Make the Button Work

We are remarkably prone to believing we’re doing something, when in reality we’re not. I was reminded of this when reading a passage in John Elkington’s remarkable and compelling “Green Swans

When we want to cross the road, we press the button. If we’re really impatient we’ll press it several times. So will the person arriving after us. And the one after her. We don’t think about it.

But does it actually do anything? Often, it doesn’t. The button feels like it works, but it’s not connected to anything. The crossing lights are determined by something else altogether – nothing to do with the button, but it let’s us think we are in control.

Much of what we do day to day, at work and at home operates on the same principle, from leadership training to dieting. We do the course, or eat the salad and feel we’ve done the right thing, but we’re not connected.

We learn about leadership, but don’t practice it because it goes against the existing culture. We may have been trained, but those on the other end, the people we’re supposed to lead don’t know we’ve been on the course, and just put it down to “another course”. But we’ve pressed the button.

We eat the salad, but don’t do the exercise, don’t do either regularly, and blame the diet.

When work is stable, and we’re only a little overweight, that’s fine. We’re making and effort and supporting a gym. There are entire industries out there who are grateful.

Connect the Button

We are in times of remarkable change. Covid-19 is one manifestation. There are many others waiting for us – not just the huge one of Climate Change, but lots of other, smaller ones – the impact of AI, collapsing birth rates, the fragility of our “froth” economy.

And they’re not all bad – every shadow has a light that casts it. The opportunities for us are enormous, if hiding in plain sight.

We are enough as we are, we just have to apply it with intent.

We cannot afford to press the buttons in our life mindlessly.

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