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.

Old Game, New Rules

For just about all of my working life, over four decades, organisations have held sway. They had the resources, the status, the networks and the power. When I left university, the conventional wisdom was to look for the “solid organisation”.

That makes it quite strange to suddenly realise that it’s changed. Quite disconcerting really, like the transition from winter to spring. One minute snow and Aga, and what seems like a few minutes later, shorts and grass mowing.

Organisations no longer hold sway. People do. It’s no longer about who you join, it’s who you travel with.

That makes for really new rules. Not adaptation. More like revolution.

Individuals can cope with this far better than organisations. Organisations want stasis, certainty, or at least change on their terms. It rarely works. Most change initiatives fail, and those that succeed rarely do more than keep them in the game.

I believe that means we need to reboot. The realisation that the organisation cannot look after us, for anything other than the shortest of terms, is disconcerting. It’s not that the organisation is malign (though I can think of several exceptions) it’s just that they are not capable. Culturally, structurally, spiritually. They have been designed to make money, and that is no longer enough.

We are in the age of the connected individual. Some of them, the Musks, Bransons, Rhen Zengfeis’, combine connection with capital to create new entities. Others combine connection with politics to develop power. Others combine connection with influence, from the mundane stuff of social media to the dark side of insurgency.

Some, do all three.

I think it creates an uncomfortable imperative for us. If we cannot belong to an organisation, what do we belong to? To what are we “hefted”? What, when all around us is uncertain, matters? Do we have a compass to guide us?

Then, do we have a community who we support, and who will support us? People at our shoulders?

If we do, then are as potentially powerful as anyone else, and we can make a difference to something that matters. If we don’t, we are in danger of becoming refugees, looking for somebody to help us.

It’s uncomfortable, but right now, inevitable.

The infinite game of business remains unchanged. The finite game of traditional organisations is melting beneath our feet.

Clunky

When we watch a murmuration of starlings, or a salmon going upstream what we wonder at is their fluidity; the sheer joy of movement.

So why is it that most of our organisations are so clunky?

Admittedly, neither starlings nor salmon have large pre frontal cortex but maybe sometimes, that’s our problem. We over think, over analyse, and worry about failure.

The very best performers however do not. They have long ago internalised why they are doing what they are doing, with whom they are doing it and the environment in which they are doing it. Then they just get on with it; unencumbered.

We make ourselves clunky. By not being clear on why we’re doing what we are doing, and why it is important. By not making sure that we understand those with whom we’re doing it. By not making sure we understand our surroundings. By hanging on to our original plan even when we know it’s not working. By not doing the work needed to prepare.

We don’t have to be clunky, but it’s hard work.