Future-Present

March 16, 2022
By Steve Astle
Man walking a line from a tangled ball to a neat circle.

Among the pandemic’s lasting effects has been an acceleration of the inevitable – forcing us all into the world of tomorrow today. Widespread remote work? We knew it was coming, but until recently, most of us thought it was still about a decade away. Virtual meetings across time zones and continents? A figment of telecoms trade show exhibitors just a few years ago, it’s now the go-to medium of five-year-olds and their teachers and grandparents. The pandemic has had the paradoxical effect of slowing things down while speeding them up, and these and other previously futuristic phenomena are suddenly upon us.

As communicators, we spend a lot of time contemplating the future: anticipating crises, planning announcements, preparing for a range of market and stakeholder responses. (Some of us might add worrying to that list.) Nevertheless, most of us were caught off guard by the rate and pace of change that’s occurred in the last two years.

What now? While we don’t have crystal balls, the last two years made it abundantly clear that as communicators, we have aptitudes that are broadly applicable in dynamic environments poised for even more upheaval. By leaning into a transformational mindset, we can help our organizations manage the changes that lie ahead.

 

A Transformational Mindset

For starters, we communicators have the ability to identify, describe and distill multiple trends into a comprehensible narrative. All human beings seek meaning and purpose, and communicators know how to construct the stories that help others make sense of otherwise meaningless experiences and set them on the path to fulfilling their dreams and ambitions.

We also possess a clear-sighted understanding of the power of media to influence thoughts and behaviors. Members of Congress and others expressed surprise upon discovering the connection between social media platforms and the growing divide on social issues, but not us. Communicators know exactly what we’re dealing with when it comes to media – social and otherwise – and have an obligation to apply that knowledge responsibly. Not sure how to think about that? The Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication offers some useful resources.

 

Accelerated change may be jarring, but a communicator’s mindset is fundamentally resilient.

 

Finally, as communicators, we know how to scale up impact. Communication enables us to engage other individuals – our families, friends and teammates – as well as entire organizations, institutions and segments of society to catalyze transformational change and progress. This ability is powerful and valuable, particularly when deployed in service to a higher good.

Accelerated change may be jarring, but a communicator’s mindset is fundamentally resilient. With apologies to the virtual band Gorillaz, we may at times feel useless, but not for long: The future is comin’ on, it’s comin’ on, it’s comin’ on.