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.

Fear is a habit.

Over the weekend, I attended an excellent workshop by Jamie Smart on influence. Not the normal yadayada, but something altogether something less formulaic, and much more useful.

Jamie’s central tenet is based on concepts of Clarity, and central to this is the notion that our feelings are a product of our thoughts unfolding in the moment. That we create our own world on an “inside out” basis. In other words, what we feel is determined what we think, and what we think and feel governs our relationship with, and our perpective of the reality of the world we inhabit. That is influence on steroids.

As I listened to the six o’clock news this morning, I reflected on this. The news was, well, equivalent to an oily black mass seeping out onto the floor. From prospects of doom for the economy, to unfathomable brutality in the Middle East, it seemed designed to put me into a black mood before I brushed my teeth.

Except of course, all the news items were, in reality, neutral. It was my reaction to them that wasn’t. And that is a choice. I can either accept my limbic system getting fear and prediction to do a tango round my head, or I can understand what is happening, and engage reality. There are many ways we can react to the news, which is certainly real, but allowing ourselves to be hijacked by it is not an advisable one.

I cannot yet find a positive side to the news from the Middle East, other than that this type of activity is inherently self destructive.

But as to the Economy, and our individual propects? – Uncertainty is now our standard fare. Things will certainly change, and only some of that is in any way predictable in advance (other of course, than in our heads) For most of us, that is an opportunity to be grasped.

Generating fear may suit those who benefit from a status quo, and it seems some aspect of fear or control is rolled out as standard fare by those in economic or political power or as a way of encouraging dependent compliance.

Every change presents opportunity for those prepared to entertain possibility. Fearing change is a pretty pointless exercise.

If everybody is being encouraged to be afraid of the same things:

  • How might these affect you – really?
  • What’s the “base rate” – the likelihood – really?
  • What might you do differently that leverages your unique skills, perspectives and abilities to increase your impact and reputation?