Watch your S.T.E.P.

Growing up, I was taught a memory technique of creating a word from the letters of what you wanted to remember. The first I recall was “Homes” which was the great lakes in the Midwest – Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior.

Businesses rely on these acronyms all the time, creating unique ones for department names, product offering, etc. Some became actual words such as Scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), Laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation), and Snafu (look it up if you need to).

One of the most common acronyms in business is SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats – as a way to analyze the competitive position by looking both inside and at the external competitive environment.

During a very impactful IBM planning session, (where I was fortunate to be one of a few outsiders invited to), I was introduced to STEP – Social, Technical, Economic, Political – as a way of understanding and building context to the subject being analyzed. These are the realms in which new norms and change happen, where Janus Moments occur.

Larry Downs states in the Law of Disruption “social, political, and economic systems change incrementally, but technology changes exponentially.” This is true and recognizable in how technology causes disruption in the other realms – such as changes in law (texting and driving), work patterns (work from home), and business models (open software development).

And this disruption is true for events as well, where technology’s impact on content creation and distribution, attendee experience, and the definition of an event (i.e. “virtual events”) have all recently changed.

But Janus Moments can, and will, come from any realm and at any speed.

On September 11th, 2001, all norms related to air travel, public safely, and “suspicious behavior” changed in a moment. How many events had metal detector screening the day before? How many did the week after?

On September 17th, 2011 norms related to equality, protest, and politics changed almost as quickly as 1,000 joined the first official day of Occupy Wall Street.

On the other hand, it has taken since 1936 (the first public video telephone service) for video conferencing to become a norm due to economics and social factors.

Watch for the slight, as well as disruptive, movement in social, technical, economic, and politic realms to see Janus Moments as they happen, and to predict when they will occur.


One comment

  1. […] Social, technical, economic, and political changes are impacting education and bringing new and exciting alternatives to traditional approach. How, when, and why people learn is changing. There is a shift away from the classroom and campus (event folks read as keynote/break out room and on site) and towards Pull Learning – accessing knowledge when and how desired by the learner. […]