The Pull of Innovation or the Pain to Shift Paradigms

"He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils…for time is the greatest innovator."   From the Renaissance master…Sir Francis Bacon

Self driving cars, inhabiting Mars, high speed tunnels for car sleds being built under Los Angeles, chatbots more accurately and quickly diagnosing illness than doctors and nurses.

Change is happening and, for many people and organizations, change is hard!  Why are organizational paradigm shifts well near impossible?  Why is it so hard for us individually to make changes in our lives? One line of conversation could go down the road of the neurobiological challenges that come with habit formation and the of breaking old ones.  We will need to leave that for another day, though it is a fascinating and research rich area. It is the other line of conversation that interests me; the unwillingness of people.

I see coaching clients, every week, who are potentially staring job demotion or even job loss in the face; half-heartedly they say they want to change but when it comes to making even small incremental steps they suddenly contract an acute case of excusiosis.

I see small companies and non-profits  in exactly the same position.  Loss of members, key shareholders bowing out, the best and brightest leaders leaving for more adventuresome rides elsewhere; these are common happenings where change is slow and openness to the new is nonexistent.

The crazy thing from my seat in the house is Sir Francis Bacon’s quote is obvious, but not till it is painfully obvious do most people respond.  And by the time attention-getting-pain sets in it is often too late.

We need “new remedies” in our organizations and leadership.  I see people launching “new” endeavors that aren’t new at all, only off the rack solutions with new fabric but same ol’ hand-me-down design.  Aren’t we a bit more creative than that?

You know, what I hear…and am convinced sits at the center of this is time, acknowledgement, tools and mess.

Time.  Imagining our way forward is much more time consuming than off the rack solutions.  You have to be willing to take time, sometimes a lot of it, to really come up with creative, custom, unique and well fit possibilities.  We don’t like to take time! Think crockpot not microwave.  Think barrel aged not wine in a box.  The incubation time, the time it takes for alchemistry, this is the downpayment on a bigger payback.  

Acknowledgement.  I think one of the reasons we don’t like to take time is we are making a grand admission; “I don’t know!”  We have to come to the imagining process with a beginner’s mind that says “I simply don’t know and want to enter into the exhilarating AND time-consuming space that allows new emergence to happen.”  Clearly this is the key.  When we say we don't know, the anxiety that "I have to know" evaporates and we can settle in for the exhilaration of discovery that only comes once that move is made. 

Tools.  This is a big problem.  We have been trained in our schools, apprenticeships, internships and examples around us to steal ideas, replicate past models, tweak old patterns, attempt resuscitation of old programs.  Wrong-O!  Yesterday’s models, for a world long gone, can’t fund a new emerging world.  And yet we don’t know what tools to use.  We don’t know the technologies available for listening to the not yet emergent future (there is literally a whole model taught in some of the best business schools in the world on this topic) or how to dream through and imagine prototyping new possibilities.  We need a retooling desperately.  We need it in the religious sector, the new start up sector, the non-profit sector, the world of hospitals and politics. 

Mess.  We hate mess.  This isn’t a neat, clean, orderly, predictable, safe or stable process.  We prefer routine to risk, known to the unknown, comfortable to the creative and stable to the squishy.  And we all know risk, unknown, creative and squishy are messy.  BUT…. that is the only way to find our way into the new terrain of a world where tectonic plate shifting is more frequently the norm. We live in a volcanic world of change.  Artificial Intelligence is already displacing jobs at a dizzying rate and by 2035 the leading futurists of our time say some 40% of American jobs will be going bye-bye due to deep learning and robotics! 

I invite you to consider a new way of living, leading and learning.   Let’s be pulled into tomorrow by something compelling and powerful as opposed to the pain of new evils that are sure to come with time…Sir Francis is right.