[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]
ARCHIVED  December 3, 1999

Thinking outside box a requisite for 2000

What’s ahead in millennium No. 3? More of the same, only faster, say society watchers from every walk of life.

As we celebrate a once-every-thousand-years event, we’ll be challenged to shed old thought processes, embrace change and flow with it. In the year 2000 and beyond, look for:

n A further blending of communication tools. “The telephone, computer and television will become one,´ said Evan Vlachos, professor of sociology and civil engineering at Colorado State University.

n Technologies that infuse even more life into the Internet. We’ll see increasingly interactive Web-page capabilities, said Matt Tracer, of Tracer Design, a Fort Collins-based Web-page development firm.

n A search for community, as employees grapple with the isolating side-effects of life in technology-dominated organizations.

“These electronically driven environments are going to challenge people’s ability to stay in relationships with each other,´ said Johnna Bavoso, vice president of organizational development for Fort Collins-based Managed Business Solutions LLC.

n More emotion. Human emotion will become a valued commodity driving workplace and consumer decisions, Bavoso said. “From a consumer point of view, people will not want to just deal with things. They’ll want to deal with the emotion — the story,” she said. “It isn’t going to be about features, it’s going to be about the color of your phone, not what it does.”

n More growth. “I-25 will be the Main Street of Loveland, Fort Collins and Greeley into the next century,´ said Lyle Butler, president of the Greeley/Weld Chamber of Commerce.

Where once these communities saw themselves as isolated and separate, today and into the future, they are “physically moving closer together, and that’s going to continue to advance very rapidly,” Butler said.

“We’re seeing some really tremendous growth along I-25 from Highway 14 to Highway 34. The next phase will be the 34 corridor into Loveland, but also more important, probably, east to Greeley. I think we’re going to see some tremendous changes along that corridor.”

In the face of more sweeping change, there’s plenty to consider:

Embrace change, said Debra Benton, president of Benton Management Resources. Benton advocates an open-armed approach to the eternal constant.

“I think it’s important that people have an attitude adjustment about the fast changes that are happening. Most people really do look at change as negative. When in fact, change needs to be viewed as ‘Oh, man, we are so lucky there is so much of it.'”

We owe plenty to change, Benton pointed out. Count the benefits wrought by change, such as improved health care, accident prevention and cures for disease, and “you get down on your knees and thank God there’s so much change.”

Without this attitude shift, Benton said, “it’s just so scary.”

CSU’s Vlachos has a word for the rapid, complex change ahead: raplexity.

“We need to start asking questions,” he said. “Where are we going with all of these things?”

As the pace quickens, it will be ever more important to “keep that periscope out,” Bavoso added. “I think the challenge for people in leadership positions is to keep your eye on the future. You’ve got to keep your head up and look out.”

To understand what’s ahead, Vlachos said that a business must recognize three things: the trends and developments that brought it to the present, the conditions and context of the community in which it operates, and the values that will affect it in the future.

The employers of the future will face dicey questions when it comes to staffing and the bottom line, said Karen Thomas, who operates The Profit Center of Loveland, a business-consulting firm specializing in accounting and bookkeeping.

As technology drives up workplace efficiency, employers will grapple with where to put resources. They’ll need to look closely at, “how well trained are my people? How much value am I getting out of them? How much money should I spend training them? And, can that money be better spent buying software?” Thomas said.

Whittling staffs in favor of technology sharpens a double-edged sword, Thomas observed, leaving employers more dependent on fewer, key people.

The trend toward free-agency that has colored the labor market over the past decade will continue, Bavoso said. Employment is no longer about a life-long contract. “It’s about ‘have skills, will travel,'” she said.

An equally powerful trend will be the drive to find community. As technology increasingly isolates people — providing more opportunities to telecommute, shop and communicate electronically, for example — people increasingly value and seek to retain connections with others.

“Organizations of the future will be workplace communities that have the fundamental intellectual and emotional capital to very gracefully and agilely respond to a very changing world,” Bavoso said.

And as life becomes ever more complex, people will need places to decompress, Vlachos added. Consumers will search for technologies that simplify, and leisure opportunities in isolated areas will be in demand. “Business is going to take us into these remote places,” he said.

Keeping up with incessant change will require strategy:

Look up and out. Ferret out trends. Observe your customers. Explore your company’s strengths and weaknesses, and figure out where you fit in the future and head that way.

Larry Kendall, chairman of The Group Inc. Real Estate, is alternately celebrated and teased for his ability to look toward the future and position his company.

“My partners in the office tease me that I live most of my life in the future,” he said.

Still, Kendall’s firm will be involved in the sale of some 5,000 properties in 1999. He explains his approach this way: “What I’m always trying to do is figure out where the parade is and how to get in front of it.”

Look back. Use history not only to avoid mistakes of the past but to tweak your approach to the future.

Build a philosophy for decision-making. You’ll have less time and more information in the future, Benton said. Position your business in terms of staffing and procedures to make decisions quickly and with confidence.

“Sometimes, in a decision, being first is being right. Period,” she said.

As for technology, the question is no longer should you have a Web page? It’s when, or maybe even how quickly, can you get one? If Interstate 25 has become Northern Colorado’s Main Street, the Internet is the world’s Main Street. Few businesses question the need to budget for signage, Tracer points out. What’s your sign going to look like in cyber space?

Stalwarts of tradition can take some comfort in the fact that in the midst of the electronic revolution, old forms become new. And appropriate conduct is still critical, said business coach Benton. Take the handwritten note, for example. Set against the onslaught of impersonal communication — e-mail, phone mail, even TV mail — the old fashioned pen-to-paper form takes on a fresh cachet.

As Benton notes, “All of a sudden, you could look new if you always communicate with a handwritten note.”

What’s ahead in millennium No. 3? More of the same, only faster, say society watchers from every walk of life.

As we celebrate a once-every-thousand-years event, we’ll be challenged to shed old thought processes, embrace change and flow with it. In the year 2000 and beyond, look for:

n A further blending of communication tools. “The telephone, computer and television will become one,´ said Evan Vlachos, professor of sociology and civil engineering at Colorado State University.

n Technologies that infuse even more life into the Internet. We’ll see increasingly interactive Web-page capabilities, said Matt Tracer, of Tracer Design, a Fort Collins-based Web-page development…

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-reload zone="3"]

Related Content

[copperpress-advertserve-ad-interstitial zone="30"]