Are we nearly there yet?

For those of us interested in the nature of change, this is a fertile time.

It’s a though a whole bevy (what a great collective noun!) of black swans have taken flight (when they become a wedge – another great metaphor) and are heading right for us.

Our individual and collective reactions vary, but in general we tend to be negative. We see them as a potential threat, and hope that somehow we can stop them arriving – as though where we are now is where we really want to be.

We’d actually like other people to take care of it for us, whether its climate change, technology change, our politics or Brexit.

The inconvenient truth is that this is a system. All of it. And we’re part of that system. We have a duty to ourselves, and the communities we are part of not just to have a view, but to exercise it. We’re hugely privileged to live in what is still a democracy, no matter how bent out of shape it may have become.

What is clear is that these swan are coming in to land, and it behooves us to be ready. Depending on our mindsets, there will be as many positives (which we may not yet see) as there are negatives (most of which we see, and make up a few more for good measure)

What seems certain is that there will be significant change. I suspect, to switch metaphor, that it will be like a forest fire. It will take out old wood and dead wood to create room and nutrients for new growth. Parts of it will be frightening for us. It already is, because it’s something that is happening rather than something that is going to. We’re in the middle of it.

There’s lots we can do. We can not hope it will go away. We can not wait for somebody else to deal with it.

We can take action, no matter how small. Drive less, fly less, use technology, learn new ways of doing old habits, reduce unconscious dependence on chindogu. Use our imaginations. Refuse to be afraid. Do more than talk about it.

What we face is a great challenge, but that’s what, as humans, we are designed for.

Escape Velocity

The 50th anniversary of landing on the moon took me to thoughts about escape velocity. For earth, a little over 11km/s, or Mach 33, or several times the velocity of a high powered rifle bullet. The energy needed to escape the pull of the familiar.

We are currently trapped in a numbers driven economic system, largely detached from considering it’s externalities – the unintended consequences of the headlong push for growth. Our escape velocity will be determined by what we value.

We have allowed ourselves to become limited by the gravity of an orthodoxy that may well kill us unless we escape its pull.

There are however signs, and not just from the likes of Extinction Rebellion. People closer to the centre of the current orthodoxy. Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, is making a stand. So too is the head of Moore Stephens speaking at The European Court of Auditors – not a body I have previously associated with radical action.

Good though this is, it seems unlikely that this is where the leadership we need will come from. They have little to risk.

The real impetus, the energy needed for escape velocity will come from those who do have something to risk. Those who will do differently, from the outset. Who will view value as more than numbers.

Smaller businesses, individuals without the security of an established career.

Those for whom the risk of standing out is real.

Which is most of us.

The ten percent

We talk about change pretty much every day. It’s entered the lexicon of how we talk about what we see around us. So much so we just accept it as routine.

I wonder how much we really think about it though.

Mostly, the context I hear about it tends to be in relation to problems, managing, uncertainty. I rarely hear about it being talked about warmly. It’s spoken about in the same tones as ageing, disease and death. Something we have to cope with.

I don’t think it’s that at all.

Change is like a challenging friend. We know it has no intent to harm us – anything but – it just requires us to make choices around things that matter to us.

All of us alive today have been born into an age of organisation and definitions.

Get educated as best you can and do well against criteria set by other people whose interest is largely in the economic benefit you will generate, more than the journey of your life.

Use that education to get a good job and a good career, working in structures designed by other people for their own purposes (which we may or may not share)

Do that until your utility falls below an arbitrary line, conventionally defined by age, and retire. If you’ve done well, all well and good. if not, more of a problem.

This an an obsolete paradigm, but like any habit, takes a while to change. In the last couple of decades organisations have been losing power to ideas and movements.

Influence has gone assymetric.

Whilst how much capital you have is a powerful lag indicator of influence, the lead indicators are our ideas, our communities, and our purpose. The ripples of Mark Rylance resigning from the RSC because of its sponsorship by BT, or Greta Thunberg transforming the nature of the climate change debate, are only just beginning to be felt.

Most of us (around 90%) find ourselves in organisations that like certainty, regard change as an inconvenience to be managed, and that being more efficient and profitable in what we do is what we must focus on.

The problem is, that very resistance to change means we don’t keep pace with it. (Change doesn’t care). We’re on a timeline to obsolescence. Until recently, you could have a career that coped with that.

Fifty years in a gently declining industry or profession, but with a final salary pension? – no problem. No more.

A small number of us – maybe less than 2.5% – are the crazy ones. The ones who are driven to pursue an idea or cause because thet cannot do otherwise.

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. Steve Jobs

Then there’s the 10%. The ones who question the status quo and conventional wisdom. The ones who think the crazy ones are maybe not so crazy, and will entertain their ideas. The ones who recognise that short term comfort is achieved at long term disappointment in a dream not fulfilled.

These are the alchemists, and the fire carriers. The ones who will transform ideas into impact, and embers into infernos.

They often face a challenge. the 90% think they’re dangerous, and the 2.5%think they lack the unwavering commitment to the idea.

But the 10% will get past that. Travelling between the complacency of the the 90%, and the fundamentalism of the 2.5%, they make a difference that improves our lives, from how we are able to live them, to the planet we live them on. They are an emerging community.

Where do you belong?