Mental Whiplash, Flow and Keeping Pace with the Speed of Change

Awaken by Cameron Gray

Many of us are experiencing mental whiplash, where the rate of change far exceeds our ability to process that rate of change. In a sense, our mental capacity cannot keep up with the rate of change and when we attempt to do so we experience Mental Whiplash. This Thursday Thought was inspired by Innovation Show 164 with 8 times New York Times best-selling author Steven Kotler.

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“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” — Jack Welch (Former CEO GE)

Jack Welch’s quote warns when a business does not keep pace with the speed of change of the marketplace then that business is in danger of extinction. When considering this quote you must also think how a business or organisation is a mass of people. Therefore, the people who work within the that business or organisation must also keep pace with the speed of change on the inside of the organisation AND on the outside in the marketplace, this is extremely difficult. This brings me to a second important concept to consider, one proposed by Albert Einstein…

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” — Albert Einstein

I believe Einstein’s quote intersects with that of Jack Welch above to suggest that not only must our thinking keep pace with the speed of change of society, but In Addition, our thinking itself must evolve.

For our thinking to evolve, we must develop new ways of thinking, develop new ways of recognising patterns and develop new ways of connecting information. We talk about this on this week’s innovation show with Steven Kotler, who has long maintained that when we are in the State of Flow we can “process more data per second”, “make faster and farther-flung connections” and perform at our best whether that be as an artist, an athlete, an innovator or a business person.

Before we explore how we might be able to keep up with the rate of change, let’s briefly explore key accelerators of change.

Why Such Speed of Change?

When considering the ingredients of rapid change, the mixing bowl will contain a blend of: digital (digitisation and digital business models), globalisation, the Internet (ease of access to information) , social media (connecting people and the rapid distribution of new ideas), artificial intelligence, quantum computing, blockchain/ethereum, big data, mobile and 5G. We must also consider Moore’s Law: the observation that the size of transistors reduces every 2 years approximately doubling the computing power contained in a chip or how technology becomes simultaneously smaller and more powerful. These are just some of the ingredients of rapid change, but now let’s consider a useful way to understand how we struggle to think in exponential growth terms and how it is very difficult to train for exponential mental capacity.

To the Moon! (and Back)

Exponential growth explains growth rate that becomes increasingly more rapid in proportion to the growing total number or size. Put another way, quantities will increase slowly at first, but eventually begin to grow at an accelerated rate. The following Gedankenexperiment (Thought Experiment) is a useful way to comprehend exponential growth.

Imagine that you need to walk 30 steps, this is relatively easy for us to comprehend, you can pretty much guess how far you will go. This is linear thinking is built into the ancient architecture of our brain: Hmmm, that wooly mammoth is going to trample me, he is about 30 metres away, I’d better run.

Now, imagine that you take 30 exponential paces, doubling the length each time. Your first pace is one metre, your second is two metres, your third is four metres, your fourth pace is eight metres, and so on.

How far do you think you would travel in 30 paces?

The answer is, to the moon.

In fact, the 29th pace would take you to the moon, but the 30th pace would bring you all the way back.

The gif below illustrates the power of exponential increase and the fact that it is deceptive (visual thanks to Singularityhub).

Big Challenges Ahead

In 2018, Corporate Longevity Forecast, Strategy and Innovation consultancy Innosight (co-founded by our upcoming Innovation Show guest Scott D. Anthony) The paper anticipates the average tenure of S&P 500 companies will continue to grow shorter and shorter over the next decade. Innosight hold that the 33-year average tenure of companies on the S&P 500 in 1964 narrowed to 24 years by 2016 and forecast it will shrink to just 12 years by 2027. This spells accelerated disruption and creative destruction in the business world in coming years.

Beyond business, we will encounter increasingly formidable Global challenges. While humanity has made gargantuan progress, the exponential rate of change will accelerate to unfold unforeseen issues and indeed foreseen issues that we are not yet ready to deal with.

A United Nations report released last week (June 17th 2019) predicts world population will climb to 9.7 billion in 2050 from 7.7 billion today, with the population of sub-Saharan Africa doubling. The population could then grow to 11 billion by 2100. Urbanisation is expected to reach 68% by 2050 vs. 55% today. With such change, we will need to address water supplies, environmental issues, energy supplies and pollution to name but a few.

So how do we even contemplate this exponential change?

We must evolve our thinking, our ways of thinking, our ways of educating and more towards a more collaborative, win-win society. Flow states are a proven method to accelerate our thinking and execute at a higher and more efficient rate.

A 10-year McKinsey study on flow states found top executives were 500% more productive when in flow state. Steven Kotler tells us in order to deal with such challenges, yes we must all collaborate as a species, but more importantly we must collaborate in this higher mental state of flow.

The advice of the Thursday Thought Blog? Explore new ways of thinking, explore Flow.

“We urgently need fresh new thinking in order to address the scale and gravity of today’s global challenges, which have outgrown the present system’s ability to handle them.” — László Szombatfalvy

“If we are hunting the highest version of ourselves, then we need to turn work into play and not the other way round.” — Steven Kotler, Flow Genome Project

The world created in Last Tango is based very closely on our world about five years from now, and all technology in the book either exists in labs or is rumoured to exist.

With its electrifying sentences, subtle humour, and an intriguing main character, readers are sure to find something that resonates with them in this groundbreaking cyberpunk science fiction thriller.

We welcome award-winning journalist, executive director of the flow research collective, world-leading expert on high performance, multiple New York Times bestselling author, and author of “Last Tango in Cyberspace” Steven Kotler…

We talk:

  • The future of our culture
  • The fracturing of society
  • Innovation
  • Flow
  • Peak Performance
  • Purpose and Vision
  • Habits and Attention
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • The origins of Empathy
  • Autism
  • Reinvention and regeneration
  • Walking logic bombs with hyper logical minds, the Mentat
  • Species die-off rates

Have a listen:







More about Steven here:

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