Come gather ‘round, people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
This classic hit was written 55 years ago by songwriter Bob Dylan, and it’s just as true today. With innovation and technology, the pace of change has quickened. Disruption and digital transformation overwhelms CEOs, employees and industries. Most are becoming “drenched to the bone.” The examples are all around us everyday with Amazon, Uber, social media and smartphones. If you haven’t started swimming, you could be the next stone.
If you think that this sea of change won’t get you wet or even drown you, think again. I remember once hearing futurist Joel Barker talk about paradigm shifts. He asked, “What might seem impossible today, but if it could be done, would revolutionize your industry?” He noted that what is impossible today could be the norm tomorrow. Barker also said, “Those who say it can’t be done, should get out of the way of those doing it.” What are you and your team saying?
I often share some examples with you to demonstrate change is here now. For example:
• LSU was founded 159 years ago and today has roughly 30,000 students on campus. What if I told you that student number could double in next 10 years. Crazy? No. Sasha Thackaberry is vice provost of digital and continuing education. LSU’s goal is to have 30,000 students enrolled in online programs.
Thackaberry came last year from Southern New Hampshire University, where she led a seismic shift in that institution’s online enrollments. The small, private liberal arts college has about 3,000 students on campus in New Hampshire but now is nationally known for distance learning. SNHU offers more than 200 online degree programs to about 100,000 students.
Only about 1,000 students are currently enrolled in online programs at LSU. Many nontraditional students can now attend LSU from across the nation and around the globe. What was impossible is now possible: LSU could educate more than 60,000 students a year in the future.
• If you wonder why we all must keep learning, think robots and artificial intelligence. Don’t laugh. A recent report by Oxford Economics concluded the U.S. has lost 260,000 jobs to robots since 2000. The pace is quickening. More robots were installed in the last four years than in the previous eight years. Louisiana shared the No. 1 ranking with Oregon as the states most vulnerable to automation.
• Remember the cartoon, George Jetson and his flying car? (Some of you are too young.) Well, it is here. Yes, flying food delivery and flying taxis.
Uber is testing drone food delivery in San Diego. McDonald’s sends food to a drop point, where a driver will receive and hand deliver it to your door. Uber has also partnered with Volvo to build an autonomous SUV; Argo AI, partly owned by Ford, is now testing self-driving systems in seven cities.
But Uber and others won’t be limited to using drones for food delivery alone. Uber Air is testing a piloted drone in Australia that could carry four passengers to the airport in five minutes for $70 each—a trip that could take an hour in traffic. (Uber says it will compete with rail service to the airport.)
Other companies are testing autonomous drones for taxis. You can take a look at the future at digitaltrends.com by searching “flying taxis and cars.”
I am sure you are aware of or have read about other major innovations in your industry. The examples are everywhere if you are looking.
In 1964, musician and poet Bob Dylan had no idea of the internet or a smartphone, or driverless cars or drones—he just saw the changes happening in the tumultuous ’60s and warned us all to start swimming or sink.
He was prophetic and knew change is constant, and will happen with you or without you. He told us then: You are better off if you swim. That’s still wise advice in 2019.
What does Saban say?
Maybe you are wondering how you can swim faster than your competition. I recently came across a video online of Alabama coach Nick Saban, who appeared to be speaking to a group of students about their future, winning teams and who they choose to be. (Like him or not, he has a record of building championship teams.)
Saban said this: “The big part of being a team is you have to be able to communicate with other people and you have to work with other people. You can never have any team chemistry for this reason: Mediocre people don’t like high-achievers—and high-achievers don’t like mediocre people. So if everyone doesn’t buy into the same principles and values of the organization at the same high standard, you’re never going to be successful.”
He continued: “You know what my goal is for spring practice? Get the right guys on the bus. Get them in the right seats. And get the wrong guys off the bus. Which of those people do you want to be? When I worked for Bill Belichick (coach of Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots), we had one sign in the building: DO YOUR JOB.
BREC golf must change
If you read the story in our recent TOP 100 issue about BREC golf course and Baton Rouge Zoo usage, you might see the market has changed and some folks refuse to change with it. Why not?
Look at the numbers and financial loses, and guess who gets stuck with the tab? You, the taxpayer.
As those charts showed, 156,281 rounds of golf played were played in 2009, compared to 111,374 in 2018. That’s a 29% drop and about 45,000 fewer rounds. (It should be noted that the Howell Park course closed following the 2016 flood, leaving just six courses.) In 2018, BREC’s courses lost about $2 million dollars, which you had to subsidize.
As I have written before, the parks and recreation system in Austin, Texas, has six public courses—equivalent to what Baton Rouge now has, but to serve a population that is 50% larger than ours. Something is wrong with this picture. Do we have more golfers than Austin or more public money to spend on golf? I think not.
As I have said before, when we look to the future and trends, BREC should close and convert City Park and J.S. Clark golf courses and maintain the four remaining 18-hole courses. That would consolidate play, lower expenses and reduce the losses. Golfers would still have sufficient tee times from which to choose, as other non-BREC courses in our area allow for public play as well.
Golf trends are changing across the nation and Baton Rouge is not exempt. BREC has a responsibility to be a good steward of public tax dollars and consider the “greater good.” Catering to a small group of neighborhoods that want to maintain the status quo is not in its mission. The handwriting is on the wall; it’s time for BREC and Baton Rouge to face it.