The end of January, and already so much to reflect on, as the optimism and joy of the work of scientists creating multiple vaccines descends into recriminations and division as the hard work of turning discovery into delivery piles the pressure on.
Diversity has been on my mind. Not just the fashionable and necessary drive to make representative bodies more inclusive, but on how we think. Most of us have been brought up and trained in predominantly reductionist, analytical ways of thinking and working, in approaches to business and society focused on efficiency and growth, and it limits the way we think. (see below in articles). Focusing is powerful, as long as we do it deliberately and thoughtfully. Focusing on what’s important now, in the context of what it is part of.
Topically, focusing on punishing a particular pharmaceutical business, working for no profit, whilst they are stiil learning how to mass produce vaccine, when we are right at the very beginning of a global need for it does not seem to be the most intelligent of responses. Understandable, but dangerous. Understanding, and as importantly communicating this is the stuff of leadership, not management.
So how might we all make a difference in these times of chronic uncertainty? I suggest in four ways.
- Firstly, look and feel through different lenses. Our first tool is normally analysis, using our powerful brains to apply powerful tools of analysis and logic, but it’s not enough. Our other senses – emotions, intuition and sensation are not just along for the ride, they are critical in determining what we see, and therefore how we respond. At the end of last year, a group of us, from very different backgrounds who have been working together since the first lockdown decided to do a review of what we had learned, with no constraints as to how to express it. We had scientists reviewing in poetry and imagery. We had designers using biological metaphor, and business leaders using prose. The combined effect was quite profound, and we produced a small book of it as a memento. We learned a lot.
- Secondly, take time out from the normal busyness. Make time to walk in nature, to read differently to normal (I keep a bookshelf from Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations’ to Rumi and Kahlil Gibran, to Bob Dylan). Spending time with them changes things.
- Thirdly, use the perspective of time and consider the infinite game as well as the stuff of today. When we think in “Deep Time”, where our lives are fleeting moments, changes things. The members of the Iroquois Federation would only make decisions after they reflected on the possible implications seven generations into the future.
- Lastly, widen the people you talk to – really talk and listen to – about what’s going on around us. Preferably people you normally disagree with. Hard work and sometimes frustrating, but it’s where real insight often lies. To see something as other see it.
Under pressure, we jump to conclusions and react according to habit. We can’t afford to do that right now, or even tomorrow.
Real dialogue, combined with empathy and humility is needed right now, no matter what area we operate in.
Books that have inspired me on diversity.
Farsighted. How we make the decisions that matter most. Steven Johnson. A very readable guide to how decisions that matter beyond now get made.
Thinking Fast and Slow. Daniel Kahneman. World famous work that is still my go to when thinkijng about how we really make decisions.
Biomimicry. Janine Benyus. How Nature does it.
Perspective. We make decisions based on our own experience of life. It’s tiny, and not enough.
The pandemic has changed the nature of friendships. Friendships and dialogue has rarely been more important. We need to take care of them both
The Tyranny of work. We let it occupy far more of our lives than it deserves. Make space.
I love this. it’s how my perfect organisation would work – somebody starts, those who want join in bringing their own talents from a mindset of generosity. The money follows, not leads. not for corporations though…
Right now, what we value matters. I’m just starting her latest book, Mission Economy which, if it’s anything like this, should be a belter…
Have a great weeek.