“When you see spontaneous social protests erupting from Tunisia to Tel Aviv to Wall Street, it’s clear that something is happening globally that needs defining. There are two unified theories out there that intrigue me. One says this is the start of “The Great Disruption.” The other says that this is all part of “The Big Shift.” You decide.”
He argues that these demonstrations are a sign that the current growth-obsessed capitalist system is reaching its financial and ecological limits. The system is broken… What we now have is that “the rich are getting richer and the corporations are making profits — with their executives richly rewarded. But, meanwhile, the people are getting worse off — drowning in housing debt and/or tuition debt — many who worked hard are unemployed; many who studied hard are unable to get good work; the environment is getting more and more damaged; and people are realizing their kids will be even worse off than they are.” Gilding is actually an optimist at heart…. He believes that while the Great Disruption is inevitable, humanity is best in a crisis, and, once it all hits, we will rise to the occasion and produce transformational economic and social change (using tools that are now available to us.
The Big Shift
The second theory is put forward by John Hagel, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison in , “The Power of Pull. They suggest that we’re in the early stages of a “Big Shift,” precipitated by the merging of globalization and the Information Technology Revolution.
In the early stages, we experience this Big Shift as mounting pressure, deteriorating performance and growing stress because we continue to operate with institutions and practices that are increasingly dysfunctional — so the eruption of protest movements is no surprise. Yet, the Big Shift also unleashes a huge global flow of ideas, innovations, new collaborative possibilities and new market opportunities. This flow is constantly getting richer and faster. Today, they argue, tapping the global flow becomes the key to productivity, growth and prosperity. But to tap this flow effectively, every country, company and individual needs to be constantly growing their talents.
What’s the decision?
Friedman writes: “You decide.” But in fact we don’t have to decide between these two theories. The Great Disruption and The Big Shift are essentially the same narrative. The Great Disruption is merely the first part of The Big Shift.
The real questions are (1) how quickly are we going to move on cleaning up the mess caused by the Big Disruption? (as I explained in my article earlier this week, From The Great Recession To the Great Stagnation) and (2) how energetically and nimbly are we going to get on implementing the radical management needed to prosper in The Big Shift, as I explained here?
Some once-prosperous organizations, like Wal-Mart [WMT], Cisco [CSCO] or GE [GE], have yet to even grasp the nature of the Big Shift, let alone adjust their management to prosper in it. As a result they struggle, just to stay in place.
Some such as Apple [AAPL], Amazon [AMZN], Salesforce [CRM] and Li and Fung have grasped it and mastered the elements of radical management and are sailing happily into the future, with exponential growth.
Why is it taking so long for the others to learn?
About the Author Steve is the author of six business books and consultant to organizations around the world on leadership, innovation, management and business narrative. His most recent book is the Leader's Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century (Jossey-Bass, 2010). Other books include The Leader's Guide to Storytelling (2nd ed, 2011) and The Secret Language of Leadership (2007). He worked for many years at the World Bank: as the Director of knowledge management (1996-2000) here he spearheaded the introduction of knowledge management as an organizational strategy. You can follow him on Twitter at @stevedenning. His website is at