Dealing with change

Change is inevitable. Like the seasons, it will happen. We all deal with change throughout our lives. How we deal with it can vary from situation to situation; it can vary with our age, temperament, environment, and many other factors. We can anticipate change with excitement, indifference, or fear. But one thing is constant: Change will occur no matter how hard we resist.

In the world of high technology, we live for change, as it is what drives the industry. To stay competitive we must innovate, and innovation is all about creating better and more effective products (in short – change). Without change, technology cannot advance to the next level.

If you have ever read anything by futurist Ray Kurzweil on technological singularity and intelligence explosion, you have seen his theories on the law of accelerating returns in which the speed of technological change increases exponentially (http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns). If we believe his theories, and Moore’s Law is good proof, then we are in for one exciting ride of change. The horizon for change gets closer to us exponentially every day. What used to take lifetimes to change now changes several times within a lifetime. In the case of technology, that window is measured in weeks and months and getting shorter each day. If you think keeping up with the latest gadget is hard now, just wait five years (Figure 1).

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Figure 1: If you think keeping up with the latest technologies is difficult now, just wait another five years.
(Click graphic to zoom by 1.9x)

How do you handle change? Do you embrace change, or try to avoid change? Everyone has their own way of dealing with change. Sometimes it is very exciting and we look forward to change. Other times there is tremendous uncertainty as we struggle with changes. Maybe it’s not the change that we fear but rather that uncertainty. If we could see how the picture would look after the change, maybe we wouldn’t spend so much energy resisting and anticipating the change.

I know that in my own case, I handle different changes in varying ways. When I am comfortable with what is on the other side, I can more openly embrace the change. When I have less visibility into what is after the change, I become fearful, the stress rises, and my comfort level is low.

How can we better prepare ourselves for change? Some change is very difficult to prepare for and we just need to tough it out. At other times, we need to follow the Boy Scout motto of “Be prepared.” Being prepared occurs at many levels. As an engineer, that means staying on top of your industry, the technologies, the business models, and the markets. Be sure to use all the resources at your fingertips to stay at the top of your game. In today’s world, it is both easier and more difficult. It is easier in that there are ever-improving tools available to make learning easier. On the other hand, there is an exponentially growing wealth of information at your disposal. Learn the tools and use them to stay on top of your game.

VME and Critical Systems is going through change. Stay tuned for changes with the first issue of 2012.

Jerry Gipper jgipper@opensystemsmedia.com