‘Generation Flux’ Equipped to Deal With Change

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Robert Safian, editor and managing director of Fast Company Magazine, started his keynote session, Lessons of Innovation, by describing what Fast Company was and what sets it apart from other publications that focus on more traditional business segments. “We consider ourselves non-traditional business media focused on more creative businesses,” he stated.

It is a distinction that has put the publication in the unique position of seeking out and featuring up-and-coming, as well as established, organizations poised to make major changes in the world of business. “These changes are happening dramatically,” Safian said. “The idea of a global, mobile, interconnected world we once imagined is the world we are living in today. This is not the change and hyperbole of the ’90s. It’s real, it’s broad and it’s dramatic and we have to learn to deal with it.”

 
 Robert Safian of Fast Company Magazine spoke of broad and dramatic change.
Safian described our current fiscally and socially unsettled times as “Generation Flux” and clarified that the term applies to both this period of accelerating change in our economy and to a group of people. “It is not defined by an age but more a psychographic, a type of person best equipped to deal with change,” he explained. “A person with a fixed mindset believes when you become an adult you are who you are and agree with that old saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.’ A growth mindset recognizes that you’re only beginning when you do something new and that you will not be good at it. In fact, you will probably be bad. There will be embarrassment and they don’t care. They know that with time and hard work they will get it.

“Disruption is rippling through everything, every industry. It’s happening everywhere. Today, we recognize that we don’t know what the new rules are and for the first time in a very long time we are living in a world of chaos,” he acknowledged. “This is an opportunity for some of us, those of us who can take advantage of it. That’s who I consider Generation Flux. Generation Flux is a mindset and a willingness to adapt. The most important skill in the age of flux is the ability to add new skills.”

According to Safian, “Nostalgia is a trap in this age. It is not helpful to be stuck on what worked before; we have to move forward. Do not pigeonhole yourself or your business about what it is or where it might go. There are fast companies and there are fast parts of slow companies. You have to figure out to what extent you are willing to be the fast part of a company and how resilient you will be to resistance.

“We can change people’s perceptions of us and the things that we do if we focus on the possibilities and not the fear,” he said. “Forget the fear of failure. Failure is a badge of honor. Failure breeds and encourages risk taking which is endemic to Generation Flux.”

Safian left the room with this thought, “Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, said it best over 100 years ago: ‘It is not the strongest species that will survive. It is not the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.’”

dcarroll@jobson.com