Rough waters

I’ve been in conversations and text exchanges with friends across multiple industries and countries in the past weeks. The one thing in common is the sentiment that we’re in rough waters right now. That the past 6-12 months have been brutal. Most folks are working harder than they’ve ever worked – and feeling like they’re making less progress than they used to.

After a bull market that lasted more than a decade and a low interest rate regime that has lasted multiple decades, the winds have changed. And the waters are significantly rougher. Good times don’t last forever. And while some industries/occupations are immune, there are more affected than not.

My sense is that we’re all still coming to terms with this change. Companies are revising their growth forecasts and realizing easy growth won’t paper over errors of judgment. Customer acquisition is hard and retention is harder than it’s ever been. The job market has switched from being talent-led to being employer-led.

And, in the midst of all of this, after many years of speculation, it is clear that the next big wave after mobile isn’t the internet of things/voice assistants or crypto – it is artificial intelligence. Just as every company grappled with “going mobile,” every company is going to have to think through the impact of artificial intelligence on their business and employees.

It is a lot of change. There’s significantly more noise in the system than we’re used to. We’re in rough waters.

The good news is that this won’t last forever. We’ll eventually accept and embrace these changes. We’ll plan for lower growth, make better investments given the constraints, work out the impact of artificial intelligence, and deal with the second and third order impacts of high interest rates.

But it’ll get harder before it gets easier. We’re going through a seismic shift in both the financial markets and in technology disruption. And the hard work lies in being aware of all these changes, thinking through their impact on our work, and, most importantly, staying focused on what we control.

The good news is that navigating rough waters requires competence. It is a good time to be good at what we do.