“Current problems cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created them.” Albert Einstein
It’s been estimated that 2 trillion pieces of critical information are created each year – everything from photographs to songs, formal documents to email. It’s also estimated that in the US, knowledge workers spend 30% of their time looking for this important information. That’s not surprising to any of us who have searched frantically for a file while we’re trying to get to yet another meeting. What may be surprising is that the cost in lost productivity for all that searching runs to $5.4 trillion.
Such is the legacy of the Information Age. Clearly we are able to amass a staggering amount of data. But as we evolve beyond the Information Age, the question of how to manage all those bits and bytes – what to make of them – becomes a central issue. At CereCore® Institute we know that it takes a new kind of thinking to come up with solutions that are far-ranging enough and fast enough for the speed at which change is occurring every day in the marketplace. The sheer volume of information we have at our disposal creates extraordinary complexity. At the same time, it shrinks the world, and that proximity stimulates faster and faster change. So the very forms of thinking that made us adept at acquiring information are now being outpaced by the blur of changes they’ve set in motion.
We may long for slower, simpler times, but they’re not coming. The days of standardization and specialization, if not over, are changing. When the Romans ruled Europe, they made every cart axle exactly 4’ 8” wide. That way they could standardize the size of the roads they built throughout their empire. That standardization allowed them to move armies rapidly, transport goods efficiently and govern a huge area effectively. Later, during the Industrial Revolution, specialization came to the fore. People began to do just one specific task. This allowed engines, machinery and products to be manufactured in quantities that could serve and sustain large markets. A similar specialization continued in the Information Age, with entire large buildings filled with computer programmers writing code to support technology.
The main thinking approaches that were needed and rewarded from the time of the Caesars to the heyday of Silicon Valley were linear, sequential, logical and analytical. Good factual memory and accuracy were prized. The challenge we face now is that these proven approaches in more stable times are proving ineffectual in times of great complexity and rapid change.
At the Institute we know that linear, logical thinking processes are good for solving problems caused by a change in one or two variables. However, when multiple variables are involved, we need to shift our thinking processes to keep pace. Inclusion of nonlinear thinking helps us to navigate in the unstable air of rapid change.
Today we are required to develop a very different set of skills and talents where the emphasis is on nonlinear thinking. Nonlinear thinking is essential as we strive for understanding and clarity in our dizzyingly complex and rapidly changing world. Fortunately NLs thrive in rapid change and creatively find opportunity.