By Dean Whittaker

With the rapid rate of change taking place around us, it is hard to find a solid place on which to stand. Few of us are rewarded for thinking very far into the future and feel no need to do so. Planning beyond a year or two seems like a waste of time. There are so many disruptive technologies that eclipse segments such as retail with Amazon same day delivery and eBay now offering same hour in metro areas.

Another potentially disruptive technology is Bitcoin, the virtual currency that has been much in the news resulting in scrutiny by the Federal Reserve and Congress. What would happen if the dollar was no longer the medium of exchange for commerce in the world? Interesting question…

Perhaps the most compelling ideas I heard this month came from Rick Smyre with Communities for the Future. In a 90-minute webinar, Rick described a future world of complex adaptive systems that he calls the Creative Molecular Economy. He sees that we are operating in three economies, the industrial economy, the knowledge economy, and the emerging creative molecular economy. Each economy has its own set of dynamics.

As we transition from one economy to the next, it requires us to be able to rapidly adapt to change. Creating resiliency in ourselves and our communities is part of the challenge. He said that we need to transform economic development and challenge our underlying assumptions. The need to think systemically is the biggest shift. Smyre advocated that we consider nature and the complex adaptive systems it contains as we contemplate the creative molecular economy that moves us away from an economic model and towards an ecological one. For me, the concept of a circular economy comes to mind. One in which we break the unsustainable cycle of take, make, and waste, and replace it with make, use, and re-use.

As Peter Drucker pointed out, societies periodically undergo a time in which its institution need to re-conceptualized. It is a transformative time in which our old way of doing things no longer works. The accelerating rate of change will require us to re-think our entire social structure including government, education, and the economic system, which, all of which is my opinion, are becoming increasingly dysfunctional as Drucker says will happen during these transitional periods.

Smyre envisions a future entrepreneurial workforce linked and operating in complex adaptive system of interlocking networks. To many of us this will sound like “fringe” thinking…at the outer edge of the plausible. However, as we all try to make sense of the world around us, we might do well to take a look at the work of Rick Smyre and Communities for the Future.