Stranded on the summit.

To make the changes we need to not just survive, but thrive together, we have to go beyond what we know and be guided by what we believe in, our intuition, and our insight.

It’s difficult, because we’re used to proof. A solid business case. Someone to blame if it goes wrong.

We’re used to lionising those who succeed, and castigating those who fail, even when what has been as stake is little more than profitably rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

We’ve entered a period where to progress we need to go into the unknown and be prepared to fail in the pursuit of something worthwhile, whilst we gain the knowledge that will be the platform for the next decades of growth. (hint; people will be more important than systems)

Which brings me to an issue I see. Most of our training around innovation, creativity and leadership is formulaic. Designed for what we have been doing, not what we need to do. It is well delivered, professional, often expensive but has short time horizons. Its’ usefulness also has a short half life in periods of rapid change.

The capabilities we need to develop are significantly different. They address what is emerging but not yet clear, and focus on different values to the financial ones that have brought us to now. They are varied, developmental, often experiential and address more distant time horizons. They are not always expensive, or at this stage profitable for the providers.

This seems to generate a conflict. These two approaches speak different languages. They have different goals. Each can regard the other with disdain, as either too mundane, or too flaky. We need to resolve this conflict.

(Note – there is evidence of this changing. Attendance at Burning Man and some other settings includes senior leaders from a range of organisations – but we’re only making the tiniest of scratches in a very hard surface.)

We need a bridge; a common language. Otherwise, we get people to deep insights whilst exploring the unknown, and leave them stranded without any way to bring it back into the current mainstream. We can do the work, take them to the top of the mountain, but then leave them there.

The key is delivering insight, often to people who will resist it because it requires new thinking, new habits and new measures all of which are unfamiliar.

It places real loads on leaders who will require very different skills from those we teach in the mainstream.

It requires those of us delivering new ways of seeing to generate insight with a real responsibility to be not just guides, but Sherpas. To go along on the journey, share the load and the risk. To know not just the techniques, but the territory.

(and a High Five to David Chabeaux, who gave me the mountain metaphor. I like it a lot.)

Getting to the top of the mountain is dangerous, and the view is wonderful from there, but as any mountaineer will tell you more people die on the way down than on the way up.

Do the work

Reading often throws up interesting juxtapositions.

In his latest book, Roberto Unger defines three ways of making a living; wages work, self employment and cooperation, and emphasises we need to be focusing on the last two.

In the latest copy of the RSA Journal, Thomas MacMillan looks at a Populus Poll of 16-24 year olds, and their priorities for their work lives. Top of the list is a secure job. Top of their priorities for that job is that it protects nature.

So. It could be inferred that they want someone else to provide them with a secure job that delivers their values. Nice work if you can get it.

From a mindset standpoint, maybe we are best with a “company of one” approach, treating ourselves as self employed, even if we are in waged work. To adopt the principle of the self employed that we have no secure employment. To focus on who to work with based on our values. To avoid the illusion of job security.

The three most powerful addictions are cocaine, carbohydrates and a regular income. Nassim Taleb

If we can do that, the other options become conscious choices. Being dependent puts us in a comfortable but addictive position. Independence can be lonely, but gives us freedom. Co-operation is where the magic happens.

The time to make a choice is when we don’t have to. Choose to do the work that gives you the freedom of independence.

Bring on the Clones……

Tom Shone, reviewing “Interstellar” in the Guardian on 5 Nov noted that:

“In some ways the success of Nolan’s films rests on the same principle of the popularity of boutique hotels, lo-fi recording methods, “Glitch” music and Etsy: in the information age, more value, not less, will accrue to precisely those methods that cannot be cut and pasted – secrets, original ideas, plot twists, the integrity of the visual image.” (High Five to Chris Grieve at Meridian Prime for bringing this to my attention)

This is at the heart of the change we’re seeing. Technology enables us to copy, cut, and paste; to represent things that have already been done, or already been written, in lots of different ways.

The average company, the average consultant and coach will be doing the same. Reconfiguring things that have already been done, and representing them in a shiny new package – but in times of rapid change, this does very little to move things forward.

I think Tom Shone is right – the things that will make a difference are not slick productions values (welcome though those are) but new content, insight, and authenticity.

We require ideas, products and services that will help clients make progress and realize extra value in their lives. The people who can provide those will prosper.