We've put paranoia on a pedestal and now we can't relax

MUCH fun is frequently made of consultants' claims that the future is coming faster than ever before. This is part of people's thinking that the generation they are in is always the most dynamic, pressured, or whatever, it is suggested.

But in one sense at least, the 1990s commentators are right. Things these days have the capacity to go wrong much more quickly and dramatically than ever before. One only has to look at the troubles of such retailers as J Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer.

Things can also go right of course, as various fast-growing internet- related stocks demonstrate.

But this is scary stuff. So scary that it makes paranoia the way of the business world.

Indeed, if you are a hard-pressed manager and somebody like Andy Grove, at the time heading Intel, comes along with a book called Only The Paranoid Survive ,it must be a little disconcerting.

Mr Grove is an engaging writer and an even more convincing speaker, able like few others to make being in business sound like an exciting adventure. But by making it apparent that this is an ultra-competitive activity totally inappro- priate for the faint hearted, he and others, notably Tom Peters, have given a whole generation of managers the idea that they must constantly behave as if they are in the early days of a start-up.

Time was when there were a few frenetic organisations that could steal a competitive advantage by being more aggressive than the pack. But there was still room for the slower-paced and more relaxed organisations to make a living.

In recent years, though, it seems as if the bar has been raised. Everybody is roaring around without a minute to live, or think.

And because everybody, rather than just a few, is playing aggressively, a company only has to take its eye off the ball for a minute to find itself vulnerable if not in outright danger.

Accordingly, when a Sainsbury's or a Marks & Spencer seemingly loses it way, there is little crowing among rivals. In this mood of paranoia such events only reinforce the conviction that they cannot relax and that if they do not continue to battle hard they will be next.

This is not so bad on its own. Indeed, those consultants who are so excited about the "fast approaching" future would doubtless rave about such dynamism. But there is a cost to this. Though we all use machines these days, we have not yet turned into them. As a result, it is nearly impossible to keep up this hard-driving attitude for ever.

And though organisations can go some way towards countering this problem by constantly recruiting new staff, they would do well to ponder whether this is a cause of those sudden drops in performance that seem to be all too commonplace today.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior Analyst - ALM Data - Banking - Halifax

£350 - £400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Analyst, ALM Data, Halifax, ...

Java developer - Banking - London - Up to £600/day

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Java developer - Banking - London - Up to £600/d...

Liquidity Reporting-Basel III-LCR-Bank-£400/day

£400 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Liquidity Reporting - Basel III - LCR - Ba...

Client Services Associate (MS Office, Analysis, Graduate)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client Services Associate (Microsoft Office, Ana...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz