How to Thrive at Work at the Speed of Change

Here are some alarming trends to wake you up from your Turkey coma now that we are all back to work. Are you hugging your coffee yet?

  • About 40% of jobs in the US will be completely eliminated and replaced by robots (PwC report). By 2030, automation will have taken away 30% of hours worked by people today.
  • Many experts predict artificial intelligence will soon help companies make decisions previously exclusive to elite consultants in seconds (HBR)
  • Every day we are creating as much information as we have in our entire existence up until that day (TechCrunch)

There’s a blaring signal here: the future will be won by those who think differently. The skills and thinking of yesterday or even today are becoming obsolete as we speak.

In order to be successful tomorrow, we’ll have to accept that change is and will be the only constant. And this is especially true if you are in a customer-focused company or role, because the needs and wants of human being change all…the…time.

Life is racing ahead at a pace never before seen…and work is right ahead of it. In the next 1, 5, 10 years you’ll see some trends that will make the stats above become more and more real. 5 years ago, in 2012, Uber was a novelty, AI was a twinkle in the eye, and only gay marriage was still a legal debate. 10 years ago? Smartphones were still a curiosity!

And the change curve is getting steeper, too.

We create a couple quintillion bytes of information each day. AI and machine learning are now able to actually analyze that amount of data and set courses of action.

Work/life balance has become a joke due to work that spans time zones and the need to be constantly innovating—at the office, on your commute, as you shower.

Talent has few borders, so PhD graduates in Ireland are competing to solve problems in Canada.

Things are going fast. Work, its definition and the kind of it we do, is changing without giving us much of an opportunity to pause and react.

What can anyone of us do to keep up, or the ultimate goal, thrive at the speed of work? Future-proof our thinking.

The great news is that being future-ready doesn’t involve getting another degree or moving to China (although I hear it’s beautiful at this time of year). We simply need to be mindful of our mindsets amidst the flurry and speed of change.

The following are mindsets to consider if you want to thrive in any environment. These are mindsets that I’ve seen in great companies, great leaders, and great technologies. They don’t focus on yesterday, today, or tomorrow, but on the thread throughout: change, right now.

Be informed, be informational

The top 10 most valuable companies in 2007 did not include any tech companies. Today, half of them are tech. The top three companies (all tech) are worth more than all other non-tech companies combined.

Why? Many reasons, but there is one fundamental mindset : being the most change-ready industry.

Tech has grown at an astronomical rate by always innovating. Tech companies create cultures and leaders that get work done by feverishly informing others and being informed.

Think of this contrast: most projects at work start with a great project plan, full of detail, and sketching out every single thing that needs to be done until things get wrapped. What happens? Then priorities change, people leave, or the market winds move in a different direction. Most of that that planning is never executed (at all or as planned).

Things are different in tech. A project starts by sketching out general objectives, and then getting sufficient detail on paper to kick things off. From there, it’s an iterative process. Information is shared regularly: how are things going, what’s needed, who needs help. Decisions are made with as complete information as possible, and small pivots happen almost daily. Change is accepted as constant. This is called the Agile project methodology, but it’s deeper than that. It’s mindset where everyone is proactive about giving and receiving helpful information. This is not just for projects, but for internal communication, professional development conversations, and business strategy.

Accept, Embrace, and Address Your Ignorance

Nobody knows everything. In other words, we can all learn from everyone else. Being open to learning leads to great things, but you first have to be able to let go of what you know so you can know more.

Expertise is a blessing and a curse, depending on how you use it. If you cling to what you know to be true, you’ll be the smartest person in an increasingly remote island. It’s best to keep those connections to other people, other subjects, other information strong and open.

Being curious also makes you one of the best people to have in any situation—we all love the person who searches for the core of the problem, because they are usually able to find the best, most complete solution, not just a band-aid. You can only do that with true, ego-free curiosity.

Nothing (NOTHING) Will Stay Unchanged

Random fact: the world spins on its axis AND also wobbles. This means that about every 13,000 years the seasons occur in different order. Not so random tie-in: this means that even the most tried-and-true prediction (winter happens before spring and after fall) will one day not be true at all.

Change is constant. This is probably the hardest mindset of all, because it’s the most unnerving and vague. And, well, that’s change.

In order to accept this truth we can do a few things. Focus on the mantras below whenever things become unpredictable, or when yesterday’s answer just won’t work anymore. Don’t cling to these, but let them give you enough flotation to let you keep swimming.

  • Everyone experiences change. Nobody is given an unfair pass at this. Change, like luck, is fair and egalitarian.
  • Think of the worst case and the best case scenario. Most of the times the worst case is not that bad, and the best case is pretty awesome. Now you have your range of possibility, and some boundaries to what’s ahead.
  • Excel when things are steady to get ready for when things are not. If you prepare yourself during sunny days, you will do much better during stormy weather than the 99% who just coasts when the tide is smooth.
  • Let go, of everything. Sometimes, when things are specially wobbly, it’s helpful to just have faith, believe the best will happen, and smile. You might look a little crazy, but you’ll also get the best sleep of anybody else around you.

After you use these tricks to get you steady, you can start being excited about change.

It’s key to assume positive intent and aggressively look for the opportunity. Try thinking this way even if that’s not how you are naturally wired.

Surround yourself with people who are naturally positive or hopeful. You may want to initially punch them in the face, but over time, it will rub off on you.

If that doesn’t work, fake it. This isn’t about being the next Tony Robbins, it’s about your own health and well-being. You have to short-cut these stressors that are literally killing you. And yes, if you fake it you will make it. Believe me, I was a grouch many moons ago and now I’m writing this post with that inspirational image as the lead-in.

Dream Big, Act Now

This is a fun one. Go ahead and write the craziest personal dream you have if you had all the time in the world. Right below it, write 5 things you can do over the next 3 months to put this into action. Even better, put sub bullet points to those 5 bullet points. Get super specific and tactical and realistic.

You need the bold, big dreams to get you excited about the future. This is the sugar rush that comes from imagining a world where you get what you want and see the change you prefer.

But you also want to take action on this and make it sufficiently real so you don’t get a sugar crash.

You can’t do one without the other. If you only dream big, you are building castles out of clouds. If you only execute well on what’s realistic today, you are solving for the best possible scenario right now. They both need each other, like a poet needs spell-check.

If you can do both of these things you will inspire yourself to be creative, see hope in the future, and find opportunity in pretty much whatever the world or your work throws your way. You will also find things within your control that you can start doing today. This will help you kick ass today and get excited about tomorrow.


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