Are You at Risk of Becoming Irrelevant? – Survival in the Digital Age
Everyone knows that the world today is changing at a breakneck speed. Earlier, the changes which mankind experienced in centuries, now happen in a single decade or even less – a few years. This poses a great challenge for an individual, i.e. how to stay with the times and prevent oneself from becoming irrelevant?
Broadly speaking, the many changes we face in our life can be categorised under technology, economic and social. Other changes which happen in areas outside of these broad categories, like political changes in government or cultural changes, indirectly impact us by disturbing our socio-economic balance. So, if we can understand what it takes to handle the pace of change in these three areas, we should be able to stay relevant for long.
Needless to say, that out of all the categories, ‘technology’ is the most difficult to keep pace with. The good part however, is that almost all technological changes lead to higher productivity. So, please bear in mind that if you are not adopting new technology fast enough, you are being less productive than your peers and thereby may gradually become irrelevant. If the fear of trying something new is preventing you from using a simple utility like Google Maps to chart out the fastest route to your destination, you are relegating yourself to the slow lanes. If your organization is still depending upon admin support to schedule meetings, instead of using a calendar app, it is being un-productive and working with costs higher than industry standards. Every time your competition uses a newer technology for better productivity, they gain a cost advantage over you and are making your organization gradually irrelevant.
The trick to handle rapid changes in technology is to shed the fear of unknown. Go with the mindset that the worst that can happen is that the new technology will not work for you and you will have to revert to the old one. No big deal. Gone are the days when adopting a new technology involved tedious reading of manuals and all the laborious learning led to great inertia. If that inertia is pulling you back, you have not evolved. With the huge stress on user-centric design, it takes none or utmost a few strokes to configure a new piece of equipment/software/app. And heaven forbid, if you get stuck, there is always a YouTube video available to help! What more can you ask?
So, be brave and get out of your comfort zone – shun the outdated and adopt the new.
Moving to economics, staying relevant economically is possibly the single most important things in one’s life. You are relevant economically when you are in a field which is growing; has job or business opportunities and people are willing to engage you for the expertise you bring on the table; along with the compensation which is commensurate with your expertise. With globalization of trade and industry, there are no Silk Routes left which can give you sustained living for a lifetime. The scenario changes every 4-5 years (or even less) and investments get directed to new industries and destinations. Every sector is hyper-competitive, forcing companies to run on thin margins. A few bad quarters due to any reason, and layoffs start to happen.
How does one stay relevant in such a turbulent environment? There is no right answer but I believebeing aware does help. By being aware I mean, making it a daily habit to read a “financial” daily and keeping abreast with developments which can impact your industry. The problem is that a majority of folks spend a disproportionate amount of time in planning to multiply the money already earned instead of doing the needful to keep it coming in the future! They don’t spend enough time to read and assess what the industry will be like in 5 years from now and what is required to keep them relevant in the future.
To illustrate with an example, I recently met a family whose son had secured a job related to testing in a major financial IT company. Looking at the paycheck, they were very happy and proud. They were failing to realize that a testing job in an IT company is not a great start to a career. It’s just a matter of time before automated testing tools do majority of the work and there will be minimal human involvement required. In a few years, their son will reach a point in career where his skills will not be required at large and he will become irrelevant.
It’s not that the parents and the son are not smart individuals. It’s just that they are not keeping themselves aware about the changes in the industry and how it will impact the future.
Now tackling the last frontier of what it takes to stay relevant socially. Social norms and etiquette’s change with time and place, albeit at a slower pace. As a race, humans have never given more importance to an individual’s freedom to express and live in the way one desires, as has been done in the recent times. As the new millennial takes over, the social norms you have been keeping close to your heart get neglected or totally destroyed. If you keep clinging to the past habits, you become irrelevant and possibly very lonely in your own home or office!
What does help is to be connected using whatever means the contemporary times have to offer. Be it with snail mail and cards a decade back, via email or now via social networks and mobile chat apps. Doesn’t matter the means you adopt, what is important is to be connected with family, friends and professionals and not just as a mere spectator but as an active contributor. Like posts when you love them and voice opinions when you differ.
While no one can bring back the social norms you cherish deep in your heart, being connected leads to gradual acceptance and inclusion for you to stay relevant to the society.
So be bold, be aware and be connected to stay relevant with all that is changing around you.