Feeling for the “Click”

Many years ago, I was living and working in the mountains of Cyprus, and in my old office was an old safe to keep secure what needed to be kept secure. It was a thing of beauty and would, I’m sure, have made a good film prop. Over its many years of service, it had developed “character” – you had to treat it gently, fiddle with it through the five directional turns needed to align the tumblers and feel for the “click’ as much as rely on the combination. It was art as much as process.

As we deal with Omicron, dysfunctional politics, the realities of CoP26, identifying ways forward feels similar. Getting to the “click” of insight is a matter of sensing our way towards it.

Often I find, the answers we’re looking for are not where we thought we left them. Case studies, “tried and tested solutions,” and expensively acquired knowledge and seniority often lend more confusion than clarity. The infrastructure that goes with scale means we move more slowly than the changes going on require and I’m drawn back to the importance of what we have always known; operational decisions are best made closest to where the action is.

In indigenous communities, elders provided context, but the young people took the action and made the decisions as they needed to. Telling people the combination is fine, but you can only feel the “click” when you have your hands on the dial.

As we hold more and more exploratory conversations at Originize, with ever more diverse small groups, around a widening range of topics, it is instructive to see something similar happen. Perhaps because none of the members work together, and because these are not “paid for” events, or maybe that the people who turn up want to be there, are curious, generous and open of mind and heart, there is no sense of rank, hierarchy or status. Not much gets in the way of what we are looking at, and the balance between the perspective of experience and the dynamism of youth feels much better balanced. It’s too early yet to see what actually happens as a result of these conversations, but I’m confident it’s not nothing. It may take a while for the right ripples to wash up on the right shore, but somewhere there will be a connection that otherwise might not have been felt.

I’ve recently been reading the work of Adam Kahane, and this extract from “Power and Love” sums up, I think, where we are at present.

A challenge is tough when it is complex in three ways.

A challenge is dynamically complex when cause and effect are interdependent and far apart in space and time; such challenges cannot successfully be addressed piece by piece, but only by seeing the system as a whole.

A challenge is socially complex when the actors involved have different perspectives and interests; such challenges cannot successfully be addressed by experts or authorities, but only with the engagement of the actors themselves.

And a challenge is generatively complex when its future is fundamentally unfamiliar and undetermined; such challenges cannot successfully be addressed by applying “best practice” solutions from the past, but only by growing new, “next practice” solutions.

This is a time for doing the work that looks for insight more than available solutions, and we need to have our hands on the dial, not shouting the combination at the people doing the work.

Feeling for the click.

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