While the talk is often about the nature of disruptive change, most of the time change while it is happening is incremental and not easy to discern. Think about watching your parents grow older – one day you look at them and you think – when did they get old? The same is true of watching your kids grow up. Day by day you don’t really notice it but then one day your son or your daughter is taller than you.
In the context of daily habits, change is incremental as well. I thought of this as I read part of the newspaper on my phone this morning. A few years ago I would have categorically rejected the thought that I might enjoy reading the newspaper on my phone screen. I recall a trip out of the country where I was able to read the New York Times on my phone and I was pleased to both have the access as well as surprised at how easy it was and how much I enjoyed the experience. I am on the road to dispensing with printed newspapers (and magazines) altogether. Not this year maybe but the process is well underway I acknowledge.
An article in this morning’s New York Times cited a recent Nielsen study that estimated five million households do not have TV sets, adding that “50 percent of those homes have heads of households under 35.” We already knew that traditional television is losing real time viewers and younger viewers, but this statistic really caught my attention. The change did not happen in a disruptive manner but rather in an insidious and incremental way. Yet there’s no denying that the change in television viewing is a significant behavioral change. It just did not happen overnight.
Pundits like to talk about massive societal ‘inflection points’ – where there is clear demarcation that a major disruptive change has occurred. I think that too often an answer is forced to fit a particular hypothesis – like the launch of Facebook changed people’s online habits forever more. I contend that the change in people’s online habits began long before Mark Zuckerberg was a student at Harvard.
I try to be self-aware of incremental changes that I make without thinking about them. I am not all that successful at it until after the changes are imbued in my daily behavior. I’m not quite ready to give up my cable connected television just yet but I feel that I am closer than I was a year ago. Internet enabled television (for example) is on the precipice of becoming the norm and aside from watching live events (news, sports, Oscars?) most of the television I watch is recorded.
How about you? Have you noticed changes in your day-to-day habits while they are occurring or after the change has occurred?