Sitting in the fire

I’m always intrigued that those people and organisations who say they want change But really mean that what they want is for others to change.

Their own “elasticity” regarding change is often limited, for understandable reasons. They have a lot invested in the way things are – infrastructure, reputation, credit ratings; the list goes on. Incremental change is acceptable, but rarely enough. The end result is that product and organisational life cycles are reducing.

Change doesn’t much care about their sensitivities, and is moving faster, and more unpredictably than they are.

For a number of reasons, the word ‘dyad” has been cropping up for me a lot recently. A dyad is simply a pair, but the relationship between the pair is where it gets interesting. Harmonious dyads often seem not to cope with change very well. Vested interests. Old boy networks. They have similar world views, don’t conflict, and are invested in the same things. Sparks rarely fly, and on the occasions they do are quickly extinguished.

However, the nature of change means that they are unsustainable. No organisation can handle currently levels of highly charged complexity.

Conflicting dyads on the other hand, where the sparks fly and ignite, is where the real change happens. It’s uncomfortable, and means ‘sitting in the fire”.

You’ve got to have a really good reason for sitting in the fire. It’s uncomfortable, uncertain and you may get burned. On the other hand, the really good stuff gets forged there. It’s where the magic happens. Alchemy.

For a number of reasons, in my work, I have found myself recently sat in said fire, uncomfortably but determinedly. What was at stake was too important not to, and I’m fortunate that I have enough independence, and enough support, not to have to jump out because the mortgage needs paying. That’s a privilege, but also a choice.

The change is not instant, and sitting there feeling as though your nether regions are more than medium rare is painful for a while, until the fire works its magic and what needs to happen becomes clear.

Then, it’s something of a brand new day.

It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about creation. Relationships may change. People may see you differently, and indeed, you may see yourself differently. Brand new day. And whatever the weather, the sun is shining.

Here are some of the conflicting pairs I’m seeing right now;

  1. The needs of the individual and the needs of shareholder owned businesses.
  2. The power and potential of individual purpose and organisational needs for compliance.
  3. Conventional administration and bureaucracy versus artificial intelligence.

Each of these has enormous potential for productive change, but to do so, we need to get our backsides more than warm.

Alchemy requires Fire starters and Fire carriers as well as fire sitters.

Footnote. I’m reading Novacene by James Lovelock. He’s 100.

How can we not be in awe of somebody who thinks and writes with this clarity in his 101st year? An Alchemist if ever there was one.

Tension

There’s a space between what we’re doing now and what we’ll be doing next. Some of that gap we can measure in time, like the timing between two notes on a musical score.

Then there’s a more complex, nuanced version. The quality of what is happening in that space. The energy. The things that affect the nature of that change.

The combination of these two qualities – time, and nature- create a tension, an energy, between one beat and the next.

That tension cannot be measured, only sensed. To sense it, we need make space for it.

That tension is increasing. For any given time period, the change energy is increasing. The difference between 2020 and 2021 is likely to very different to that between 2018 and 2019.

The issues we are seeing are not isolated from each other. They will combine and morph into new forms in a similar way to viruses adapting to defeat antibiotics.

We need to pay attention to this liminal space in which these issues combine. If we pay attention only to the symptoms, we’ll miss the cause and if do that we are far more likely to be disadvantaged than energised.

Whatever time you put aside for reflection and research, double it.

The fourth addiction

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog Nicholas Taleb’s observation that the three greatest addictions are heroin, carbohydrates and a regular monthly salary.

On reflection, I think there’s a fourth.

Solutions

Most of the people I talk to in most organisations are busy. Too busy seeking efficiency at what they do to notice what’s going around them.

When an issue arises, they want a fast, reliable solution, preferably proven elsewhere.

I term it the “flu plus” syndrome. Something to take that masks a deeper underlying challenge so we can carry on regardless- at least until the underlying issue manifests in a more serious way.

We are all subject to it. Just because I write about it doesn’t mean I’m immune to it( just a little more embarrassed at my stupidity these days.

Most of the issues we have to address can be sourced back to a few common but complex causes. For us, stress, purpose, ego etc, and for the businesses we are in culture, leadership, purpose.

There are no “solutions” to any of these. They are systemic and often “wicked” morphing in response to whatever solution we try to apply.

Wicked problems require hand to hand combat. Curiosity, vulnerability, determination and an anchoring in purpose. It’s hard work, and there better be a good reason for facing the pain.

On the other hand, it’s energising. We discover things about ourself and the problem. We grow.

Other people’s solutions leave us stunted.

Solutions are easy, but come at a price.