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The Survival of the Fittest: Generation Flux

Written by Deirdre Reid on . Posted in Association

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Social, mobile, and other emerging technologies are changing our way of life. “Any business that ignores these transformations does so at its own peril,” says Bob Safian, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, in his article about the new (and chaotic) frontier of business.

Who will thrive in this new era? Safian calls them Generation Flux.

Generation Flux is not an age group. Generation Flux is a mindset. You could be a GenFluxer without knowing it.

  • Do you enjoy learning new skills?
  • Do you look for new improved ways of doing things rather than rely on best practices?
  • Are you open-minded?
  • Do you adapt easily to new work situations?
  • Do you have a functional resume instead of a chronological one because of your ‘interesting’ career path?
  • Does that mean you’ve dabbled in a few careers along the way?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, then, congratulations, you are part of Generation Flux.

We’ve entered “an era where the most important skill is the ability to acquire new skills,” says Safian. “Charles Darwin foreshadowed this era in his description of natural selection: ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives; nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’”

Build capacity to thrive in flux

“Business-model innovation is constant in this economy,” says Beth Comstock, the chief marketing officer of GE. Safian adds, “The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern.”

How does this affect strategic planning? With so much uncertainty, how do you know which direction is best? “The key is to be clear about your business mission,” he says. “In a world of flux, this becomes more important than ever.”

Is your staff prepared to deal with flux? Rethink your professional development program. Help staff build the skills and mindset they need to be comfortable experimenting with new ways of doing business, making decisions, and serving your members.

Safian says, “Every enterprise needs to find — and evolve — the structure, system, and culture that best allows it to stay competitive as its specific market shifts. Business leaders need to be creative, adaptive, and focused in their techniques, staffing, and philosophy.”

What about your members? Do they have the skills needed to deal with change in their industry? What’s on their horizon? You may not be able to predict the future for them, but you can help them develop the capabilities needed to deal with uncertainty and change. Help them become part of Generation Flux.

Prepare yourself for flux

With limited professional development resources, how do association professionals develop the ability to acquire new skills? And what the heck are these new skills? The Institute for the Future identified these future work skills:

  • Transdisciplinarity
  • Virtual collaboration
  • Sense-making
  • Social intelligence
  • Cross-cultural competency
  • Cognitive load management
  • Novel and adaptive thinking
  • Computational thinking
  • New media literacy
  • Design mindset

The Apollo Research Institute digs deeper into each of them. You’ll notice that very few of them require schooling, instead they require a new way of thinking.

Don’t wait for your organization to help you develop these skills. Take responsibility for feeding your brain, stretching your comfort zone and surrounding yourself with others who also embrace change and learning. You’re the one in charge of your personal and professional growth.

Success for Generation Flux won’t be limited to climbing a career ladder; it will more likely resemble hiking in a vast park with a mix of terrains. In this park, off-trail hiking is allowed. You’ll have the freedom to strike out in any direction, and to change course when you’ve reached summits or ended up on boring trails. Strap on your pack, let’s go!

Deirdre Reid, CAE is a freelance writer enjoying her fifth career. I think that qualifies me for Generation Flux.

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Deirdre Reid

Deirdre is a freelance writer, blogger and copywriter. The association community remains her professional home after spending ten years at national and state associations overseeing membership, vendor programs, marketing, publications, chapter relations and more. Away from her laptop, you can find her hiking, doing yoga, cooking new recipes, volunteering at the history museum, or relaxing in a comfy chair with a good book and glass of wine or craft beer.


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