NEW YORK—The pace of change is literally dizzying. In fact, it’s impossible for any human to “keep up” to manage the speed of it, certainly as digital technology moves ahead so rapidly. Those observations were part of the closing session of VM’s Summit, as offered by David Kepron, founder of the NXTVL Experience Design podcast, former head of global design for Marriott International, an experienced retail design expert, author and architect.

Following the day’s speakers who all pointed to so much existing and pending change, he titled his closing talk, “Jack Be Nimble.” Kepron underscored the radical shifts escalated by technology as well as the global pandemic and urged the Summit audience to realize they are not alone in attempting to cope with it and make decisions through it.

Kepron said, “The flow of this expanded change makes it hard to take a moment to breathe and catch our breath. We’ll just be continually moving on to the next thing. And I think this poses particular challenges for all of us who are in business.”

He observed, “Some 40 percent of businesses will die in the next 10 years, if they don’t get it together and figure out how to shift their whole way of thinking and doing things to stay on pace, if they can, with the change that technology is offering us these days. This, of course, suggests that we’re going to have to become more nimble. So ‘Jack be nimble’ means that we have to look at a couple of things that are happening culturally now to begin understand that nimble is the name of the game.”

Kepron pointed out there is, “Caution ahead. We’re now exposed to a younger generation of woke kids who are coming into the marketplace as experienced-seeking consumers who are very different. Gen Z is a very different animal than any generation before because they have literally never known anything other than the technology world that they’re living in.

“We also know that they’re very conscious about the ecology, they’re very conscious about well-being. The Global Wellness Institute projects trillions of dollars in this market in the next few years. They’re very woke about sexuality and issues about identity. And they’re very, very tapped into the world of racial equity, social justice, and all of those things that we all are now discovering are part of the way we need to think about our businesses.”

Kepron further observed that this new type of thinking is driving a range of changes in the way brands need to communicate their stories and legacy brands. “When brands are out of sync with their customers, they run a particularly difficult path. And that is increasingly true if brands even have strong legacy stories, which are particularly vulnerable to these cultural shifts, because they base everything that they are on tradition. The problem with this in trying to attract the new young customer is that they are asking “how does a brand allow me to reconnect to a larger story?’ There’s a reversal of dynamics now.”

Kepron continued, “If we’re really interested in innovation and fresh thinking and discovery, we’d take a moment to hit the pause button. Now, we were gifted that opportunity in the past couple of years. But we have to remain curious in that ambiguity and uncertainty. Adapting to this uncertainty is about your mindset. Are you fixed? Or are you rigid? Or are you willing to change? Because people don’t generally resist change, they resist being changed.”

Among Kepron’s final acknowledgements of the way so many are feeling right not, he noted, “I’m telling you being lost isn’t so tragic. Loss is tragic. And we conflate those two. So, I want to try to invite you into this world where you can rethink being ‘lost.’ And think of it this way. Think of it as an acronym for Leaving Old Scripts Temporarily. Confronting these old scripts that we’ve built around ourselves is really important because in that we find the opportunity to reinvent them, to recreate and to reimagine each moment.”

Restating the nursery rhyme, “Jack, be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over that candlestick,” Kepron also concluded, “Sometimes in business we have to take leaps of faith. This is how change is made.”