The Emerging Cognitive Tension Of A New Age


It is not only the emergence of the Exponential Age that we are witnessing, but the Age of Discontinuity.  And what we will eventually discover in this emergence is that our ability to build more creative and innovative collective organizational capacity will will lie in our proficiency to hold these two opposable forces in constant cognitive tension…

For all intents and purposes, we have been gearing up for an Age of Acceleration.  A time of breakneck speed in regard to change, be that individual, organizational or societal.  And for some, at all three of these levels, it will be seen as a time of negative disruption and crippling chaos  And for others, it will serve as a great awakening as this turbulent acceleration of change gains enough traction to tear holes of opportunity in the veil that shrouds us from an unseen and uncertain future.

Just as a snake sheds its skin, we will have to learn to discard structures and processes that become limiting in the scope of the mental models, understandings and skill-sets that will be necessary to lead effectively in this new age.  Which will require us to become much more comfortable in this new skin, in acquiring new mental models, understandings and skill-sets that lead to new ‘best’ practices.  In essence, we will have to become very adept at tolerating the tensions of conflicting and opposable forces.

It is no longer a matter of OR as much as it is one of AND.  We can no longer think in terms of divergent OR convergent, as we must learn to move effectively between divergent AND convergent thinking and action.  We must become much more skilled in the conversation of AND.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald purposed, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposable ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.  On should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.” 

And it will not be enough to just hold opposable forces in cognitive tension, we will also have to learn what to keep and what to shed…

As Peter Drucker shares, “An organization, whatever its objectives must therefore be able to get rid of yesterday’s tasks and thus free its energies and resources for new and more productive tasks.”  For which he adds, “During periods of discontinuous, abrupt change, the essence of adaptation involves a keen sensitivity to what should be abandoned – not what should be changed or introduced.  A willingness to depart from the familiar has distinct survival value.”  

Which will become a real and necessary skill-set for leaders in this new age, this ability to determine what needs to be discontinued, not just what to start, but what needs to come to an end.

Which becomes a real mindshift for today’s modern leaders…

One of moving from sustainability to adaptability.  As we move into this new age, much of what we focus on sustaining serves as an anchor dragging us down and away from adapting to these societal shifts and changes, often inhibiting us from acknowledging the opportunities that are opening up before us.

The shifts, complexities and sheer forces of change that will face us in this new age will require much more from us as individuals, leaders and organizations.  Adaptation and a design-mindset will be paramount in creating future relevance.

Otherwise, we will find that the inability to adapt and change will unleash the AND of those same opposable forces that not only provide opportunity in the midst of chaos, but push those grounded and entrenched in stasis and status quo into the discontinuity of irrelevance.

“There is a great deal of evidence that suggests that when people are taken out of a familiar environment – and environment of continuity – their ability to deal with the future deteriorates rapidly.”  -Foster and Kaplan Creative Destruction: Why Companies That Are Built To Last Underperform The Market – And How To Successfully Transform Them



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s