Don't mind the gap – Break the existing boundaries of the system.
Updated: Sep 5, 2022
You probably already know the following quote: >>We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to the time we created them.<< Albert Einstein has a point, I think. What do you think about this regarding our current (economic) world?
Is your brain already in the process of developing solutions? For now, let's stay with the analysis. If we take Mr. Einstein seriously, then the following counter-thesis can be derived: >>We can solve our problems by adapting the way we thought when we created them. By doing so consciously, better solutions will emerge that match the needs of our time<<. That is easy. That makes me hopeful, don't you think so?
Why is this important?
In my world, we are facing a rather complicated future. The price for our wealth in the western world is quite high, too high. Climate change, distributive injustice, monocultures wherever you look, discrimination driven by the art of playing subtle hierarchical games and the list goes on. Not to mention the working zombies from the middle class. So, is that me and you? Having enough income to purchase things we do not really need but that its production contributes to the climate disaster and exploits people in distant countries in precarious conditions. It may feel a bit out of sight, out of the mind, because the impact it causes seems to be so far away. It is like an analogy to: >>I have no influence on things. That is why I have no ultimate responsibility for it. (Man raises his hand and points his finger at the boss and/or the politician). They have to fix it!? <<. And if experts now come around the corner and claim >>humankind is just like that<<, then everything is prepared for the apocalypse during the life of our grandchildren.
Back to our initial thesis, that it is all just about to change the way we think. What is the attitude behind the world we have in front of us? What is your perspective on it? I see a testosterone-hierarchically dominated (economic) world in which a few, mostly historically predetermined protagonists, are in charge. The mindset is: These heroes are at the top just because they are who they are and they always were. So, they need to know better than me/us and that since they have been born. In addition, I have little influence on their decisions. Ergo: I surrender to my fate and accept a catastrophic posterity for my grandchildren. Not to mention other participants in our ecosystem, such as animals and plants.
Let us turn around this way of thinking, this pattern of action! Let us turn 180° in the opposite direction. How would that impact the results? Take a few minutes to think about it.
I would start questioning the hierarchical protagonist first. And please, don’t fall back at this point on the narrative that we can all be heroes if we just want to. I would not agree to this, because to me the term hero always suggests there is something extraordinary involved, which would automatically exclude ordinary people. This last term for example, I love – ordinary people. Wikipedia (the German version) states: A person who does not show any special deviating/conspicuous characteristics or behaviors. Again, I love that. People who have their lives under control without hyper-attention from others, power posturing, status symbols, competition and competitive thinking. They actually often think of others first. And they are already the sticky mass that is very likely to hold your organization together. Because they are the ones that let the narcissists dance while doing the right things in the background. They do not get anything in return or even worse, they even mostly earn a bad reputation in their performance review for being too proactive like it happened recently to a friend of mine. Her boss told her, that if she is that engaged in meetings and workshops his boss-mates in the organization feel indirectly criticized. So, he advised her to be more silent if she wants to keep her job and stay out of trouble. Can you imagine, this is happening every day all over the world.
Unfortunately, the ordinary people do not understand what value they create for any organization. Thus, it comes to them supporting and strengthening a system in which they turn into modern slaves. All the glory is for the bosses, who shine in the light of the good work the ordinary people have done. Even if some of the ordinary folks finally recognizes what is going wrong in their life, they simply lack the formal means of enforcement. And as a thank you for being there and keeping the company together and serving the bosses they get a bouquet of flowers and a food voucher. You see how ridiculous that looks?
The advantage of the heroes is that each of these ordinary people alone can do little. Collectively, though, the magic happens. This is how we end up with my twisted way of thinking: We initiate the pattern change by creating systems in which the ordinary folks in a healthy balanced world – organization – we – me, influence the design and orientation of their environment. Through coordination in a group, we create reason as well as individual and collective impact.
In this way of thinking, it is essential to overcome our habits of "a few rule over many" at the very start. This also includes the backlogs prioritized by only a few humans or the top three OKRs determined by the leadership team. Even in the agile world the old patterns still rule the game. This difference may seem marginal to you at first glance. Therefore, take a look at the cover photo of this article. What do you see? I see a very clear white and black world around a yellow system change point. At this point, everything is decided. This is the point of origin. Those who start in the wrong school of thought will later find it difficult to distinguish in which world they live. Because everyday life is gray in both worlds. And if you are surrounded by just gray you have no chance to figure out to which world the gray belongs you live in.
What world do you live in? And are you sure you're not in the wrong gray?
Once the way of thinking has changed, a lot of joy and fulfillment and meaning awaits us. In this world ordinary people face the equal opportunity to become economically successful. Together with a small team, I have been able to accompany organizations in their system changes for several years. The ordinary people rewrite their stories together. This is so impressive and touching. Whilst they are usually not even conscious about it. Because they are in their everyday gray. Just on the other side now.
Why do you think we should make this system change in organizations?
My best assumption, on which I bet my professional lifetime, is: In the new gray, the behavior arises on a small scale, which I am convinced will make the decisive difference in the world of tomorrow. With the same breath, the organizations become fit for the future: This happens because they deal better with complexity through the permitted, even desired activation of the people’s brains and hearts. Suddenly a group of ordinary people masters extraordinary complex challenges easily. For the individual, this creates an environment in which he/she is effective and has impact. The stress fog is clearing up. Coordinated, as if by magic, we work in a healthy balance for a better future.
What does this mean for you?
Find the system switching point and don’t mind the gap. Behind the yellow line you will find the clarity about what world you really really want to live in. This applies to the ordinary people, as well as to the heroes. This is the starting point for conscious decisions. Ordinary people can always choose to leave the existing one. Be it with the change of organization or stepping into self-employment. For the heroes, it is the exit scenario to a life with less stress and pressure. Already today there are so many indicators telling us that a declining number of people wants to remain in a boss role or even don’t want to become a hero at all. But too few people realize that there is a serious alternative.
The following applies to all of you: Don't mind the gap. The system change is only one step away – from the point of clarity. Now it's up to you what gray you want to spend the rest of your life in.
PS: Please do not peach on me to the BRITISH underground authorities when I ask you to cross the yellow line ;-).