Mindset, people key to competing in era of exponential change

I was cleaning out a corner of my basement the other day and came upon a stack of newspapers among my late mother’s things. The papers were yellowed and fraying but their headlines still screamed of our shared national history: “Kennedy Assassinated; U.S. Puts 1st Men On Moon; Nixon Resigns.” 

Newspapers are famously called “the first draft of history,” so I brought the edition with moon landing coverage, which was published July 21, 1969, into the office. There are only a few of us in our company who were alive to witness that historic feat. Everyone else either learned about the moon landing through the filter of a textbook or were fed Hollywood’s take. 

The St. Paul Pioneer Press in those days was exceptionally large, both in length and dimension. The reporting on the moon landing intrigued us all. Did you know a half a billion people watched the moon landing on television? Compare that to the largest audience in Super Bowl history: 112 million. The entire world, with the exception of China, celebrated this milestone, according to the news of the day. 

The paper held other surprises for my millennial and Gen Z colleagues. For instance, you could buy a nice pair of dress shoes for eight bucks; a brand of granulated sugar was pitched with the tagline “GW Sugar puts the fun in fitness”; several banks offered CDs that paid 5.25 percent; one bank touted “easy on the eyes” fashions worn by its tellers; there were 10 pages of classified ads with the smallest typeface most had ever seen; and the list of TV shows all wrapped up by midnight — on all five channels. Those were the days, my friends.

I’ve heard it said that standing still is the fastest way to move backward. More than two recessions ago, I heard a futurist tell a group of Iowa bankers that the rate of technological change is accelerating exponentially; it’s moving much faster than societal or cultural change. Lawmakers and regulators, and many in business, cannot keep up. Consider that we all walk around with more computing power in our pockets than was used to put the boots of Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin on the surface of the moon.

It wasn’t all that long ago when we were introduced to software as a service, or SaaS. Now, it’s BaaS — banking as a service, which offers “sky’s the limit” growth opportunities. How will you keep up? The answer lies with your people. They have to be more than open to change: They should be hungry for change and eager to find new ways to adapt your product and service delivery to our fast-changing world.

On the topic of talent, banks are having an increasingly difficult time finding the people who can move with them into the future. Take a look around your table of decision-makers. If you aren’t seeing meaningful diversity of lived experience, you risk getting left behind.