Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Sep 2019


Term comes from the book Timefullness… fear of time and it’s effects

Can remember the moment clearly. Was sitting in the car, traveling on a familiar course of road in Philly, and then it hit me — I will die. I will cease to breathe. The very next breaths were difficult. I began feeling each breath differently for the next minutes. Each pulse as it resonated. Each movement became more valued with this realization. I believe that it was at this moment I not only realized my own mortality, but also just how subservient to time and its effects I will be. As every athlete says, “Father Time is the only undefeated opponent.”

Teams and organizations also come to similar moments, and how they deal with acknowledging this grasp of mortality begins to shape how they operate and what they might leave forward. Those groups who fear their own mortality, might begin to do things such as increase team size (at the cost of company culture), or expand into markets (in order to minimize the effects of disruptive entrants). Groups who sense their coming end might go to more drastic effects — lobbying governments, destroying-then-creating new governments, or worse, committing a kind of suicide. The latter being an action to be remembered for what they did well, and hopefully plant seeds of a remembered legacy for what comes next.

Chronophobia… a word which came into context recently and along with it, these thoughts about the weight and value of time to both individuals and groups.

We are peculiar in some respects. Most of us live within the confines of this temporal plane and do our best to ignore this fear of the effects of time, but we can’t. From adaptive technologies, to rules around ageism, there’s a tact acknowledgement that we are clearly servants of time’s effects, but also that there’s some measure of fulfillment which can come if we don’t live in fear of it, but embrace it.

The social media timeline has warped this perspective for some. In its linear, and unforgiving-to-some, nature, it seems to trumpet the loudest, most profane, and emotional peaks of time’s effects. At its very core, the timeline isn’t under anyone’s control — only your attentiveness to it. But, if you acquiesce to trying to pay attention to every point and wave within it, chronophobia takes hold in a manner it shouldn’t. You begin feeling each text, each tweet, each notification as a ticking clock to your own connected mortality. And this isn’t the best way to live. Sure, a little fear makes sense. But, to be overwhelmed by it will cause you to make decisions, adopt behaviors, or even restrict others from living beyond the warped planes of connected spaces.

Time is such a weighty and powerful reality. It is also a dance partner. Don’t be afraid of having your toes stepped on if you are enjoying the song.