In what we now know were the good times, we created enormously long supply chains for just about everything. We moved manufacturing to Asia. The blueberries on my cereal this morning came from Peru, and the raspberries from Morocco.
When we hit a challenge in our business we would call in advisers who had never done the job for real trained by other people who had never done the job for real, working for organisations who provide advice without liability.
We encouraged and created an environment of “learned helplessness“. A term coined by Martin Seligmann, it describes what happens when we are exposed to multiple instances of failure and come to believe that we cannot succeed at anything.
Commercially, it’s a winner. Easy to advertise, demonstrate and reinforce, particulalrly when times are tough. It’s easy to create a slide deck, and a model that demonstrates our superior knowledge and what a wonderful ROI using our services will be.
Returns on external consultants are questionable at the best of times, and these are not the best of times.
Nobody is coming to rescue you
The reality is that the chances of anybody you pay changing your fortunes in anything other than the shortest of terms is remote. If they really knew how to make it pay in the medium term, they’d be investing their own money in it.
Whether we’re an individual, a one man band, or a company we have a unique understanding of what is happening around us. The fact that others may disagree does not make us wrong, or our view worthless. In times of rapid change, chaos even it’s not those in charge when it happens who find the way out.
It’s the iconoclasts.
From Copernicus (Heliocentricism), through Martin Luther (Religion), through Von Moltke (Modern Warfare), The Impressionists (The Paris Salon would not accept their work as “proper art”) Edward Land (Photography), Steve Jobs (you need to ask?) to Greta Thunberg.
Iconoclasts combine different thinking with skin in the game. They never wait for permission, or to be chosen. They choose themselves.
Icons waiting to be broken
- The London Office.
- Conventional Banking.
- Any orthodox business model
The Iconoclasts within.
Covid-19 may have shattered more myths in the fastest time than any other event in recent history. From the power of the office, to the capability of central authorities, to the resilience of economies based on low skill services, to the predictive skills of consultancies.
We cannot go backwards, and all those businesses reliant on the infrastructures that supported the old normal are finding themselves a bit stuck. Doing more of what we used to do just isn’t working so well, and we find ourselves needing to let go of the old. That’s a hard and painful process.
To let go, we need somewhere to go, and that’s why we need the iconoclasts. The thing is, there’s an iconoclast inside each of us. Often, it’s not very evident because we have a lifetime of conditioning that seeks to repress it.
In archetypal terms, it’s the “Magician”. The Magician is an archetype associated with mystery, alchemy and transformation. Magician archetypes are thinkers, creators of sacred space, and visionaries. They disrupt the status quo. They are not those who “manage change”, they are those who bring it about suddenly, and often inconveniently. If Covid-19 had an archetype, it’s probably the Magician.
In a group, or a team, I’ve found that they appear when we speak openly and freely, without judgement and in mutual support. They are rarely the leader. They are those with quiet purpose, who in the middle of a discussion make a point, or float an idea, and there’s a “bump” in the conversation.
As leaders, we need to create the space for them. It needs trust, intent and an ability to facilitate. To keep those instinctively warring parties at bay. It’s hard work, and a skill.
We need our Iconoclasts and Magicians right now.