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.

Growth vs. Impact

A quick twenty minutes scanning LinkedIn blogs reveals a number of commonalities.

  • Many blogs shout a sales message related to the business of the person posting it without reference to the needs of the likely target.
  • Very few ask the challenging questions that are far more valuable than contextless statements.
  • Like traditional marketing, they seek to generate a dissatisfaction that will create a need, rather than a connection.

What if we made some different assumptions?

  • That right now, quality of connection is more important than growth?
  • That generosity of contribution is more important than selling?
  • That asking is more important than telling?

The connection economy is changing everything, and here are some thoughts that I’ll cover in the following weeks, based on research and discussion.

  • Growth beyond a certain point is a sea anchor that can hold us back.
  • That the future belongs to small teams, not organisations.
  • That the best businesses employ less than 150 people, and that any business with more than 5,300 people is likely to be dysfunctional.

I cannot of course prove I’m right, but there’s enough evidence out there for you to form your own conclusions, and make up your mind as to what, if any, of the conventional wisdom presented by those with an obsession with growth, rather than impact to pay attention to.