Excerpts from the book, Lucid Leadership, how to lead in a time of hyper-complexity
Just twenty years ago, everyday life and business were very different. Depending on your industry, over the past two decades the products you sell have changed, or perhaps they didn’t even exist back then. How you market them has changed. How you communicate with your market—your customers—has changed. The economic balance of nations in the world has changed, as have the expectations of your employees and customers.
Now think about any other period of twenty years in human history.
Has so much ever changed so quickly?
Change—no, massive disruption—is accelerating. For example, you’ve heard about Moore’s Law. It’s named after Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, who in 1965 proposed that every year the number of components per integrated circuit would double and projected this rate of growth would continue for at least another decade. In 1975, looking ahead, he amended the forecast to doubling every two years. Since then, his astonishing prediction has held true.
Moore’s Law is imperative not just for people in the computer industry but because it’s become a metaphor for the rate of change in industry and society as a whole. When you look around, you see that products are becoming obsolete more quickly and the level of service that was acceptable yesterday is no longer sufficient today.
Here’s another example of how technology is progressing at an increasing rate. For tens of thousands of years, the secrets of human reproduction—specifically, why children resembled their parents—was shrouded in deepest mystery. For generation after generation, nobody knew the answer.
In 1869, a Swiss researcher named Friedrich Miescher isolated a new molecule he called nuclein, which we now call deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA. From that point on, like a slowly accelerating train, scientists made increasingly rapid progress. In 1950, Erwin Chargaff discovered that DNA was responsible for heredity and that it varied between species. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double-helix structure of DNA. But the idea of sequencing DNA—determining the nucleic acid sequence—seemed impossible until the early 1970s, when academic researchers used laborious methods based on two-dimensional chromatography. This led to the development of fluorescence-based sequencing methods with a DNA sequencer.
The Human Genome Project (HGP), an international scientific research project, was launched in 1990, and by April 14, 2003, had mapped 85 percent of the genome. A nearly complete genome was achieved in May 2021. Initially, the process was laborious and expensive, but costs came down as speed and accuracy went up.
In 1984, British geneticist Sir Alec Jeffreys began DNA testing for criminal investigations. The idea of commercial DNA testing seemed increasingly feasible, and research accelerated. Genetic ancestry tests were first marketed directly to consumers in 2000, for the purpose of reconstructing genealogies and investigating personal genetic heritage. In 2006, Linda Avey, Paul Cusenza and Anne Wojcicki founded 23andMe to offer genetic testing and interpretation the general public. By 2020, the company was worth $3.5 billion.
For countless millennia, we humans couldn’t imagine or visualize DNA. We had no clue! Then, in just over a century—the blink of an eye on the human timeline—the floodgates opened, nature’s secrets were revealed, and the DNA industry exploded in size and value. And it’s only getting bigger.
If you look across the wide spectrum of human technology, you see the same acceleration. The breakneck speed of innovation makes it increasingly difficult for human leaders to keep up, and it’s increasingly certain that what worked yesterday will not work tomorrow.
For healthcare providers and healthcare leaders it’s imperative that we gain far better insights about the trajectory of change in order to make certain that our hospitals, clinics and practices are relevant especially in a time of patient consumerism. Healthcare revenue growth is more than just marketing it’s about how we create a systemic infrastructure that surgically connects to rapidly evolving trends.