Sunday, August 22, 2010

What Are We Adapting To?

It's the Journey, Not the Destination--The Destination is Gone By the Time You Get There

We're going to tie together a few themes in this post.

My life's work, my mission in life, is to make people, organizations, regions, more adaptive to what is inevitable change. My mantra is, that the industrialized organizational models and management theory is no longer applicable--for that matter, it hasn't been for thirty years at least--and that if we the people, the organizations, the regions and on up are going to be more adaptive, we need different organizational models and theory.
These models and theory are what my consulting practice and Transforming projects are based upon, it is what I write about extensively here.

By "destination" in the subtitle, I mean we cannot predict to future. What we can do, is as people and organizations, is develop and follow a process and system for being much more flexible and able to adapt to whatever might come our way in the future. That is what is meant by "it is the journey, not the destination".

Way back in the mid-1990's, as I was searching for my own future, what I felt I needed to understand if I wanted to be aware of what would shape that future, I needed to keep up with six 'forces'.
They are:
       --market economies, capitalism, the cultural hybrids of the two that countries adapt to their culture, the macro and micro features and theories and observations. Rooted in biological drive to accumulate and trade scarce resources.  Take away features--These are living systems. Inherently unpredictable. Evolve with no central control or authority guiding it.
       --To say that our religions and beliefs have an enormous impact on culture and society would be an understatement. Take away features--defines our humanity in many ways. Driving cultural force. Must be respected. Belief trumps intellect in personal guidance.
       --Globalization should be, needs to be understood as a very long term trend. Homo sapien has been 'globalizing' the world for some 60,000 years, give out take. Take a brain that can plan, couple it with an instinctive drive to find and accumulate 'scarce' resources, add culture and technology, and we get globalization. Take away features--Biologically and culturally driven. Technology and social media enhanced, globalization is gaining more momentum.
        --Technology also needs to be understood in a historical perspective. We have been making tools for a million years, with the implicit purpose of shaping our environment, enhancing our adaptive traits. As noted, our big brains, and evolved ability to transmit knowledge via culture, has turbo-charged technology. The industrial revolution marked the beginning of a very steep trajectory of this curve. Take away features--Evolving at a pace that out-paces culture. That cycle is shrinking. Shapes our environment like nothing else.
--The Environment
       --The ecology of life that supports human activity. Also includes natural resources that the earth produced. Take away features--Life is indestructible. The ecology of life that supports human activity does have limits. Has a history of collapsing, six that we know of. Regenerates over hundreds of millions of years. A living system.
--The Internet
       --Yes, this could be categorized differently. I included it as the six force because it does change everything. The genesis of the information revolution pre-dated the internet. But this is how we need to think of this--life is information (RNA, DNA), life grows and evolves through the transmission of information. The internet can transmit and socialize information like no medium, no technology ever before in human history. The internet is cultural biology. It is defining our future. Take away features--Highly distributed. Highly networked. No central control. Global in reach. Growing connectivity at an unimaginable pace and matrix.

These six forces all have an historical quality that are not changing vectors any time soon. They, in a very dynamic, very organic, living system kind of way, shape our future in ways we cannot even think of controlling. Planning for a future with the pace of change these forces are driving is not recommendable. For people and organizations to remain relevant, to be able to adapt, the mechanized organizational models developed for the industrial revolution are archaically inadequate.

As people, as organizations, as regions, we need to be cognizant of the forces that shape our world, yet find ways to adapt ourselves to thrive in what comes.
A systems thinking mindset or mental models, organizations that learn, and the social networking of our knowledge and abilities is a process and system that give us, our organizations, our regions an optimal way to adapt. It's that journey creates the value and profits needed to survive.

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