Predicting Change

Research shows us that, at every age, people are pretty terrible at estimating just how much things will change in the next 10 years:

Research recently reported on in the New York Times about a study on self-perception published in Science shows that individuals at every age and demographic make this kind of error: They call it the End of History Illusion because at each age we tend to underestimate the changes we will go through in the coming decade — even when we can point to all the changes we’ve been through in the last 10 years.

I’m going to go ahead and claim that this error stretches into the business world as well. People look at their career 10 years from now and severely underestimate how much is going to change. This fact leads me to two different conclusions.

1. The absolute requirement to keep learning.

Unless you are very close to retiring, (and really who can afford to retire nowadays?), the fact is that your job is going to change, and you are going to have to learn new skills in order to continue to do your job, let alone change jobs! If you think you can “slide by” on your current skills and just continue to do what you’ve been doing, chances are that time, technology, and progress will prove you to be completely wrong. You are not at the “End of History” in your job. It will change, the only question is whether you’ll still be able to do it when it does. So you might want to pay attention when you are giving the opportunity to get additional training. (I’m not just saying that for my own benefit as a trainer, either!)

2. Trainers can represent the change people can’t see coming.

I’ve mentioned this previously, but this is a good example of the unseen forces that are at work whenever someone is in a training class. This is especially true if you are a software trainer and being brought in to roll out a new, or updated product. This new product is bringing about change, and it is very unlikely that the people sitting in front of you today saw that change coming. There’s a good chance they are underestimating just how much is changing right before their eyes, and an even better chance that they will not be able to recognize how much this one change will bring about more changes as they move forward. Changes in technology, hopefully, bring about more efficient workflows and more productive workers. I’m willing to bet that most, not all, but most, people would not be able to predict that there are more efficient workflows and better productivity available in the course of doing their job. Most people are simply doing their job to the best of their current ability. The don’t see what changes are coming over the horizon, and being confronted with those changes can be challenging. As the person now standing in front of them presenting this challenge to them, you may bear the brunt of their uncertainty.

Hopefully, most of your students understand the need for change, the need to learn to adapt to the change and can treat you professionally. There’s really nothing better than a class full of people who understand point number one, and are eager to embrace new things in order to improve themselves. But not everyone will be ready to learn, and you are now challenging their status quo. That’s never an easy thing to do.

For myself, this article made me go back 10 years in my career. Looking back on the last 10 years, I can honestly say that the career path that has led me from Network Admin/IT guy for a small not for profit lobby organization, to trainer for a Litigation Support software company, was not one I could have seen coming. It has been an interesting one though. What about you, how much change has your career seen in 10 years? Did you predict it?

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