No Shortcuts - Playing it Safe is an Asset....Until it's Not

I've worked at a Fortune 25 firm for the past 10 years and run my own small business for the same amount of time.  The amount of change we have seen over these years is pretty unreal and I expect it to accelerate over the next 10.  Here are a few that I have seen firsthand. 

- People are watching less and less TV, which was the go to media platform to drive awareness of your brand for 50 or so years.  

- eCommerce is a thing.  Bezos was seen as a whack when he started selling books online.....and now he is the richest person in the world.  eComm will continue to expand.  In China eComm is 50% of sales.  I believe it is around 20% in the US now. 

- Startups can wreak havoc on HUGE companies/industries that have dominated for decades.  Dollar Shave Club.  Uber.  AirBnB.  Netflix.  Amazon vs. Everything.  It can happen very quickly. 

- AI/Machine Learning is changing industries by doing processing jobs cheaper, faster and more reliably than humans.  As the AI gets smarter it will overtake more and more of what humans are currently doing. 

- Schools have become less relevant and will continue to do so if major changes aren't made in curriculum and costs.  Are they educating their students to live in a world that I just mentioned in the examples above?  If not, then their relevance will continue to decline. 

There are lots of examples of companies who did not see the consumer behavior changing and got overtaken.  I think that is a sign that the people at those companies were not living in reality.  Either they underestimated the speed that the change would occur or were just living in LA LA Land thinking their business would not need to adjust.  Either way.....they are finished.  

The people who are seeing these trends and respecting them are the ones that will win long term.  That requires the person to be unique.  Most people aren't seeing these trends.....or are choosing to ignore them because at this very moment things are good.  Be careful of what these people tell you.  Too many people are have the attitude of playing not to lose....versus playing to win.  

Playing not to lose makes you conservative.  Playing not to lose makes you uncomfortable hearing differing points of view.  Playing not to lose requires lots of yes men/women around you.  Playing not to lose stifles innovation.  It's safe.  Safe worked for a very long time, but now playing it safe is absolute worst thing you can do. 

I am not calling for drastic measures.  Quitting your job to start a business.  Dropping out of school.  No.  I am just recommending that people start broadening their horizons.  Become aware of what is happening around you and put yourself in a position to gain longer term. 

Are your current skillsets where they need to be to be successful long term?  If not, then start taking some classes.  Is your current attitude towards work just following orders and doing what people say?  Are these people aware of what is coming?  If you are comfortable taking orders, then maybe start recommending some things that would be in the organizations best interest long term?  That might make some people feel uncomfortable, but the people who really matter will see that you are thinking about the future and are planning for it.  You will become an asset and someone they want to keep. 

Stay on top of things.  This might not help you today or next week, but it will help you in the next 2 to 5 years as more and more disruption occurs.  Do not be the person left out asking yourself where you went wrong!