No Blogs For A Few Months

September 8th, 2009

Since I am writing a new book, there will be no blogs for a few months so that I can devote all my work time to my clients and to the writing of the book.

Best wishes until later.

 Carolyn Corbin

Now is the Time to Optimize

July 11th, 2009

At the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, I was blogging on the uncertainty of the job market. I mentioned that even when recovery begins, there will be many jobs that will not be replaced in the United States. These jobs will be “offshored” or replaced by technology. There will continue to be lots of jobs created but at a higher level than jobs that were created after recessions occurring before 1990. In fact, in some areas, there will not be enough workers to fill job openings. That’s the reason I am advocating acquiring indipreneurial skills so that you can find a place in the job market whether or not you work “permanently” for an organization. In my November 21st blog, I wrote about the concept of indipreneurship. I mentioned that there are five lifeskills that are helpful in becoming an indipreneur. You can also look at it this way: these five lifeskills contribute greatly to your life and career sustainability.

I discussed in the blogs of February, March, and April the lifeskill of futuring. After you have envisioned what is likely to happen down the road, another lifeskill that is helpful to employ is that of optimizing. We will spend the remainder of this blog studying that particular concept.

Unemployment is continuing to rise. By now, people were hoping that the unemployment figures would be shrinking, not growing. However, the unemployment rates could reach 10% or more before this deep recession subsides. Many of the businesses that are having trouble in this economy were destined to have trouble later because of inability to compete in the global marketplace. However, the circumstances leading to this recession caused these organizations to face challenges earlier than expected. Many business executives and owners had been living under the delusion that somehow they would be able to compete against ever more crowded markets as the United States continues to immerse itself in the shared global marketplace of products and services. As profit margins thin, corporations must find ways to decrease expenses without raising costs. Labor costs are one area that is being targeted.

In the current atmosphere that exists, it is important to optimize. That means that you are capable of making things better than they are at the current time. In fact, by optimizing, you can carve out a career and life for yourself that you never imagined up to now. Consider this current environment an opportunity to exercise your creative powers.

Any kind of change—including changes in the labor market that are happening today in the United States—can test us in ways that no specific methodology can adequately address. These are times when we can be easily derailed by fear and uncertainty—unless we possess an underlying belief that we have a particular purpose in life that is linked to something greater than ourselves. I personally use situations that might be considered adverse to reflect on the spiritual side of my nature. I am a Christian, and I view God and life through the lens of Christianity. You may have another lens through which you obtain your worldview. That is a very personal issue and is your own personal choice. While it is not my intent to persuade others to believe as I do, I think it is important to search deep inside to find the courage and creativity that can make all things better—however you define that Source in your life. This is not to say that one needs to be religious to optimize his/her life. Nevertheless, the whole idea of working toward positive change implies some degree of faith or hope in the future. Tolstoy wrote that faith is “that by which [people] live.”

This economic recession is generating a great deal of economic pain. However, it is also generating the birth pangs of promise. People have a responsibility to optimize the opportunities that now exist for making better tomorrows. There have been several recessions during my adult life, and I have concluded that all people have a choice of whether or not to mentally participate in a recession. That may seem like a strange statement when experiencing financial challenges; but when optimizing, a person is not mentally participating in an adverse circumstance. People can use this time for innovation and positive change.

There are news stories beginning to crop up about people who are carving out new careers because they have lost their jobs. They report a sense of excitement and satisfaction. The problem propelled them into a great opportunity. Job termination ejected these people from their comfort zones, and they were forced to call on their creativity to move them forward.

Optimizing is available to all of us. I will discuss this topic more deeply in a later blog.

Until next time, keep on enjoying this wonderful summer.

©2009 Carolyn Corbin. All rights reserved.

Today Is a Time to Remember

May 25th, 2009

It’s Memorial Day in the United States of America. A time to remember all the sacrifices that have been made so that we can have the freedom to dream and make those dreams come true.

I have been thinking and writing about the future in the last several blogs. I feel that it is appropriate to turn attention today to the men and women who have given their lives and to the countless others who have made sacrifices in other areas so that all of us can have a future in a land that’s free. We can have freedom of speech, religion, and the press. Because of the gift of freedom to us, we have multiple career choices and can choose where and how we will live. We can incubate an idea and grow that idea into a booming business. We can endure failure, keep trying, and ultimately end up successful. If we are willing to make the effort and exercise persistence, eventually we will realize varying degrees of success. America is a land of hope and promise. America is a land where dreams can still come true.

I feel that the greatest export that the United States has to offer is the American dream. Now many other countries around the world are offering people the freedom to dream and to accomplish their cherished goals. In all cases, freedom has been purchased for an expensive price and must be maintained through continued sacrifice.

Three years ago, one of my elderly relatives who lived outside of Texas died. His wife had predeceased him. They had no children. A few months after his death, I received a call from his executor telling me that his wish was to have all his personal items brought back to Texas so that they would be kept in his boyhood hometown. I drove to the Eastern seashore to pick up those items and transport them back to Texas per his dying wish.

One rainy Saturday afternoon, I began the arduous task of filing through his personal belongings and discovered many interesting items. One of the objects that I noticed was a U.S. Army helmet. Upon previous conversations with him, I had known he had been involved in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. I lifted the helmet from the box and held it in front of me, gazing at it for a long time. I wondered: Was this helmet worn on that June day so long ago? If this helmet could talk, what stories of hardship and battle, lives lost and skirmishes won would it tell? Somehow, this item made World War II real to me. Perhaps I held part of that war in my hand. For a good while, I thought about the many young heroes who left their homeland never to return. And I thought with appreciation about those who left America only to return injured for life. Their lives were changed forever.

Before and after World War II, there have been other conflicts and wars, each generation having made sacrifices for the freedoms of the generations to follow. I will be forever grateful to those heroes as I enjoy this peaceful afternoon with its beautiful blue skies and gentle breezes.

I live in America, a land that’s free because of those who were and are brave. May God continue to bless our country from sea to shining sea.

Yes, today is a day for remembering. Today is a day to be grateful for past and present heroes. Today is a day filled with hope and peace.

©2009, Carolyn Corbin. All rights reserved.

Futuring by Using Thinking Skills

April 21st, 2009

In the futuring process, there are five thinking skills that can be helpful. They are consequential, contrarian, critical, creative, and connectional.

Consequential thinking skills are often used when studying cause and effect. In the computer programming world, consequential thinking involves “if…then” statements. For example, I may reason the following: “If I purchase a specific company’s stock, then my portfolio value will increase.” When dealing with simple situations, consequential thinking is fairly easy. However, in dealing with complex systems, a specific action might trigger unexpected results in some of the subsystems. Thus it is important to analyze the potential results of an action before taking that action.

In studying complex systems, we recognize that a city is a complex system with many such subsystems as the local government, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and civic groups—to name a few subsystems—that make up the whole. If the city council passes an ordinance to help one of the subsystems, it may harm another subsystem if the ordinance is not consequentially, thoroughly, thought through.

Contrarian skills are a second category of thinking. They go against the normal flow of ideas. Often the contrarian thinker reduces groupthink. By definition, “groupthink” is a situation wherein people on a committee or in a group of some sort all think alike. When this happens, often the people belonging to the group may miss some important points in considering actions on various issues. With contrarian thinking promoted, group members are encouraged to question groupthink and think counter to the idea flow. Often comments from contrarian thinkers can be shocking. For example, a group might be meeting to discuss implementing a retirement plan in the company. A contrarian thinker in the group might impart the idea of eliminating the idea of a retirement plan altogether. In fact, the contrarian thinker might declare that there is no need for anyone to ever retire on a company plan—that people should independently plan and save for their own retirements external to the company. He might proclaim that people should plan to work until they cannot work any longer due to their health, then there would be a special disability program for them until government benefits could provide for the person. Only people who have saved and invested independently in order to create wealth external to the organization should be able to live without working; i.e, retire, the contrarian thinker espouses. That contrarian idea might generate all sorts of comments and deliberations. The group may continue with its planning, but because of the contrarian thinking of one person, the group might alter its decisions to some degree.

Another type of thinking is critical thinking. By using the critical thinking process, we look at an idea or situation and analyze it without prejudice. For example, all cars were once painted black. What if, in the United States, we reverted to painting all cars black and no cars of any color were available for purchase? In using critical thinking, we would eliminate our personal feelings about our favorite color and evaluate the positives and negatives of having all cars painted black. I’m certain that we could come up with a list of positives and negatives that would help make the decision of whether to eliminate colors in auto choices.

One of the many hot issues today and one that is impacting on the North American region’s future is immigration reform. Critical thinking is required in this area. As ideas are put forth, it is important to look at each idea without prejudice and to list the positives and negatives of implementing that idea. Again, the effects of that idea on all subsystems in our complex North American system must be considered. Obviously, implementation of new laws and regulations, however they change the system, will have a distinct impact on the future of life in North America.

A fourth type of thinking is creative thinking. “Creativity” is a process that produces an innovation. In order to compete in the global marketplace, companies and countries must continue to produce innovations. By creating something entirely new, finding a new use for a current product, or combining two or more products to produce a new use, an organization can launch an innovation in its marketplace. For creativity to be effective, the organization must have an atmosphere conducive to the process and a budget that allows for trial and error while in a stage of experimentation. To be conducive to the process, the organizational atmosphere should promote good lighting, a natural environment (green plants, sunlight, fresh air, etc.), flexible work hours so that people can work according to their circadian rhythm, and good team support for exchange of ideas. Additionally, knowledge management systems must be in place.

The fifth type of thinking, connectional thinking, incorporates the other four thinking types mentioned above. Connectional thinking creates patterns from seemingly unconnected events. It is similar to a connect-the-dots exercise that produces a meaningful picture by connecting seemingly random dots. Only when all the dots are connected does the picture have meaning.

An example of connectional thinking might be a pattern analysis of three trends: (1) Social Security and Medicare are rapidly depleting their funds; (2) Baby Boomers are aging; (3) the national debt is growing at a phenomenal rate. By connecting these three trends, it seems likely that there will be great pressure on the U.S. economy for the next thirty years, at least. Aging Baby Boomers will pull heavily on the Social Security and Medicare systems as they now exist; and the U.S. economy will continue to feel hefty challenges. It stands to reason that, in the future, Social Security and Medicare must be adjusted and/or taxes must be increased to accommodate the fulfillment of promises to older generations. With the national debt escalating and Social Security and Medicare becoming insolvent, the likely scenario will be an increase in taxes on the younger generations, and perhaps a cut in younger people’s promised benefits. Now, using consequential thinking (if…then): If younger people’s benefits don’t measure up to older people’s benefits, yet younger people are paying massively into the Social Security system, then there might either be a tax rebellion or intergenerational conflict arising. These scenarios must be considered in planning the future.

By applying the five types of thinking skills in an integrated manner, it becomes easier to see the future with both its problems and promises.

©2009, Carolyn Corbin. All rights reserved.

Futuring: Anticipating and Exploring Tomorrow

March 15th, 2009

In my February 7th blog, I mentioned that there are eight basic steps to sharpen your futuring skills. As you execute these eight steps, perhaps multitasking along the way, it is important to apply thinking skills. Without the ability to mentally rehearse (i.e., think), it is impossible to envision your future. Although it is impractical to get a 100 percent clear view of the future, it is possible to envision indications of what the future holds. Several years ago, I concluded the following: “What I know often determines what I see. What I see often determines where I will end up.”


In futuring, it is important to convert information into intelligence. Information is readily available and can be so voluminous that people cannot grasp the relationships among the pieces of data to form a conclusion. However, in gathering intelligence about the future, one will explore data, observe emerging or existing patterns, then come to solid conclusions. That will become the intelligence, or knowledge, that one needs to anticipate the future.


Often the future is visible through the analysis of trends. For example, in my hometown on a spring afternoon, several trends may be occurring: drop in barometric pressure, rise in humidity, darkening of the sky during daylight hours, emerging roar from the southwest. Living in Texas, I would quickly assess the trends, note the patterns, and conclude that a tornado or serious storm would be about to happen. Then I would seek shelter. The same principles can be applied to futuring: note the trends, assess the patterns, draw conclusions, then take appropriate actions.

Some strong trends happening now are (1) technology is increasingly the driving force of change; (2) globalization is escalating; (3) the U.S. population is aging; (4) the national debt of the United States is mounting; (5) the green movement is speeding forward; and (6) American diversity is increasing. To anticipate the future, we can assess possible patterns that will arise from the intersection of these trends. Just considering the business category, some probabilities are as follows: Social Security will be strained; increasing jobs will open in the fields of health care, communications technology, biotechnology, green technology, alternative energy, and gerontology; the immediate political climate will shift away from a pro-business emphasis to a pro-social prominence; more offshoring of jobs will take place. Additionally, innovative people will be in demand due to global competition; the U.S. economy will be limiting itself in competitiveness with other countries with a lesser national debt. In order to continue to maintain such a debt, taxes will have to rise. And last but not least in this list, companies will find it more difficult to compete in a more competitive marketplace thus causing more mergers, buyouts, and bankruptcies.

After assessing the likely patterns, you might wish to take action to plan your career and finances to match what lies ahead. You might wish to increase your personal savings. You might always be preparing for your next job while doing the one you presently have. You might also plan for various job interruptions due to lack of corporate marketplace security.

If you work for a nonprofit organization, prepare for a high level of competition for the donor dollar. With general global insecurity becoming the norm and U.S. taxes on the rise, people will be more hesitant to part with their hard-earned money. Additionally, there will be a rise in global nonprofit agencies competing for the donations that were at one time uniquely American.

Of course, you could continue indefinitely by considering other such categories as education, government, the environment, religion, additional areas of the economy, and various social issues. You could envision your retirement needs, sending children to college, potential interruptions to your life due to accident or illness, the impact of economic downturns if you are already retired, and many other probable occurrences. By now, however, I’m sure you are getting the idea of futuring.

When you think in a futuring mode, you lay the groundwork for such action-oriented processes as decision making and problem solving. To sharpen these areas, it is important to refine thinking skills.

More on thinking in the next blog.

© 2009 Carolyn Corbin.

Jobless Recovery in Many Career Sectors?

February 7th, 2009

After the recession that technically began in 2000 and intensified after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001, the recovery brought corporate growth—but did not restore as many jobs as people had hoped. Many people were able to find work, but under different conditions and at less salary and benefit replacement values. However, that phenomenon is predictable according to the trend lines for moving to an indipreneurial workforce. For the definition of an indipreneur, see my blog dated November 21, 2008.

After the recession that we are now experiencing is over, the job climate may be more of the same as happened after the 2000 (into 2002) recession. Corporations will be reeling for a while trying to get back to secure footing. The global workforce will be available for outsourcing jobs to them. The climate in the United States may not be as business-friendly as in past years. Thus thinner profit margins, global competition, and the need to make up for lost time during the recession will cause businesses to keep their costs as low as possible. Hiring indipreneurs will be a welcome opportunity. This will allow businesses to control the numbers of people on their payroll at any one time depending on market conditions and will allow them to ask their workers to negotiate their own independent worker contracts.

I mentioned in the November 21 blog that I would be expanding on the idea of indipreneurship in the coming blogs. So this is the second installment in the series that began in that November blog. I will offer other blogs in this series in the following months.

There are five indipreneurial lifeskills that we will explore in this and future blogs. Mastering these five indipreneurial lifeskills will enable you to do the following:
1. Develop greater self-reliance.
2. Function as an indipreneur—both inside and outside the corporation.
3. Prepare for predictable uncertainties (such as accident, illness, job loss, and retirement).
4. Learn to manage change effectively.
5. Take control of events that appear to be uncontrollable.

The five lifeskills that we will be discussing in the next few blogs are futuring, optimizing, resourcing, tracking, and balancing. Let’s begin with the futuring lifeskill.

Futuring can be defined as looking ahead. I use the definition “anticipating and exploring tomorrow” to explain this lifeskill in the sessions that I facilitate. To deal effectively with the difficulties we face today and to prepare for the predictable uncertainties that can befall us at any time, we must sharpen our futuring skills. My profession is that of socioeconomic futurist. I work with organizations to help them determine the best paths to take in order to have a successful future. However, individuals can be their own futurists for their personal and career lives if they develop and apply futuring skills that I use to help corporations and other organizations.

Such important questions that should be addressed are
1. What are the predictable uncertainties I’m likely to face?
2. How well prepared am I to respond to those eventualities?
3. What kinds of proactive plans can I make?

As a last thought for this blog and before we talk further about futuring lifeskills in the next blog, I’d like to share eight basic steps you can start taking today to sharpen your futuring abilities.
1. To develop a broad knowledge of futurism, consider joining the World Future Society (see for more information). This organization’s forums and publications will provide you with information about what is likely to happen down the road.
2. Read books, materials, articles, and research reports about the future. You can do a search via Google and for such resources.
3. Whenever you read an article or view a topical TV/Internet program, make it a habit to ask yourself (a) How might these events influence or alter my future? (b) What subsequent events might be set off?
4. Keep your mind-set in a proactive mode, always looking for problems to solve today in order to create tomorrow’s opportunities for yourself.
5. Develop effective ways to cope with fear and anxiety in facing future uncertainties.
6. Select an area in which you can become an expert—the area in which you wish to develop your career and brand yourself. Set up a system for storing, managing, and accessing information about this expertise.
7. Create ways to publicize your brand—perhaps blogging, publishing reports, speaking, and/or writing a book. Set up a method for receiving feedback.
8. Form focus groups or social/career personal and online networks to constantly explore your specialty and exchange ideas.

Becoming an indipreneur is hard work but is very rewarding. Beginning to master the required lifeskills through futuring is an exciting beginning. More on futuring in the next blog.

 © 2009, Carolyn Corbin.

Systemic Complexity

December 31st, 2008

This year, 2008, has been a year of both challenges and opportunities. Based on the multiplicity of happenings, it is interesting to hear the pundits predict the events of 2009. Some see doom and gloom. Others see hope and upward movement.

Due to the complexity of socioeconomics and geopolitics, it is technically difficult to call the events of 2009 with total accuracy. The United States finds itself in an economic meltdown coupled with escalating strife in the Middle East. Terrorist threats continue to be very real worldwide. The United States is embarking on an unprecedented (in monetary numbers) economic bailout for the nation. No longer does the world live in systemic simplicity wherein cause can predict effect. We now live in systemic complexity wherein a stimulus can set off a chain of multiple events that have surprising effects on the several subsystems that make up the complex system.

Great leaders should have the ability to look ahead in consideration of their complex systems and create scenarios projecting the effects of various stimuli on separate subsystems within their structural environment. These scenarios should be rehearsed in advance in the event that they might happen. Leadership today involves asking the right questions and proposing workable solutions ahead of time in order to be ready in case the projections actually happen.

For example, a local community is composed of multiple subsystems, therefore by definition, a community is a complex system. Such subsystems as governmental entities, educational institutions, various citizen groups, civic organizations, various businesses in the community, health care institutions, individual citizens, non-profit organizations, and faith-based institutions are the major entities composing the complex community system.

Orchestrating these subsystems is the responsibility of community leadership. The knowledge level of the leaders for managing complexity coupled with the ability to move the subsystems in a common direction will determine the ultimate success of the community.

When one of the subsystems is out of order or in chaos, then all the other subsystems are affected. In a community, if the business sector is out of balance, for example, the success of the community as a whole is penalized. Or if the citizens are polarized over various issues, the other entities of the community cannot function properly, and the total community cannot move forward.

On a national level, this principle can be applied to the current economic crisis. There has been a tremendous shock to the global system. Chaos could have broken out in unprecedented proportions. Most subsystems of the global community would have been deeply affected. Due to quick action of the United States government as well as other governments throughout the world, the chaos has been lessened, and much shock has been absorbed. There will continue to be much fallout for the next several months—even years. However, a deep economic depression has probably been averted. That systemic remedy has trickled down to local communities, and those systems have suffered less than they would have otherwise had solutions not been applied.

Of course, there is the great debate concerning what caused all these problems in the first place. The short answer: multiple trends collided. Such driving forces as globalization, deregulation, increasing greed, lack of proper oversight, and increasing market competition collided to form the condition of near economic collapse. These trends had been cruising to the collision point for over thirty years, so this condition should have not been a surprise, but seemingly it was to many people.

When leaders make decisions, they must realize that their decisions can have unpredictable effects. Therefore they must be very careful to think through the effects of their decisions on each major subsystem before putting their suggestions into action. Leaders with the ability to assess consequences of their actions on complex systems are rare. This skill will be required in the 21st century and has not been developed well up to this point.

So what do I think will be the outcome of all this global chaos on the United States? I believe that the best days of our country are ahead despite what many others are predicting. It will take several months–even several years–to work through the problems we now confront. There are many subsystems that are not 21st century-ready. I believe that we will diagnose our problems, solve them, move forward with resolve, and innovate our way out of this quagmire. The challenges are great, but so are our abilities to meet them. Experiences can be instructive while the future can be constructive.

Happy New Year.

 © 2008, Carolyn Corbin.

Declare Your Independence

November 21st, 2008

Trends rear their heads much before they become visible to the general public. It is the job of a futurist to spot these trends early and calculate how the collision of multiple trends will affect the future. One trend that has been gradually gaining momentum over the past thirty years is the increasing need for workers to look out for themselves and depend less on the corporation to provide long-term financial security.

It was obvious, beginning in the late 1970s, that global competition was setting up American corporations to enter an arena requiring a high level of productivity to combat the razor-thin profit margins that would result from the market share drops. In the 1980s, global competition intensified; and in the 1990s, global competition strengthened even more. And now, in the 21st century, global competition is fierce; and American corporations are beginning to feel the pain–big time.

In 1993, I wrote a book entitled Conquering Corporate Codepencence, which prescribes the skills necessary for worker survival and competitiveness in the 21st century marketplace. I called the issue “corporate codependence” because “codependence” means dependency on someone or something that is dependent on something else. In other words, a codependent person is once-removed from control of his/her destiny. If a person is dependent on a corporation, and that corporation is dependent on global market conditions, then the person is not in direct control of his/her career destiny.

To be in direct control, a layer must be removed from the empowerment process. Workers must become “indipreneurial.” That’s a word I coined to mean that workers must have the skills to work either in a corporation or to work in an entrepreneurial mode outside the corporation; i.e., they must have the ability to be an independent contractor. In effect, indipreneurs wake up every morning unemployed but have the skills necessary to find work and negotiate contracts for that work/project. In 1993, I projected in the book that by the years 2015 to 2020, 70% of the workforce would be indipreneurs.

With the present economic climate (exacerbated by increasing narcissism in key leadership positions), and increasing global competition, it seems that America is on target for those projections. The present requests of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler for government help in recovering from their present economic crunch further illustrate this point. Many other companies, once they weather this economic storm, will build back their workforce, with a different structure—a structure that has fewer long-term promises.

Here are a few questions from the book to check to see if you might be corporate codependent. Please answer these five questions “yes” or “no.”

1. Do you feel more insecure and uncertain about your future than at any other time in your life?

2. Are you experiencing undue stress and burnout on your present job?

3. Are you depressed as a result of having been laid off or fired from your job?

4. Are you currently employed, but living in fear that you may soon be axed?

5. Would you like to change careers or start your own business, but fear that you don’t have what it takes?

If you answered one or more of these questions with a “yes,” then you might have a tendency to be corporate codependent. The good news is that there are skills for overcoming this condition and that people are capable of positive success even in this unpredictable economic climate.

I’ll discuss more about these skills in a later blog.

© 2008, Carolyn Corbin.

Economic Crisis: A Collision of Trends

October 6th, 2008

This year has been economically volatile for the United States. Trends which have been gaining momentum over the past 30 years have collided to produce an economic crisis of gigantic proportions.

Such trends as expanding global freedom, declining ethics, greater international competition, progressively greater percentages of oil being imported, and increasing ideological polarization have intersected to create an impacting train wreck that will be experienced around the world.

Will this create structural change? (Please refer to my blog of 9-2-08 for a definition of structural change). I believe it will. What I am observing from this phenomenon is that Americans are demanding more accountability and responsibility from their leaders representing both governmental and private organizations. Perhaps there are record numbers of people engaged in the political process who are demanding transparency from these leaders. People are moving from apathy to involvement. It is refreshing to see democracy at work and to witness the engrossment of citizens in the happenings of our country. They are demanding accountability in government, business, religion, and nonprofit organizations.

Yes, we are having a train wreck. It is still occurring. However, at some point, the wreckage must be fixed and the tracks repaired. As a country, we will do that, and, in so doing, many countertrends will emerge. Over time, this condition will be a part of history. But something bigger is happening. People are becoming involved. They are demanding empowerment. They are insisting on leadership transparency. This is the major structural change that is occurring.

However, great responsibiity is required of empowered people. They must be informed about the issues. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are essential in order to objectively assess circumstances and exercise sound judgment. I question that large numbers of people possess the skills and readiness to tackle this new assignment. Hopefully, more emphasis will be placed on these skills in our schools from pre-kindergarten through university level in order to equip our people with the wisdom required of empowerment.

Of course, in governmental affairs, there is always the fact that the general public deals in incomplete information due to security reasons. The questions become: Can good decisions be made without all the facts? Is having all the facts “go public” healthy for national security? Herein exists the dilemma. It stands to reason, then, in our republic, that somewhere along the way, we must trust our elected representatives who should have complete information at their fingertips. It, then, becomes the responsibility of the voters to elect trustworthy officials.

Yes, the United States and the world are living in uncertain, chaotic times. This is nothing new. With all of us working together and exercising wise choices, we can use this structural change as a pivot point for both national and global improvement.

© 2008, Carolyn Corbin.

The Future Is Not a Continuation of the Present

September 2nd, 2008

In my early days as a futurist, I was assigned to study Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) and explore how it could be used in the public schools and perhaps eventually in people’s homes. In the early 1970s, the vision was to have a huge room with raised floors housing a gigantic computer system to process the data and run the CAI system much as we processed business data at the time. I envisioned each student interacting with a computer, which would be a TV-like unit with a keyboard. We, the CAI study team, were envisioning the future by building on the equipment that was available at the time. People told me that the concept would never happen. That there was no way that schools could afford to house monstrous computers in a super-cooled, floor-raised room. And certainly only the rich could purchase such a system for their homes.

Fast-forward to the 1980s. The PC became a reality. And today, schools have laptops for learners, and homes have multiple laptops and desktop units per family (plus all kinds of other communication tools). Technological gadgets are converging at a rapid rate. For example, TVs, cameras, and telephones are being combined into one device with much more convergence to come. Technology is much more prolific than could have been imagined 40 years ago. Computers and other communication devices have been miniaturized thanks to the progressive complexity of the microchip. The world of computers has structurally changed, and because of that, life has never been the same.

Watching this phenomenon happen was an enlightening experience for me. I saw firsthand what I had always read and instinctively known: Dream the dream without limitations. Plant the idea. Then there is a likelihood that innovators will invent the tools to make the dream come true. Rather than look at the “what is” of today and see the impossibilities, think innovatively about “what could be” tomorrow and see the possibilities.

One of the trends occurring in the 21st century is that structural changes are accelerating. When structural change happens, things will never again be as they were. A physical example is the occurrence of an earthquake. After an earthquake changes the physical structure of the earth, the earth can never be put back exactly as it was. A structural change in technology was triggered by the progressive improvement of the microchip. Another structural change happened when the Internet was introduced for public use. After those and many other technological structural changes, life has never been the same.

Since the beginning of time, structural changes have occurred in many categories, but much more slowly than in today’s warp-speed environment. In those slower periods between structural changes, leaders had time to gain experience, study cycles, and offer viable solutions to recurring problems. That experience could be used again and again as similar problems and circumstances were encountered. However, when the world heads off in a new direction due to a structural change; and leaders are still anticipating that progress is moving forward in a straight line from the present, they miss the new path. They are racing forward but are on the wrong road. Many leaders are trying to resolve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions and wondering why the solutions aren’t working.

To lead effectively in today’s environment requires that leaders “get it.” They must anticipate structural changes that might occur and create ways to handle the new problems differently. This requires keen thinking skills. The emergence of Honda’s serious competitiveness on U.S. soil in the 1970s, the collapse of oil prices in the mid-1980s, acceptance of the Internet for public use in the early 1990s, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the terrorist events on September 11, 2001, and the rapid escalation of oil prices in 2008 are all examples of triggers for structural changes forever changing the U.S. socioeconomic climate. Dealing with such changes requires backward analysis for lessons learned from the past and forward thinking for future problem solution. And leaders today are responsible for acquiring and applying these critical skills.

There will be more on this topic in a later blog. But, for now, I want to emphasize that (1) structural changes are occurring at a rapid rate; and (2) leaders of all organizations must be prepared to make critical decisions on issues which they have never encountered before. The future is no longer a continuation of the present.

Copyright 2008, Carolyn Corbin. All rights reserved.