Designing The Ecosystem Of The Future

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“Conventional beliefs only ever come to appear arbitrary and wrong in retrospect; whenever one collapses, we call the old belief a bubble. But the distortions caused by bubbles don’t disappear when they pop. The first step to thinking clearly is to question what we think we know about the past.” –Peter Thiel Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build The Future

One of the most difficult things we will have to do in the current role of  leadership…will be to effectively evolve ourselves and our organizations into the future.  It will require us to untie ourselves from many of the mental models of the past that keep us mired and secured in our status quo ways of doing things and operating.

This idea that what has always been will always be…

In a world that is changing at an exponential rate, irrelevance to ‘what has always been’ erupts and expands its scope in a much broader and more encompassing manner.  The turbulence of change can not only be paralyzing to action and change, it can cause us to recoil to past practices and mental models that provide a calming feeling of comfort and safety.  And at the same time, unfortunately shielding us from the organizational dysfunction and irrelevance they are manifesting in their cradling cocoon.

We have to be able to move past those practices, structures and models that inhibit growth and experimental, discovery learning…to rethink, reframe and redesign how we will move into this new and often very uncomfortable future that is evolving and unfolding itself in real time.

We have to be able to consider the idea that Peter Thiel purports in Zero to One, that “Today’s ‘best practices’ lead to dead ends; the best paths are new and untried.”  The creative and innovative thinking necessary for operating effectively in today’s societal landscape requires that we think different, operate different, communicate different, and lead different.

As Peter Thiel shares, “Far more important are questions about the future: is it a matter of chance or design.”  It is with that thought, that we realize we are going to have to learn to design a better way forward.  And how effectively we evolve into the future will be a matter of how effectively we design that very same future.  How effectively we learn, create and innovate will be determined by the design of the organizational environments that we create.

In Warren Berger’s book Glimmer: How Design Can Transform Your Life, And Maybe Even The World, he shares that there are “key lessons for designing for emergence” which he defines as:

  1. Design your immediate surrounding (your ecosystem) in a manner that is self-sustaining and conducive to growth.
  2. Develop a strong, supportive relationship with the community around you.
  3. Keep learning.
  4. Keep creating and reinventing.

These 4 “key lessons” are valuable to keep in mind as we think of how we effectively evolve into the future as individuals, as leaders and as organizations.

How effective we are creating the future will not be a matter of happenstance…but a very intentional design of our systems.  It is in this space and thinking that we begin to see and hear the glimmers of coherence and alignment.  A new beacon of clarity that can actually drive us forward in a meaningful way.

“The most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.” –Peter Thiel Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future


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