It is a cliché to identify our world as one in which change is the only constant. Overuse of this concept has minimized its meaning and power and misuse has lead to confusion and miscalculation.
In our opinion there are three types of change as illustrated in the familiar image of the iceberg.
- Surface change which takes the form of trends in fashion, modes of speech, popular technology, management fads etc. They are easily visible - representing 1/8th of the iceberg - with new trends quickly attracting attention and possessing a relatively short life span. Their length of influence is determined to the extent that they are rooted in stronger change forces.
- Systemic change which reflect a deeper set of dynamics associated with the economy (eg., the rise of the middle class), demographics, changing consumer and personal values, big technological developments (e. g., the arrival of the phone or car), emergence of new political ideologies. They take longer to emerge and be recognized; last longer, and, if significant enough in strength and power, can be taken as reflecting the norm by any given population.
The dominance of the automobile in American society and the pervasive belief that every American has the right to own and use a car whenever and wherever is a societal force totally integrated with the rise of the middle class, the beliefs and aspirations of the Founding Fathers, the growth in prosperity, the cheapness of raw materials, energy and credit. But it goes deeper than that. The western obsession with the automobile reflects a much deeper set of beliefs and unexamined assumptions and beliefs about how humans view the world, and their relation with it and each other. These are paradigms, mindsets or worldviews.
- Paradigm change occurs much less frequently and results not in the modification of something familiar but a fundamental transformation - in everything. The last big paradigm shift occurred over a 200-250 year time period starting with people like Copernicus and Galileo who began to trust their powers of observation and measurement over the prevailing orthodoxy of a powerful institution - the Holy Catholic Church.
Paradigms are sets of beliefs and assumptions about how the world works or mental maps that we use to make sense of our world. They are agreements that, as they are used over and over again, have become invisible - it's the way things are - simply because they are used to filter out information that might be contradictory.They affect what we choose to see and what sense we make of the world. See some examples here.
We are living in a period of paradigm change as great as that which transformed medieval society into the Age of Enlightenment and saw science rise to predominance over religion. The challenge is that this transformative switch is not taking 250 years to emerge but is occurring over a period less than a century. Everything and everyone will be affected by it - the travel and tourism sector being no exception. Yet most tourism leaders remain either oblivious or unwilling to contemplate the implications.
We can be forgiven for our reluctance to venture into this space of "deep change" for a number of reasons:
- The time horizons of leaders in tourism are inevitably short. They sell a time and located based service that is highly perishable.
- Their investors and or political masters are interested in short term results not long term strategic planning, as they expect whatever issues arise to be on "someone else's watch".
- Furthermore, there's no precedent. In the past paradigmatic change occurred gradually and almost imperceptibly over several generations. Life at the time might have been both confusing and exciting, but it was still manageable simply because the scale and depth of the change was not clear. If you have never seen or heard about an elephant before, it's hard to get frightened about the prospect of one charging out of the forest in a rage. It's also common for very enlightened folks to move easily between two paradigms. Newton the founder of mechanical physics and responsible for the rise of scientific inquiry and rationalism was a committed Alchemist (he tried to turn dross into gold in his spare time). I suspect several quantum physicists may play the lottery.
At DestiCorp we are convinced that it is both possible and vital that tourism leaders, especially those heading up destinations, national and international associations and agencies, and heads of multi-nationals start investing their time and intellect in understanding that nature and implications of paradigmatic change on their sector and the future livelihoods of the communities they serve. Unless they do, they will be ill equipped to understand let alone deal with the gale force winds of change gathering on the horizon and make the decisions TODAY that will create options for decision-makers tomorrow.
Subsequent posts will provide examples from tourism life that show these deeper forces at work - they'll be tagged with the category "deep change."
WOW! That's pretty heavy for tourism marketers, we know. But if you are interested in what happens after "your watch" as a result of your leadership today; if you have any interest in leaving a positive legacy, then you could do no better than start to understand what all this means.....
This web site is just a start of an exciting journey that will develop over time and hopefully lead to some very fruitful discussions.... Please join us here as we develop more material.
Over the next few days and months, we'll be adding thoughts on
- Tourism Trends and Fashions (2009 - 2010)
- Systemic Change Drivers
- Tourism Growth Forces - the Following Winds
- Tourism Growth Threats - the Head Winds