How changes come about

Whenever we forecast what change will occur, we are assuming how changes like that come about. When we question our assumptions about the inherent change process, we can refine our forecasts easily. Here are seven different ways that changes come about that you can use to challenge your assumptions and refine what changes you're anticipating.

1. Compensation for the opposite extreme. Careful conservation of cash induces a reckless spending spree and vice versa. Practical, left-brain analysis brings about impractical, right-brain imaginations until that's too much and pragmatism swings back again in favor. Every dichotomy exists as a pair that oscillates from from one extreme to the other.

2. Convergence of separate enterprises. Shopping happened predictably in brick and mortar stores or by mail order. Computers used their slow modems to routinely email and play text-based games. Stores and computers had nothing to do with each other and nowhere to turn for breakthroughs. Then e-commerce combined the two into amazon, eBay and the long tail of small online vendors. Dead ends come together into breakout changes.

3. Discontinuous change that revises the rules. The change from wired phones to cordless phones was a continuous change that maintained the twisted pair outlets in the wall and the phone booth. The introduction of cell phones was a discontinuous change that did not add features to cordless phones or play by the rules of phone booths. Discontinuous changes solve existing problems and limitations without more of the same.

4. Ongoing cyclical process entering the next phase. I recently showed how democracy follows piracy which leads to bureaucracy that is opposed by aristocracy. Groundwater evaporates into water vapor that forms clouds that condense and rain down to collect again as groundwater. Any cycle accurately predicts what step comes next.

5. Transition from embryonic forms to full realization. Another post explored how collaboration takes form in stages. Caterpillars get fat, disappear inside cocoons and then emerge as butterflies. Sequential growth phases also predict what comes next.

6. Emergence amidst sealed fate. The hero is trapped with no way out of a perilous predicament until she or he changes character. New traits appear, new determination emerges, and new resourcefulness comes into play. Cauldrons with no exits bring out surprising capabilities that lay dormant up until now.

7. Transformed contagiously by network effects. Innovations catch on "like wildfire", if they are "sticky", if they connect through a centralized node, or if they generate buzz among early adopters that "crosses the chasm". Recent viral adoption patterns of new technologies, artists and writers reflect the high level of interdependence made possible the Internet.

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