Embracing the accelerated pace of technological change

I never like to be late — to anything. But in 2017, I was introduced to a different perspective on punctuality when Lorain County Community College hosted Thomas Friedman as part of the Roy and Bobbi Church Visionary Leadership Institute. This was just after Friedman released his latest book, “Thank you for Being Late.” In it, he proposes harnessing community, collaboration and technology to address potential threats and leverage opportunities created by our rapidly changing world. He attributed a friend’s late arrival to a lunch date as a moment he was gifted to ponder how the modern world is experiencing a host of accelerations in technology, globalization and climate change. Those 10 unplanned minutes of solitude were minutes to think, and for that, he was thankful.

Friedman’s book was one I referenced while speaking at the sixth annual Lorain County Economic Summit this spring. During the summit, leaders from business, education, community, government and philanthropy gathered to look toward the future of our region’s economy and explore the ways in which Ohio is emerging as the Silicon Heartland. Our keynote speaker, Rebecca Fannin, offered a broader perspective by delving into the topics in her book, “Transforming the Midwest from Rust Belt to Tech Belt,” while our panelists brought it all back to Ohio’s role within the transformation.

In the days that followed, I thought often of the parallels between these two books and found myself coming back to one phrase: Accelerated transformation. Our world has been proving Moore’s Law right over and over. As the speed and power of microchips double roughly every two years, the pace of change stemming from the technologies that use microchips will grow exponentially. This has been happening for over 50 years. With the pandemic serving as an accelerant, the past five years alone have brought about more digital change than the past 50 combined. Born within this century of uncertainty is artificial intelligence, a technology that Todd McLees refers to as one of the world’s paradigm-shifting advancements, alongside fire and electricity. McLees, co-founder of HumanSkills.AI, lays out profound capabilities of AI, especially when it’s embraced as a workforce partner rather than a threat. I recently met McLees at a community college convening focused on AI. The experience was truly inspiring, highlighting the vast potential that can be unlocked when industries integrate these rapidly advancing technologies.

As organizational leaders, embracing an accelerated pace of change means leaning into the strategic foresight frameworks that drive our missions proactively and in collaboration with others. The Lorain County Economic Summit served as the kickoff to LCCC’s latest visioning process, which will inform the college’s next strategic plan. Like many organizations, we engage a multitude of diverse stakeholders in discussions guided by a concept known as VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous). By diving into these four areas alongside the broader community, our institution can better identify and anticipate the drivers and megatrends that will impact us all.

In Ohio, we’re taking hold of such an impact right now. The rapid development and reshoring of the semiconductor industry accelerated after the onset of a pandemic ticked every box in the VUCA acronym. And in turn, that rapid pace of change within the industry has enabled Ohio to capitalize on opportunity and solidify itself as the heart of the Silicon Heartland.

So, while I still dislike being late, preferring to be the one with added moments to reflect, I have maintained an appreciation for what time will inevitably bring — change and uncertainty, of course, but also opportunity to embrace what’s next.

Marcia J. Ballinger, Ph.D. is President of Lorain County Community College

Marcia J. Ballinger



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