William was a candle maker from England and James was soap maker from Ireland.  They met when they married sisters.  Their father-in-law encouraged them to go into business together.  During the Civil War, they had a contract with the union army for soap and candles.  This was more than just a contract, because soldiers across the country learned about the business that William and James created.

While the soap and candle business did well, William and James realized that they needed to diversify by offering additional products.  This led to a number of new products to serve the household market.  But another challenge confronted William and James’ successors:  How to make people aware of their products.  With the advent of radio, they began to sponsor programming consisting of serialized dramas that homemakers became addicted to.  Today, we call these dramas soap operas because of the frequent plugs for the company’s products throughout the shows.

As society changed, the company that William and James created continued to adapt to these changes.  Today, Procter and Gamble (the last names of the founders) remains one of the most successful companies in the world, largely because of its adaptive culture.

There are very few people who will do the same work throughout their career.  In some cases, the need for the job will disappear.  In other cases, technology will change everything about the job.  We have had to adapt.

How we live our lives will also change. In some cases, we have become a society that does little for itself.  In other cases, the line between job and personal life is hard to define.  Social interactions have become more virtual through technology.  We have had to adapt.

What is important to us has also evolved.  We have so many more choices for how we use our time.  Again, technology has opened up a lot of possibilities for how we invest our time and resources.  But technology has also created a lot of distractions that compete for things that we deem more important but can’t seem to enjoy.  We have had to adapt.

The pace of change is every increasing.  But have we prepared ourselves to be adaptable?  Conversely, is adaptability simply an excuse to jettison the past in favor of shiny new objects?  How can we retain a sense of our heritage, even when confronted with the need to change?

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“A wise man adapts himself to circumstances as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.” – Anonymous

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