SlowFast Johan Schlasberg, innovation- and strategy consultant

In the developed world, we are living in an age when a lot of things are getting smaller and faster. I guess most of us like that electronics shrink in size and price and that e-mail can deliver a message real fast. We slowly adapt to a 24/7 society, pervasive computing, mobile phones and "the digital lifestyle".

Society is always ON. Machines get faster and smarter, but I am not so sure that we humans do. An alarming number of people get burnt out or feel stressed. Is this the way it is going to be - forever??

In 1998 I coined the phrase The SlowFast Society, to give you an image of a society that has a balance between things that would benefit of being slow and those we like to be fast or even faster.

It is kind of a vision and goal. A vision of a good society has many dimensions as we all know. Here we focus on the SlowFast dimension.

The basic assumption and suggestion is that there is a need to balance the fast and the slow. It is good that technology helps improve our lives. I am glad that my daughter can reach me on the mobile phone and that I can send an e-mail in the middle of the night. The same technology also makes life more hectic and always on, so to say.

Expected turnaround time for your response to questions from customers, colleagues and family has decreased. At work, moments of reflection are increasingly being looked upon as unproductive.

We are being bombarded by news and are e.g urged to buy devices to follow stockprices wherever we go. The list could be expanded and filled with examples. We could add research reports and stories about the growing number of people who feel burned out and just can't take it any more.

Slow things down? A possible 'solution' to this New Stress, (someone will soon start calling it e-stress) could be to try slowing things down. That is a tough proposition when you have all these deadlines to reach and want to achieve so much. But, on the other hand if we want certain things to go faster and other things to go more slowly, we need another model. Perhaps like the one below.

SlowFast as a Oneline model
Oneline models are very popular. First I must say that I refute any similarity to the phrase one-liner, as I think wittiness stands in the way if you want to be taken seriously. Let's continue.

Imagine a straight line where we put the word Slow at one end and the word Fast at the other end. This simple model suggests that we could achieve a better balance if we move towards the other pole (depending a bit on where you are from the beginning).

To make it more realistic, let's say that you need three oneline models. The first represents your social life, the second your private life and the third your work life. Now we have three Oneliners and you may change your SlowFast mix as you please. That is in theory.

Our goal right now is not to comment on the possible merits of this metaphor. Let' s change into another metaphor. The horse-shoe.

SlowFast as a horseshoe model

Maybe it takes another word, but the idea is to convey an image in which the end points may be closer to one another that the middle. In this model you may move both towards the fast side and the slow side at the same time. be developed

SlowFast - Three zones

Assume a simple model of three zones. Our personal life, a company or an organisation and society. These zones interact in all sorts of ways. All these zones show SlowFast characteristics. Let's take a quick look.

The SlowFast life

The SlowFast matrix
High speed
Low speed
High touch
Low touch

We now have a model where we can sort a few of our ideas and activities. The word 'high touch' signifies more personal values like friendship, reflection, love etc.
'Low touch' are more mundane things like posting a letter, buying a ticket, voting, checking into a hotel room etc. etc.

The concept of the SlowFast Society suggests that certain things will benefit from getting faster and easier, other things will benefit from a slower pace. Our experience of beautiful things, nature and friends will certainly benefit from a slower pace, whereas reserving a ticket, moving information and establishing a contact or filing your income statements will benefit from an easier and faster solution.

. to be developed

The SlowFast top 20 list
What would you like to speed up or slow down in your life? And where does technology fit into this picture? This is the simple foundation for a research project I am now working on.

The SlowFast Organization
Anybody who is interested in getting ahead in an organization, had better show some signs of speed. Action is highly valued.

The rush into what in the media is referred to as "dotcom companies" is just an example of activity where the call for action overrides the need for thinking. As action in a person is a valued competence, speaking out against it is sometimes nit wanted.

Nevertheless I think that successful companies need a SlowFast balance.

To be developed

The SlowFast Society
I guess organizations and Society benefit from people who feel life is fairly OK. In the SlowFast Society and the SlowFast Organisation and the SlowFast Reality of our own lives, we would probably benefit from thinking/filtering a number of activities etc. in terms of the SlowFast matrix.

SlowFast Technology
New technology very often increases speed. The debate on SlowFast issues is gaining more visibility these day. More and more people question how technology really impacts their life.

We will probably get better at choosing. This will more often mean saying no. And we will rediscover that devices of all sorts can be switched off. It is also possible that technology will be evaluated also on the dimension of how it impacts society and our lives. Certain technologies should benefit greatly from such an analysis, others will be more questioned.

Your comments are very welcome.


Copyright Johan Schlasberg 1998-2015