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.

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.

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.