A navigation guide to a better future.
We are in transition. We’re moving from a linear, industrial world to an non-linear world.
The structures of the industrial age are being overwhelmed by complexity. Companies like Nokia and Kodak have struggled with the transition. Many CEOs see the future is uncertain – and that they don’t have the tools to navigate it. We’re placing economic value on every human life – and that’s not healthy. It’s doing bad things to us materially, psychologically and spiritually.
John Stuart Mill: human nature is not a machine. All of us are unique, and the dynamic forces around us should allow us to live and grow. But our education and life structures don’t allow that.
We don’t need a reboot – we need a system upgrade. We need a human OS. But what does this human operating system want?
Beautiful code, beautiful organisations. We’re obsessed by technology right now – because it’s in our face. But it only succeeds when it meets fundamental human needs. Facebook is only a tool – the human operating system is what is driving the world to transition the way it is. People aren’t asking “what if?” – they’re asking “how”…”how do we create a better society?”. And it’s massively disruptive to many businesses, because people want a fairer world. And that’s about power – who has it, and who doesn’t. The Leveson inquiry is one manifestation of that.
The first problem is ambiguity. Too many business stay in an ambiguous state, and struggle because they’re dismissing and ignoring things they don’t understand. If you can’t build the patterns that reflect the business you need to be, you won’t change. If we use the same language to describe the same problems, we never move forward.
The second is Adaptiveness. The ability to adapt is really important. If we can recognise patterns, we can think how we adapt. We need to collaborate, communicate and critique with one another. You can then step back and evaluate tools, technology and process and figure out how they can work in our businesses. Yeo Valley is the biggest organic farm in the UK. It’s run by an accountant. He was squeezed between the costs of an oil-based farm (for transport of feeds, etc) and the demands of supermarket. The organic move was to remove one of those variables. People said he was mad. It’s now a very resilient business. He recognised a pattern, evaluated it against conventional thinking, and went a new way.
Problem: Monoculture. Solution: Openness. How many people are truly able to be open? Fear stops many from embracing new things. Trust and mutuality are very much part of the zeitgeist. In an industrial world, when we do business, the deal is this: one person wins, the other loses. The winner has done a good job. In a mutual world, people are looking to win together for the mutual benefit of the world.
Next: Participatory culture and tools. Mohammad Ali’s shortest poem: “Me – We”. What makes us a healthy society is the ability to work in aggregate. When you look at, study and understand participatory culture, you understand organisation capability: peer to peer learning, participatory leadership, where the whole organisation leads each other. It’s thinking about the company as a community – which includes the customers. You don’t call your husband or wife a consumer.
Fifth: Craftsmanship. The craftsman is hand, heart and mind. She asks: is what I make for the collective good? Is the business I’m running for the collective good? A craftsman can hold different patterns in her head, and explore them They can create futures for themselves. Most companies don’t have this – they have to buy companies to make the pain go away.
Sixth: Epic. Or EPIC WIN!!!! How do you design for flexibility? Businesses are messed up by expensive consultants. How do you genuinely transform businesses? The reality is that, if you imagine that all of us are part of the same community, that if we share our information, we can all harness it, and we can leave together with our hearts know it was right. We’ve co-created that narrative. The Ordnance Survey is allowing its data to be used under Creative Commons. Patients Know Best allows patients to manage long-term chronic health care issues in collaboration with the medical professions. Ushahidi is an open source crisis management system.
With these ideas, we can create a new world.