On the road to…..?

We are in a time of unprecedented turbulence, at the conjunction of changes in geopolitics, technology, demographics and the universal existential threat to our environment. The status quo has gone absent.

We need to step into our own authority, to be the genuine author of our own lives.

In his introduction to “The Alchemist” Paulo Coelho identifies four barriers that stop us; firstly that we are told from childhood that everything we want to do is impossible; secondly that we will hurt those around us if we set off on the path we want to follow; thirdly the fear of the defeats we will encounter along the way and lastly the guilt and fear of realising what we have always wanted. (If you haven’t read it, put it on your list – it is a beautiful little book)

More prosaically, we talk about the path from dependence, through independence to interdependence. Each state is largely a choice, with the hurdles above looming in front of us.

The turbulence we are in is key. All of us in the West alive today have been brought up in conditions where dependence has been encouraged – reward for conformity. Dependence on an employer, or the state. Independence achieved either by climbing to the top of the pile, or becoming an outlier and abandoning the pile altogether. True interdependence largely countered by a culture of competition.

In the very near future we will find out who is right about the impact of Artificial Intelligence – those who say it will destroy jobs, or those who say it will create them. Whoever is right though, it seems sensible to hedge our bets.

To identify what it is we really want to do, or are prepared to commit to, wholeheartedly.

To seek mastery of something that gives us independence, and allows us to make a choice with whom, and for what purpose, we are willing to be interdependent.

To step into our own authority.


Craft vs. DIY

Over the last hundred years we have got used to their being “Expert Answers”, “Best Practice” and consultants of all stripes have made very good livings from them.

The trouble is, they no longer work. The challenges we face are so complex, so multi faceted and so connected, solving problems by analogy no longer does it. The fact that it worked for someone else, somewhere else, sometime else does not mean it will work for you.

That leaves a dilemma. With so much call on our attention, how do we proceed. Consultants offer “band aid” relief but rarely long term solutions. There are thousands of good books and videos out there by reputable authors, but who has time to read enough of them to get a good balanced view? The battle for talent – recruitment and retention – is brutal.

We can adopt a DIY approach – doing the best we can with who and what we know across a range of disciplines from accountancy to the impact of machine learning, and end up with flat pack answers. Functional, cheap, and fast but no different to other people’s answers. Probably fine for the functional areas of operations, but not for those areas of relationships, purpose, connection and design, which are the stuff of original thinking.

Or we can adopt a craft approach to the areas where the difference really gets made – leadership, connection, compelling purpose. The things we are remembered for. Making a real and lasting difference to people’s lives.

Flat pack is fine for the kitchen table, but people will notice the difference between the artistry of the chef, and the convenience of a ready meal in the food you serve on it.

We can’t be craftswomen or men at everything we do, but that’s no reason for not dedicating yourself to the craft of something people will remember you for.

Old Magic vs. New Magic

It’s a tad confusing out there for most of us right now. We have developed models and sets of rules, from economics, politics, science and business over the last few hundred years, and particularly over the last seventy or so that are supposed to enable us to work our world. We developed the magic of “solutions”.

And they’ve seemed to stop working.

Thinking the Unthinkable is an interesting ongoing project that is trying to make some sort of sense of what is happening in the liminal space (the fluid state between defined spaces). We are dealing with huge issues, and we can make sense of them – but not by using the old rules.

In many respects it reminds me of dark matter and dark energy. We have to believe it exists, because otherwise none of our physics works. For for universe to be the way we understand it, our physics requires that there is more mass out there than we can see, and more energy to power it than we can measure with our current tools. Calculations suggest it makes up 95% of the universe.

We have to think differently – not just in the motivational poster way, but in a manner that is potentially much more scary and examine all our assumptions about how the things we’ve been schooled in, work.

Leadership for example. It used to be relatively easy. We had relatively limited remits – tribes, towns, countries, organisations, businesses. They were quite well defined, and had an understood pecking order. Leadership involved keeping them together within the confines of a set of shared beliefs or purpose against other sets of people with different beliefs and purpose. The stuff of politics and its natural extension, war.

Those convenient boundaries seem to have been removed. I can be part of one community, inspired by another, paid by another (or several). My worldview is influenced by what I hear and see, and in turn that is being influenced by invisible people who are shaping what I hear and see to their ends.

There’s a danger that I’m being led by people I don’t know, whose intent is unclear to me. This is the dark energy and dark matter of my day to day world. The stuff I have learned, and the training that things people want me to do are based on doing X for Y to happen. Y has gone missing. The old magic no longer works.

That doesn’t mean there’s no magic left.

Perhaps it just sits closer to home. Not is the cloisters of Universities, or in the shiny boardrooms of the major consultancies.

So, the start of the solution starts with us, and our relationship with our selves. Our sense of purpose and determination, Not just with our learned capabilities, but with our social, emotional and spiritual power. It becomes the filter we use to evaluate what we hear and see.

I think there’s a trust / distance ratio – the farther away someone or something else is digitally or physically , the less we trust it.

Beyond us, those we share deep purpose with (probably no more than a handful). Beyond that, those whose capabilities we trust – probably in the tens and beyond that, people we are prepared to learn to trust. More than a hundred, less than a couple of hundred. That’s our community. Beyond that, we have audiences.

The new magic is in reality older than the magic it is replacing. It works at a human level, using our senses, doing things that are important, with people we can see and trust, for purposes we believe in.

The equivalent of organisational dark energy and matter, the stuff of fake news, loses its power once we understand it is there.

If we trust ourselves, we can do what matters.