that needs to change, but our perspective on it. By constantly upgrading our knowledge and skills through courses and workshops, and through reading books and articles, we will feel the exhilaration of surfing the wave of change rather than being dumped by it.

It’s time to grab your surfboard and ride that wave of change. Can’t surf? Then it’s a perfect opportunity to learn a new skill. Surf’s up!