The Insight Famine

I suspect that one of the side effects of the austerity mindsets that have been encouraged in the last decade has been an insight famine.

When we’re cautious; when we cannot see or imagine the future clearly, we go into defensive mode. Reduce costs, stick with a slightly newer version of what we already know. Acquire and hoard rather than invent and share.

The creation of the worthwhile, the things that improve our world and the human condition are rarely done gradually. The breakthroughs are just that – breakthrough. Not improvements, not marginal, rarely guaranteed, often career threatening. We do them because they matter, not for a few extra bucks.

We have become incredibly good at efficiency, processes and systems, but poor at real breakthrough. In the West, the vast majority have seen little improvements in their incomes, and marked deterioration in their standards of living. The increases in earnings generated by efficiencies and systems have gone to a tiny minority.

Not, much as it would be satisfying to report because of some great conspiracy, but merely because of the systems we have built that hold us in thrall.

So, rather than create new we defend what we have. We demonise others, promote individualism, sow the seeds of fear of the other.

The problem of course is that it’s not sustainable. We can’t prepare for a famine by practicing starving. We’ve just about exhausted what has created our wealth for the last two hundred years, from the economic systems to the viability of the planet.

Breakthrough is never, ever safe, needs leaders who understand that and those of us that choose to follow them to accept the risks.

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance a whole lot less”

Eric Shineseki

To create the change we need, we will have to go right to the edge of what we know, what we trust, and what we find safe and step beyond. Deal with what we find.

I’m very aware that 75 years ago, my father and his friends did that.

With a bit of luck, we can honour their memory by not allowing a similar set of circumstances to evolve, but we will have to show the same level of moral courage and resolve to step into the unknown.

What is at stake is just as fundamental if we don’t.