Over the past five to ten years our world has thrown up a myriad of cataclysmic events, all seeming to demand conflicting strategies: the Global Financial Crisis in the mid-2000s, the myriad natural disasters, from tsunamis, wildfires, floods and droughts; aging population and popular uprisings.
The time is ripe for a seismic shift in the way work is done, and by whom. The operation of successful businesses, how they manage their people and how we work are forever and fundamentally altered because of the serendipitous synchronization of environmental, technological, social and economic changes we have experienced over the last decade. The unsuccessful ones will not change so they won’t succeed!
But the key to surviving in the turmoil requires us to let go of conventional wisdoms and embrace a paradox. As Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, taught in the Tao Te Ching some 2600 years ago:
“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
Tao’s teachings are all about embracing the paradox, discovering the seed of one thing in its opposite.
In our world, it means working together remotely; being afraid, but doing it anyway; acting autonomously and at the same time collaboratively. The tension is where the great stuff happens. If you are not uncomfortable – nothing is changing.
If we reconcile the paradoxes, then the solutions to both the short-term budgetary crisis, medium-term population and workforce aging and long-term (or not) environmental challenges may be complementary rather than competing or opposing. It is my fervent belief that collaboration is the force that reconciles these paradoxes. But achieving true, synergistic collaboration demands the courageous, autonomous contribution of every single member of collaborations. To build more resilience and adaptability into our organisations – we need the individuals to operate at their highest levels, autonomously, in collaboration with others high functioning individuals.
The world cannot afford passengers; humanity cannot afford indecision; action is needed now.