Everyone wants to be a chef

One of our local schools is recruiting for a chef. The queue of applicants is out of the door.

Another school is recruiting for a deputy head. There is no queue.

Why is that?

Maybe it’s the narrative.

Teachers, and particularly head teachers have enormous workloads, are assessed continually, have restricted budgets and get caught in any crossfire between parents and authorities.

Chefs are cool. Every other tv show features a chef, or a gardener. They are glamorous, creating culinary and horticultural works of art that last a short while, and transitory pleasure in consumption.

Celebrity chefs get to make their living serving other celebrities.

Teachers grow people. The work they do lasts a lifetime, and their capacity to deliver positive change is huge. Their “added value” over a lifetime is incalculable. They make their living, for the most part, working for the benefit of people you will never hear of.

Yet, as a society, we lionise chefs.

Strange.

Gradually, then Suddenly

“How did you go bankrupt?
Two ways. Gradually, then Suddenly.”

Ernest Hemingway. The Sun Also Rises

Any of us who have been involved in a failed venture will identify with this. Things happen at the edges, small at first. They happen in several areas, still small, but becoming slightly bigger and more numerous. None big enough to be a crisis in their own right, because we have other things, “noisier” issues to attend to.

Promises and assurances from partners and suppliers (particularly Banks, as they position you as carrion) suddenly evaporate.

Then, we have a “Suddenly” moment. Obvious in retrospect, but almost sneaky in the moment.

The lesson, once learned, is obvious. It isn’t the noise that will kill the project, it’s the quiet insidious intrusion of calculated self interest. For those with practice, it’s part of the game. For those new to it, a surprise.

The same is true for most areas; Business, Politics, Careers. The signals are there long before the event eventually manifests.

What’s interesting right now is that we are facing the challenge simultaneously on several fronts, all of them interdependent.

Business, Climate, Politics. All of these have been exhibiting signal for a while-decades in some cases.

I’m an optimist. This has been coming for a while, and is probably as necessary as it will be uncomfortable.

The “Suddenlies” will test our values, our purpose and our relationships, as well as determination to come out of this change stronger.

We will be presented with choices. We need, individually and collectively, to make good ones.

Fear is a waste of imagination

Some of the biggest shifts we are seeing in the way our world operates is being enabled by interoperable systems. Ensuring that my data can work with your data, and that my systems can work with your systems.

This capability is creating fertile conditions for everything from mashups to radical innovation and insight. The “price” we pay for this is not putting fortresses around what we have created. It offers a mindset that recognises that the speed of change makes protection much less effective than collaboration.

Then we get to people, and we seem to slip back a century or so. Non disclosure agreements, non compete clauses, “gardening leave”. All designed to prevent what is known by one from fertilising an idea in another.

There will always of course be areas where this is necessary, but not many. We seem to take it as a default. However, if I “let you go” it means I no longer need or value your potential, so why would you stop me using what I know to work with another to create something new – other than fear?

Driven by fear of missing out, we actively prevent the creation of the new by constraining the people who may bring it about. If we believe the figures for employee disengagement, it seems clear that most businesses only use a fraction of their employees potential, but are driven to prevent anyone else using it for as long as they can.

There is of course a mirror side to this. Why, as employees would we put up with this – other than the fear that our unused potential will not be recognised by another?

The system will eventually sort this out, but in the meantime, at a time when we desperately need every ounce of available creativity to address the huge challenges we face, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice.

If you’re afraid of missing out on an opportunity you have not seen, compare that to the threat of the collapse of the systems we depend on to exist.

If you’re afraid of taking a step into the unknown and uncertain, consider how that will make you feel when you look back on it and recognise you could have.

Everything is connected to everything in one form or another. Increasing human, as well as systems interoperability seem like a good idea really.

Being afraid is a waste of imagination.