“You can’t paint a picture on top of a picture on a canvas. You can’t write a sentence on a page that is filled up with writing. You can’t create a future when there is already one coming at you. Before anything is to be created, there has to be a space of nothingness. The canvas must be empty; the page, blank; and the future that you were living into, somehow emptied out.” –Saffron and Logan The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life
Much of what we do in the present, inevitably sets the stage for the future, and is driven by our past.
If an organization is going to truly transform, it has to begin to redefine the work of its leaders. It has to teach itself to think different, if we are ever going to get to doing different. Which means, we have to begin to move ourselves over from the world that we currently reside in, to a world that we talk of wanting to be in…
- We can’t say we want better questions, when we place more value on coming to easy answers and quick solutions
- We can’t tout the benefits of collaboration, when we pit our organization against itself through competing and competitive attitudes
- We can’t create environments of creativity, when we only celebrate a sense of compliance
- We can’t see bright spots of innovation, when everyone is constrained to an agenda of implementation
- We can’t build up towards greater agility and adaptability, when we are mired in bureaucracy
- We will never get to differentiation, when only focus on standardization
- We will never learn to enjoy the journey, if we are only determined to the destination
- We won’t ever transform, when the only thing we ever discuss is reform
Unless we are willing to reflect deeply on our mental models and how they affect our present and future, those mental models will continue to pull and entrench us in practices of the past. It is only when we are able to unlock ourselves from those mental models, that we are able to approach the present and future with a clean canvas.
Otherwise, much of what we do is based in overlays and stacking.
When we are unable to unlock ourselves from our mental models and clean the canvas, we not only continue to pull the past into the future, we spend our time overlaying and stacking upon that past. Which means that we are often building upon a foundation that is often found to be outdated and irrelevant.
Or as Dalmau and Tideman share, “And with different kinds of problems or issues come different required modes of thinking, different approaches, different mental models.”
And we can say with precision, that we are in a time where we are facing very different problems and a very non-obvious future that will require different thinking, different approaches and definitely different mental models, if we are to face this very different and non-obvious future in a much more relevant, positive and successful manner.
We can no longer believe that we can overlay and stack our way effectively into the future.
In their book, The Three Laws of Performance, Saffron and Logan put forth that there are “three dimensions to this process of “blanking the canvas.” It is when we are able to effectively move through these “dimensions”that we can begin to truly create the space for the emergence of the new.
- “The first dimension is seeing that what binds and constrains us isn’t the facts, it’s language – and in particular, descriptive language.” Far too often, we bind ourselves to the past and limit our possibilities in the present and future by our own language, both in what is said and what is left unsaid.
- “The second dimension is articulating the default future and asking, “Do we really want this as our future?” If we want our story of the future to have a different ending than the one that we believe has already been written, then we need to be able to create a new narrative, a narrative that takes us to where we want to go, to a much more desirable future. This is a choice that is both necessary and required, if we want to change the direction of the future that we are currently moving into.
- “The third dimension to creating a blank space is the most powerful: completing issues from the past.” As Zaffron and Logan share, we can’t move into this new future, if we find that we remain tied to the past, a past that continues to exert influence on your present and future. It is only when we free from that past, that we can begin to live into that new narrative of the future.
Until we are able to break free from our mental models and the pull of the past, we will continue to overlay and stack on a faulty foundation, one that often takes us towards a false future. Breaking from the pull of the past and the binds that constrain and entrench us in past ways of thinking and doing, allows us to live more fully into that narrative of the future that is being created.
It is only when we break free, that we can live fully into that narrative of the future.
“For every problem, there is a future that’s already been written about it. This future includes people’s assumptions, hopes, fears, resignation, cynicism, and lessons learned through past experience. Although this future is almost never talked about, it is the context in which people try to create change.” -Saffron and Logan The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life