Leadership Blog

The 3rd Wave

Posted on October 25, 2013 | in Culture | by

A Third Wave of change in society is so fast and so large that society must bring together its best talents and skills to deal with it … or the consequences will be disastrous.  Alvin Toffler, a prominent futurist who successfully predicted the impact of trends in our society, wrote The Third Wave, describing how our society is in the infant stages of a dramatic change process which humankind has not seen in centuries.

To interpret Toffler, society previously experienced two waves of great change, the first being the transition from a caveman to a farmer.  We found that instead of hunting for our daily food, we could domesticate animals and plants, hence improving the quality of life.  The second wave evidenced itself in the form of the industrial revolution starting in the 18th century when society transitioned from a farmer to a factory worker.  We found that by working together, we again improved the quality of life, admittedly accompanied by some negative tradeoffs.

Labeling this Third Wave the “globalization and information-age,” Toffler suggests that we are faced with two choices:

  • Harness the energy of the third wave to again improve the quality of life, or
  • Be devastated by the 3rd wave.

The first wave made a splash on the beach of society.  The second wave washed out the sand castle you built with the kids.  The third wave has the potential to wipe out the beach because it is a societal tsunami!  Evidence for this third wave abounds today with tectonic shifts in technology, organizational structures, financial institutions, and global interdependencies.  No business, institution, or individual can escape the changes.

Other futurists like Friedman and Mandelbaum have echoed Toffler’s mantra.  You, as leaders, must embrace the changes as well as grasp the opportunities to again improve the quality of life.  The benefits are enormous, as are the risks!  As leaders, you can lead the adventure of change, or be run over by “Third Wave.”  This week, list your 3rd Wave changes your team is experiencing, and find new ways to accelerate them.

… And Pass It On!


Quote from President John F. Kennedy: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

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