Working on a project for a client last week I came across the short film “Overview“. It describes the effect of seeing Earth from the outside: The realisation, for astronauts, that we are sustained on a tiny bubble in a vast universe and seeing Earth as a single organism on which we are all cells co-creating the future of our bubble. What kind of future do we choose to create?
Much of that choice is defined by our identification, calibration and decisions in crisis. Crisis is a place in which we change – either by choice or not.
If we take the current situation in Turkey as an example. Some people saw the impending destruction of a park in Istanbul as a crisis, enough of a crisis to choose to change into protestors. Many others may have agreed with the sentiment, but did not calibrate it as a crisis. Others may have disagreed with the sentiment, but also not calibrated it as a crisis. Still others also calibrated it as a crisis and chose to turn into agressors.
In any change situation there are four types of participant, reflected in the above calibration. Enthusiastic supporters, cautious supporters, cautious defenders and enthusiastic defenders. Participants are nearly always in the minority, there is a far wider group of more or less neutral observers and a still wider group of ignorers.
In leading any kind of change the first step is to identify the crisis, for ourselves and also for our constituents. The constituents who calibrate the situation to be a crisis will be the participants. We are manipulated daily to become participants by those who have an interest in a crisis. This happens at all levels of politics, business, community and family. Very often those at either extreme of supporters and defenders “collaborate” to raise the profile of a crisis to enrol more people in it – ideally at their end of the spectrum.
Crisis is a reason to change. If we are able to persuade enough people that there is a crisis we will create change. Whether we create the change that we want will depend on the balance of supporters and defenders that participate in the change. Too few on the opposite end of the spectrum from us and it may not be seen as a crisis at all. To few on our side of the spectrum and it may go the other way.
The view of those astronauts from space is that Earth is a living thing, that we are all part of the same organism, that we have a responsibility for the wellbeing of that organism and that we may be failing to discharge that responsibility.
The view from the Earth naturally has a far narrower perspective. We can only see our immediate surroundings. In most cases, although we may perceive changes, they are happening slowly enough that we would not calibrate them as a crisis. What we do see more clearly is our own daily challenges stresses and desires and until any crisis rises above that noise we will continue to focus on those.
Our calibration and how we prioritise the myriad crises we can choose from drives a good deal of our behaviour. Virtually all of the crises we face as a society and in business and many of the crises we face as individuals are the consequence of decisions taken by people. If we want to have fewer, or at least less serious crises to deal with we must get better at taking decisions.
The first stage of better decisions is to start by focussing on where we want to get to, before we even consider how we get there. The second is to involve deliberately diverse stakeholders. The third is to co-create the plan to get there taking account of values and winners and losers over the long term.
We must get better at taking decisions in order to have fewer crises and to protect our fragile bubble.
Choice is one of the most powerful things we exercise as people. How often do we start with vision rather than the process? How often do we deliberately include diverse stakeholders in our decisions?
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