Are we nearly there yet?

For those of us interested in the nature of change, this is a fertile time.

It’s a though a whole bevy (what a great collective noun!) of black swans have taken flight (when they become a wedge – another great metaphor) and are heading right for us.

Our individual and collective reactions vary, but in general we tend to be negative. We see them as a potential threat, and hope that somehow we can stop them arriving – as though where we are now is where we really want to be.

We’d actually like other people to take care of it for us, whether its climate change, technology change, our politics or Brexit.

The inconvenient truth is that this is a system. All of it. And we’re part of that system. We have a duty to ourselves, and the communities we are part of not just to have a view, but to exercise it. We’re hugely privileged to live in what is still a democracy, no matter how bent out of shape it may have become.

What is clear is that these swan are coming in to land, and it behooves us to be ready. Depending on our mindsets, there will be as many positives (which we may not yet see) as there are negatives (most of which we see, and make up a few more for good measure)

What seems certain is that there will be significant change. I suspect, to switch metaphor, that it will be like a forest fire. It will take out old wood and dead wood to create room and nutrients for new growth. Parts of it will be frightening for us. It already is, because it’s something that is happening rather than something that is going to. We’re in the middle of it.

There’s lots we can do. We can not hope it will go away. We can not wait for somebody else to deal with it.

We can take action, no matter how small. Drive less, fly less, use technology, learn new ways of doing old habits, reduce unconscious dependence on chindogu. Use our imaginations. Refuse to be afraid. Do more than talk about it.

What we face is a great challenge, but that’s what, as humans, we are designed for.

Prospectors, Craftspeople, and Merchants

Every value chain involves, broadly, three archetypes.

The prospectors (or explorers) driven to discover, or create, something new. Something that the world needs, or that is in short supply. Over time; spices, precious stones, gold, oil, money, mass production techniques, the internet. Prospectors bring these into being though passion, commitment, love. In their first iterations they are often quite crude, but start a landslide.

The craftspeople who take these first iterations and develop them through experimentation, collaboration, initial offerings. They get a sense of the potential of the idea, product or material and refine them. they are artists, and have the same endless drive for perfection.

The merchants understand where the needs are, and act as the bridge between the concept of the craftspeople and the demand in the market. As demand develops, they find others who can produce facsimiles of the craftspeople’s art in order to meet volume demand, and increase margins. In the end, whilst the original art remains at a premium, the majority of the market is served by good enough, formulas, algorithms.

For the last hundred years at least, we have been in the age of the merchant. I suspect however, that it has just about run its course. We can buy versions of all that is desirable, even if we can’t afford the original. We’re becoming sated with “stuff”. Originality, meaning and beauty is harder to find when we measure everything in money.

We need prospectors to find us new sources of value in age where we have to reframe how we live and work on a planet we are putting under pressure.

What we need to discover is out there waiting for us to find it, and we have the imagination and skill to polish and perfect what we find.

But first, we have to go looking. It will not just be served up on demand.

Vision and Goals

Our current politics, and business, is surfacing some interesting thoughts for me.

We all get the “vision thing” – and indeed it’s foundational to something worthwhile in the long term.

But it’s difficult to have a vision when you’re uncomfortable, or under threat.

For most people, Visions are created from places of stillness and relative certainty, when the mind and imagination can be fully harnessed.

When we’re uncomfortable, we need a goal. To be somewhere clear and definable, that is different to where we are right now.

BREXIT is a good example. For a (far too long) time, we have been procrastinating about what sort of “out of the EU” we want. We have been entertaining visions, when what was needed was goals.

Whatever one might think of Boris (and, to be fair, what I think is not really printable) he has tapped into a goal. “Out by 31 October, come what may”

That goal may inspire you, or horrify you but it’s unlikely to leave you indifferent. It creates movement and energy and those who oppose him have to find a similarly clear goal, and match it with energy, if they are to be heard.

What he has done is provided a catalyst, and maybe we needed that.

Enough of BREXIT, but the lesson is one we can apply to our businesses (and often, ourselves). We have a choice; we can either complain about what’s going on around us and espouse a vision of what we would like it to be, or we can set a goal, an uncomfortably catalysing goal, and do something – even when the outcome is unclear. It will move us forward, it may fail, but we will not be where we are currently complaining about.

Perhaps sometimes, we have to go goals first and let the vision emerge from what we discover.