September 2021 was a month of reflection for many. I’ve read many recent blog and social media posts and articles about a variety of experiences and learnings from 9/11. It’s always interesting to me to examine an event so many years afterward because you get to see the lessons learned applied and the outcomes of those changes.
Two interesting truths have come to the forefront that can’t be ignored:
- The world continues to evolve.
- Our lessons must adapt to the changing world.
I’ve watched well-intended organizations apply lessons from crisis events as if the rules were static and then become frustrated when they don’t see the results they expect. Although this doesn’t apply to every situation, it’s well worth examining the environment as part of determining the solution and talking through how it’s changing and evolving, ultimately “skating to where the puck is going,” rather than where it’s been.
A great example of this is situational awareness and information flow. If we rewind 20 years and think back to how we communicated and consumed information, we would see a stark contrast to today. First, we’d probably find ourselves wondering how we lived during such an archaic time. Then, we would recognize that our information inputs were very limited (relatively) and our modes of standard communication were fewer.
I remember the mainstream media being the predominate platform for information from the impact locations, along with just a handful of emails for law enforcement, but not a lot of other situational information outside of that in the first 48 hours, which slowly improved as time went on. As a state trooper at the time, this caused us to stand at an elevated security posture for an extended period.
Let’s contrast this to today. The world has evolved.
Not only have communication methods and infrastructure improved and expanded significantly, thanks to the advent of devices like smartphones and a countless number of content providers, but also we are now operating in a supercharged information era, with a high expectation of information on demand by just about everyone, regardless of their position or affiliation.
The challenge has evolved from limited data sources to almost too many data sources that constantly drown us with an overload of information. My mental picture is the difference between trying to eke some water out of a garden hose that’s barely turned on versus opening up a fire hydrant and letting it hit me in the face with maximum velocity. Further, we then have to gather information out of this deluge, which has its own wide spectrum of accuracy and reliability, and cobble it together to make sense of it.
You get the point, right? Things change. The world moves forward.
If you want to truly improve your organization and benefit from where we’ve been, you have to adapt to what’s here and what’s to come, not to what was.
Your follow-up question may be, “How?”
Here’s a few thoughts to get you started.
Talk about the future. Often.
Don’t get comfortable with the present. You should always be moving and looking forward.
Gain perspective from others
Talk to people in different roles within your organization. How do they see the future?
Seek to understand
Explore outside influences on your organization, how they impact you, and how they are changing.
Consume different perspectives and specifically seek out topics related to future changes.
Talk with others in the industry to find out how they see things.
Coach your teammates and teams to talk and think about the future.
Learn. Adapt. Apply.