Learning From The Future: The Birthing Of A New Mindset

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“Acceptable ideas are competent no more, but competent ideas are not yet acceptable. This is the dilemma of our time.” -Stafford Beer (1967) via Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity

It is really easy to say that the world has shifted in exponential ways and that the problems and challenges we will face in the near future will be much different than what we’ve faced in the past.

It is a much more difficult proposition to actually do something about it…

To change the thinking and mindsets that keep us continually overlaying the same (technical) strategies and solutions that are showing themselves to be no longer effective for the (adaptive) problems and challenges that are rising up from the aftermath of these shifts.

In his work Theory U, Otto Scharmer postulates that “There are two sources of learning: the past and the emerging future.” For which he adds, “How to learn from the past is well known: But how can one learn from the future?”

And how do we keep our people, our leaders, and our organizations from recoiling from the ambiguity and unknowns that this will work will imbue and create? How do we keep from using terms like ‘research’ and ‘best practices’ as limiting factors to keep us entrenched in reactive stances towards this emerging future?

Or as Scharmer shares, “We now wish to learn how to respond to turbulence and disruptive change with resilience and flexibility, how to sense and seize emerging future opportunities, how to tune in to the sources of ‘not-yet-embodied’ knowledge.”

It is not just that our mindsets have to change, our entire way of thinking in some ways is in need of an overhaul. The reflection necessary for this overhaul will be pivotal towards wrapping our head around how we will adapt effectively towards these societal shifts.

As we march emphatically towards these tipping points, awareness will be paramount in refraining from overlaying past thinking, as well as recoiling from the uncomfortableness of the ambiguity and unknowns that this work creates. Too often, we remove ourselves from this arc of transformation because of the intensity and difficulty required from the work and journey.

Think of these words that Scharmer imparts in Theory U, “We have to abandon our conventional ways of reacting and operating. We have to deepen our attention to and wonder about the world. We have to ben our habituated beam of attending to the world and redirect it onto its source – the blind spot from which we operate moment by moment. We have to connect to this source in order to tune in to the future that is seeking to emerge. It is a quest.”

We can’t always put into words or create a visual of what is happening…but we can feel that the future is pressing in with a deep urgency and intensity, birthing forward new ways of thinking, doing and being. And it is shifting our world in exponential ways…

At this point, there is no avoiding, so we can either decide to spend our time reacting to these shifts…or we can proactively determine a call to action to design this emerging future.

“Today’s problems no longer yield ready-made solutions” and the job of leadership has “changed from a tool user to a toolmaker.” -via Systems Thinking: Managing Chaos and Complexity 

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What Is Your Catalyst For Change?

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Curiosity is the currency of change that move us from what is to what if.

Curiosity creates the conditions to continually question the current state of things…it is willful and wayward.  It disturbs and disrupts.  

The status quo detests the questions and considerations that curiosity creates…

Curiosity creates the space for wonder, imagination and amazement to exist, in a world where we’ve very often lost the will, want or ability to be astonished.

The status quo deems wonder and amazement as child-like traits that have no business in our grown-up world…

Curiosity makes us want to know how things work, in a world where most often we are just happy that we don’t have to be concerned about it.

The status quo very often views the tinkerers, inventors and creators as the crazy ones…

Curiosity makes us want to know why people and systems interact and react in the way they do, so that we can create a better world.

The status quo would question why you would want to ‘fix’ something that is not broken…

Curiosity makes us willing to go where others aren’t willing to go, in order to see things that others haven’t seen.

The status quo very often views the the explorers and pioneers as the ‘lost’ ones…

In the end, we have an obligation and a responsibility to keep curiosity, imagination, wonder, amazement and awe alive.  In our children…and in ourselves.

Neurating Curiosity

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“There is nothing more important or more strange than curiosity.”  -Ian Leslie ‘Curious’

Curiosity makes us want to explore.  Curiosity turns us into pioneers.  Curiosity makes us willing to leave the safety of our comfortable lives and our known world.  Curiosity drives us out of the ordinary and mundane, in search of the hidden and the unknown.  Curiosity makes us want to take things apart, to know how things work, to see what makes them tick.  In many ways…

Curiosity is disruptive.  

Curiosity is impulsive.  

Curiosity is powerful and difficult to deny.

Curiosity is a gateway…one that leads to imagination, creativity and innovation.  To all that which makes us human.

Curiosity makes us ask questions that change ourselves, our organizations, our lives and even our world.  Curiosity is infectious, irresistible, even compelling.

But in a world where everything has become instantaneous…are we losing our will, our want, our need to be curious?

Have our minds become numb to curating curiosity?

As Ian Leslie shares in his work ‘Curious’…in the “age of immediacy” we may have lost “desirable difficulties.”  Or as he adds, “We confuse the practice of curiosity with ease of access to information and forget that real curiosity requires the exercise of effort.”  “In a world where vast inequalities in access to information are finally being leveled, a new divide is emerging – between the curious and the incurious.”

“Curiosity is contagious.”

and yet…

“So is incuriosity.”

Curiosity is a primal part of what makes us human and the very reason we ask why…

In a world that has become much more uncertain, curiosity pushes us forward through the ambiguity and fear that threatens to paralyze us into inaction and immobility.  In other words…

“Curiosity is the sweetest form of dissatisfaction.”  -Ian Leslie ‘Curious’