Our lives and businesses are defined by periods that appear relatively certain, intespersed with short periods of relative chaos from which emerges a “new normal”, until the next element of relative chaos.
I have felt that on a number of fronts, we are in a such a period of real chaos right now. It’s not “bad” (although it feels bad as we transition from “old normal” to “new normal”). The pain only stops when we adjust our expectations and actions to embrace the emerging new normal.
There was an excellent piece on Linkedin by Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Capital on the financial aspects of this. He has long based his investment strategy on these changes, or “paradigm shifts”.
A paradigm is a way of looking at the world. A collection of personal experience, unconscious biases, heuristics, and groupthink that we accept as truth for a while.
All the indications are we’re coming to an end of the last one.
It’s not only finance of course. Coming to terms with inconvenient truths, such as climate change, demographics, globalisation, artificial intelligence and suchlike is a big load to bear. These changes are as unwelcome and threatening as they are real. All of them imply significant changes to the way we live and work, some of them existential.
So what to do?
Get your retaliation in first. Not by following populists whose stock in trade is to deny and blame, and who present a charismatic (but lazy) “solution” to sort it out and go back to the old normal.
Move ahead of the curve; build your own paradigm:
- We can argue all day about the reality of climate change, but if we think in bets it’s far more likely to be real than not, and the downsides to acting as though it is real is limited. Act accordingly. That way, we’ll still be here if we find out it’s wrong.
- Our current wealth model is unsustainable. We need those with the wealth (social, financial, economic, technical) to lead, not defend, and the rest of us not to blame them for being wealthy. It’s not as though they were that clever, it is the “Matthew Principle” systems we have created. We need to find better systems.
- Look for and recognise the opportunities that reside in a different paradigm. We have phenomenal tools to create a more sustainable world based on generative mindsets. It does not have to be a fight.
- Take responsibility. We are where we are. Don’t wait to be rescued. Make a choice about what you do, who you work with, why it’s worthwhile. Use the power of being a wise follower.
- Accept that periodic fads are just that. It used to be business process engineering, then lean sigma, and the latest one that seems to be biting the dust is agile. For a while, these things are useful, but they are never the truth and have limited life spans.
Your imagination and humanity are not fads. They are the engine of what we might create.
Time to bring them into play.