The pace of change in the world is accelerating in ways that few us really grasp. New cultural ideas, business models and technologies are altering the way we have been doing life and business. Fresh thinking entrepreneurs, agile management teams and lean organizations are disrupting every industry, market and job. More and more people and companies struggle with obsolescence. The path out seems to rest with a single counterintuitive mindset.
Forbes Magazine recently published its 100th anniversary issue with 100 essays by some of the greatest minds in business: a collection of people of all ages and stages, gender and geography–innovators who have managed to stay relevant making a massive positive impact in every aspect of global affairs.
The Inuit are historically notorious for placing their elders out on ice floes when they could no longer contribute. This kind of displacement occurs every generation of course, but the baby boomer cohort is the largest group that has had to deal with it. The eldest baby boomers are in their early 70s; the youngest in their early 50s. The leaders of generations X and Y are quickly rising through the ranks and shifting the status quo en masse. This inevitable social change is uncomfortable and frightening to people depending on the current system for their livelihoods, but we all have to be complicit in our own irrelevance.
I wrote my Master’s thesis years ago on an opportunity identification service I developed during my studies on entrepreneurship and design. As part of my thesis research I met the designer Bruce Hannah who was buddies with Frank Zappa. They coinvented the Nerf football as a reaction to Mrs. Hannah’s complaints of broken lamps and real footballs in her living room during Superbowls. The Nerf football sprang from a real need.
As one of the Forbes 100 greatest business minds, Jim Collins (the baby boomer author of Good to Great and Built to Last) said he received this crucial advice from Peter Drucker early in his career: don’t obsess on survival and success; instead worry about being useful. Great mentoring.
Traditional retirement is a dying and increasingly less useful idea. The job of every human being, young and old, is to constantly find new ways to create value for society. Sure, plan to spend some time golfing and out at the lake, but somewhere out in the world, living room lamps of all kinds are getting knocked over. We need many new kinds of Nerf footballs: useful solutions to real problems. We need all of us. This is where we all survive and succeed. The perpetual search for relevance is the real problem I am solving in my world. What’s yours?