Reflections 13th December

What’s on my mind


Covid -19, and here in the UK the sheer incompetence of and paucity of thinking behind Brexit has given us a huge shock, and that shock is waking us up painfully and suddenly to the somnabulent path we have been on. We have gone on steadily and increasingly religiously in thrall to serving the idea of perpetual growth, shareholder value, and the supremacy of process, and now we are waking up to the fact that that way of working is broken beyond repair. Waking up may be painful, but it is still waking up.

Brexit may or may not prove to be a bad long term decision, but it does demand we reinvent our economy and ourselves. Covid-19 may have been unprecedented, but it has demanded that we rethink the way we work. Our economy was creaking like an old tree, and this storm has brought it down, but as in nature it creates the light for new growth.

One of the revelations for me over the last few months is the collateral damage of agendas and process. They have become things we do automatically, as a slightly weird form of ceremony. Both are really useful when we know what to do, but crippling to serendipity and creativity when we don’t.

Over the last nine months I have been part of several groups holding what might be described as “free range” meetings. Assembing with an intent of mutual support in an increasing atmosphere of trust to review what we’re noticing and letting the conversation go where it will. The results and pleasure of these conversations have proved profound. It feels a little bit like letting the conversations out of their feeding stall to roam in the woods. The ideas and actions that have resulted have kept us, and our varied enterprises well fed.

What started as an experiment for a few weeks has turned into something important, and I’ve been trying to work out why these groups are different to the many other peer groups I’ver been part of over the years. I’m concluding that it’s because the context is different.

When we meet as peers to discuss the challenges we face I think there are two challenges. Firstly, we often enter the conversations as avatars of ourselves. We wear the mental clothes of our roles – variously as expert, or executive, or facilitator. Secondly, we may be more diverse than otherwise we would have been, but perhaps nowhere near as diverse as we need to be when faced with the complexity we are.

With the groups we have been part of, the first condition does not apply. We turn up as fully qualified human beings not as role holders. Our business status is left at the virtual door, and we don’t talk about the specifics of anyone’s business. Our diversity is limited at present, and we are very aware of it, which is a starting point, but we can and will change that as what started as a limited experiment grows into whatever it turns out to be.

Weathering the storm will require originality, creativity, unlearning that which no longer serves and developing collaboration and community rather than rigid organisation. A degree of stupidity may have got us to now, but we can create something much better on the way out of it.

What’s making me think

When more is not better. Roger Martin’s book “Why more is not better” is an excellent argument that I think we would do well to note. The link here is to a short McKinsey review which is helpful. The book is better.

Book List. This is the DO lectures list. It’s the best I’ve seen so far.

Attachment. We are taught and exhorted to detach ourselves from possesion – of things, and ideas, and feelings. Whilst I endeavour to do so, it’s really difficult. Marketing is a powerful drug. This is a great article to reflect on.

Do Build. Alan Moore’s latest book comes out in March next year, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have had early sight of it. It’s short, simple, and immesely powerful.

A quote

“Sapere aude! Have the courage to use your own understanding!”

The motto of the Enlightenment.

If you’re going to treat what I say as some sort of gospel or dogma, stop. Take it out and burn it. Now. Instead, gather interesting thoughts from a variety of sources and disciplines, then BE YOUR OWN GURU!

John Boyd. Probably the greatest military strategist of the last century, and a hero of mine.

Where I’m focusing

We are coming to the end of a very bumpy year. We should be grateful for what it has taught us, learn the lessons and leave it behind.

I’m focusing on 2021.

If Peer Groups interest you, visit the Originize project. I’d love to hear from you and talk about it.

Have a great week.

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