We need to create a desire to drive transformational change forward and there probably isn’t a better time than the present.
Movements such as Extinction Rebellion, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter have created an awareness and an urgency for change. The need to do something radical and quickly is being heard and is being understood. Yet, how much has actually changed and is there a danger that these movements will just fizzle out and the opportunities for real change be lost? If we don’t take time to think and strategize, then yes! Why is this the case?
Whether we like it or not we live in a society where money speaks many languages and money speaks loudly and aggressively and this is perhaps where the problem lies. We may accept that there is need for societal change to deal with inequalities, poverty, class divisions and environmental challenges, however, we need the big organisations and those with power to do something about it. And unfortunately, they are reluctant to do so. Why? Because they do not see any money in it. For example, the fashion industry may see that there is inequality in pay and conditions, that high fashion is seen as damaging to the environment, yet there is no real appetite for change. All the good ideas, the key environmental messages and the innovative ways to design and produce sustainable fashion are not being acted upon or are short-lived.
So what can we do? One thing is to speak the language of value not the language of money. By making a change we are adding value; however, the concept of value will be different amongst those involved. For the big corporates, the value may be measured in monetary terms and market share. Therefore, for those key players we need to monetise the concepts and the ideas, let people see that there is value to be added and this will produce an excellent return on investment, one that is up for grabs by the first ones who dare. To others, value may be concepts such as freedom, love, friendship, peace, health or education.
The appetite for societal change may be high yet there isn’t a menu that appeals to the big corporates as well as all those who are wanting to instigate change. Money and market share may be the thing that tempts people to come to the table as well as the need for peace, equality, inclusion and sustainability. Not giving money out but selling the idea that by creating and adding value, money and market share can be the ultimate prizes.
To make the big changes perhaps we also need to understand the power that lies behind the big corporations and institutions that prop up our societies. Even though there is an appetite for change, the powerful do not want to relinquish any of their power and they feel that to change may mean weakening their power-base, their influence on societal norms and their ability to influence our lives. The powerful want to become more powerful and to achieve this they become more totalitarian and introduce more rules and regulations to keep us in check and to monitor our activities. Just look at what governments are doing now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, by allowing this to happen we are making society more fragile, more vulnerable. The more we resist the more totalitarian our society becomes. In away resistance is like being stuck in quicksand, the more we wriggle and squirm the deeper we get sucked down and the more stuck we become. As we sink deeper the sand gets into our eyes and we lose sight of ways out through innovation and change. So there is a downward spiral aspect to resistance.
So how do we move forward without resistance, without power? We need to get back to fundamentals and operate in the space between corporate politics and party politics.
The world will always have big problems to solve, how do we eradicate poverty, how do we stop global warming, how do we stop institutional racism and sexism? Sometimes, however, we are missing what is in front of us all the time, sometimes the solutions are simple. The difficult part is making the solution a reality. What we are missing is a relentless commitment and I mean RELENTLESS, COMMITMENT to solving the problem. We need to create a focus, a point that everyone stares at.
The hardest thing is getting people to commit. We need to show that this commitment comes with benefits, that there are benefits to solving these problems; and yes, we need to show those in powerful positions that there is money to be made in doing so. There is value for everyone.
But commitment can be painful, it may be a muscle that we need to exercise a little more and it may hurt like hell the first time we do it. This is where leadership comes into play. The leader needs to be the gym instructor who we follow when we want to exercise the muscles the one who encourages us to work through the pain. The leader needs to gain that commitment.
Okay, maybe I am being a bit flippant when I say that the solutions are simple. Changing a whole system and ways of doing things is difficult as the system may be complex and well embedded. But if we take a different approach and break the system down into component parts and get commitment from people to make a real change to a component part then we may move in the right direction. But here lies danger; if a change is made to a component part without a clear insight and understanding of how this component affects other parts of the system, no matter how distant and removed from the component, the effects could be catastrophic. A change to this component could make the whole system vulnerable even though the individual component is stronger due to the change. How many times have we changed one thing and later found that the risks associated with this small change have been magnified many times as the effects of that one minor change ripple outwards.? And sometimes, the results are not good ones.
Changing a system component by component can work as long as someone takes a meta-view and understands the complicated interrelationships of all the components. But this can be difficult.
The metaphor I think of is of a ruler of a land who wants to see how all the villages and hamlets of their realm are working together. The ruler has noticed that if one hamlet makes a change without reference to those close and far neighbouring hamlets it can cause antagonism and disharmony. To be able to see all the villages and hamlets in the realm the ruler builds a tower in the centre of their land. The ruler is happy for each village and hamlet to have local laws and traditions because from this elevated point the ruler can see all the villages and hamlets and can get a sense of how things are progressing. They can ensure, that even though there are local protocols, harmony prevails. When a hamlet makes a change the ruler can see how this affects those around the hamlet.
As the ruler’s realm increases in size the ruler cannot see those villages and hamlets which lie beyond the horizon. Whilst they are part of the realm there is a danger that they could make changes that could affect the customs and values of the whole land.
So that they can see the far reaches of the realm the ruler builds the tower higher and higher so that they can see great distances. Yet the higher the tower becomes the more removed the ruler is from the ground and from the people that they care for. The tower also becomes more and more unstable. The ruler feels the tower shaking and vibrating and fears for their own safety so they start to build the tower more securely and it tends to get wider rather than higher to give it stability. They build a fortress rather than a tower. They take their eye of the villages and the hamlets. Then these villages and hamlets start to do their own thing and the realm disintegrates.
This is, maybe, where the concept of “source” comes in. Someone to drive an initiative. Peter Koening’s concept of source states (workwithsource.com) “it can sometimes be difficult at first to identify who the source of an initiative is. The identity of the source is not dependent on who started the legal entity, who provided the money or who had a formal role appointed. It’s simply who invested themselves in taking the first risk. The risk can be as simple as someone asking for help.
There are a number of other signs to look for: The source’s voice seemingly has more weight than others in group discussions about the initiative. The source often has a visceral sense of what’s right and wrong for the initiative. But the definitive test always comes down to identifying the moment of source when one person took the initiative by taking the first risk.” So the source does not need to be the Chief Executive or the First Minister, it is someone who has a voice and a passion and who invests themselves in an idea. It is someone who had the courage to follow an idea. And these people can be anywhere. Sources, if allowed will shine brightly and will attract others like moths to bright light. We should allow this to happen and encourage it.
Let us think of the “source” as being a source of wisdom. Having the wisdom to take a meta-view of the complex system, to see how the system works together. The source doesn’t need to be an expert on every component of the system just on how the system can and does work in harmony. This source will shine brightly and will attract other sources and these sources will be from the component parts of the system. Each new source may have knowledge about a particular component of the system and can, therefore, create a movement for change. The challenge is to create a space where sources can meet and coalesce. This is where the original source comes in; they have the wisdom to empower these new sources and also the wisdom to ensure that there is an opportunity for sources to gather together. The source also knows that they cannot see all parts of the system, some may be beyond the horizon, yet they build a community of sources that share the same passions and values for change. The trust and integrity are there to such an extent that each source can report back and feel part of a whole that is far greater than the sum of the individuals.
So in the end, we need to just get together and do it, not apportion blame or publicly shame someone about the state of the world. We need to show unrelenting commitment to making a change. We need to create a space where sources can gather and innovate, take things forward. We need to show that real change has a return on investment for all. We need to show that by making the changes we are adding value whilst valuing others and being valued ourselves. And for some, but not all, this value will bring monetary returns. We need to start a movement.
Let’s start a movement