Domesticating ideas is dangerous…

Dangerous things ideas. They have a life of their own.

Right now, there are a lot of them out there looking for a home, and as with anything wild we either run away from them, or try to domesticate them so we can control them. When we fear them, they will just carry on without us, and when we domesticate them, we don’t learn the lesson they are trying to teach us.

The internet is an idea that has a way to enable us to connect humans and the things we create (nature already does a great job of that at a higher level, but we’ll brush over that for a moment). For the last fifty years, since ARPANET first appeared, we’ve been trying to do that and bend it to our will. Like a lion tamer at an old fashioned circus, it is a dangerous exercise and complacency is likely to end badly.

As technology becomes ever more powerful with AI and machine learning, pairing with the connection of everyone and everything man made to everyone else and everything else, it calls the master/ servant relationship into question, and which side of that divide we each find ourselves on.

The same I suspect is true of more behavioural ideas, such as “work from home”. The pandemic has accelerated what was already a growing possibility and forced it centre stage rather faster than our established infrastructure was ready for. Of course many of us can work from home, or at least, not from an office, making a good chunk of expensive office space surplus to requirements, at least for a while until it is repurposed. Trying to use a form of narrative warfare to convince people to go back to offices because organisations and landlords weren’t ready is also likely to end badly.

Perhaps we also need to pay attenton to other behaviours and practices, like leadership, and coaching. Both have become industries in the last fifty years, modelled on ways of working that are disappearing. We still try to convince people that there are copiable traits and habits and, “hey presto!” instant leader. Or, that we can shape people to perform through “performance coaching”. Yes we can, for a while, but like those lions, their true nature and talent is looking for expression, and the minute they stop being afraid of the whip, they will stop obeying. We may have domesticated leadership, and coaching for a while, but I suspect that while is ending.

There are teachable leadership skills, and coaching has a real place in doing that but first we have to recognise the idea that is the person we are expecting to lead. That is about character, and purpose. Harness those, and find ways to give them expression and everyone will benefit. Try to suppress them in favour of a manufactured purpose for an organisation and the moment our back is turned….

This is a time of wild ideas. We need to align ourselves with them for the sake of the planet that we are part of, and not least for our own well being and the health of our souls.

Domesticating them is dangerous.

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