Welcome to 2017: Some things to think about in terms of changes and trends

2008 PACCAR Hall construction

PACCAR Hall being built in 2008. The 135,000 square-foot building opened in Fall 2010.

When Barack Obama became President, now 8 years ago, he used a device that was considered a signature or symbol of current technology called a Blackberry phone that you clipped on your belt.  Now, in less than 8 years, that phone is mostly gone.

In 2008, people watched 3-D movies with those funny glasses, that if you had a tendency towards motion sickness, you might feel dizzy following the experience. A few months ago, I attended a VR Café Event (VR=Virtual Reality) where I was embedded in an experience in which a whale swam up to me, winked at me, and then took off into the dark blue distance, as I remained standing on the bow of a virtual sunken ship. We should try to imagine the future arc of this technological trend, and the impact it will have on our work, education, play and of course, many other areas of our lives.

In 2008, you would not have thought to rent a condo in downtown anywhere using AirBnb, unless you were perhaps friends with its co-founders in San Francisco.  Also in 2008, if you waited at an airport for your Uber driver to show up, you’d probably be waiting for many years to come for your ride. Now both of these services are available without a second thought in cities throughout the globe.

In 2008, we discussed swallowing a silicon chip that would navigate through one’s body identifying problem spots. These are still not appetizers on our health menus, so not everything has changed as quickly as we thought it would.

Sometimes we need to take stock of how far we have come by first looking back, in these cases, just 8 years, and then deciding where to go forward next.  I am not trying to sound like Confucius, but it is important to point out that he once said, “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”  Stopping in the past is not a good strategy, or in the present for that matter. However, looking back to go forward seems like a good first step when it comes to leading innovation and change.

As some of my observations above indicate, some things change pretty quickly, and our job is to keep moving forward to create new opportunities, while also keeping in mind that some trends will come and go, while others may sustain over much longer periods of time.

Since many of you reading this might be at a university, consider that one of the most awesome and sustainable trends in the history of humanity has been something called science! The trend that humanity started in terms of its focus on scientific discovery has followed an incredible arc of change, placing us today on the cusp of amazing breakthroughs in almost every field of inquiry. And in science, we know that we must keep looking back regarding what we have learned to go forward to build new discoveries.

What we should all keep in mind is the arc of how change unfolds, so that we know how a change started, and how it grew to promote innovations, which have now taken us to a better place in terms of health, economics, well-being, education, arts, culture, our humanity and okay…our iPhones, Surface Tablets, and our WAZE Navigation!

This leads me to conclude, that we are entering into one of the most interesting times in human history…again. We also must consider that the arc of human development is a very long distance run and therefore let’s keep running towards the future and all that is yet to be discovered. So let’s saddle or Uber up… or just put on your sneakers made with a 3-D printer in your local sports apparel store, and let’s keep running towards creating the next break through trends.


This blog post was written by Bruce Avolio, a professor of management, the Mark Pigott Chair in Business Strategic Leadership, and the Director of the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking.

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