Networks: An Engine For Scaling Learning And Innovation (Part 3)

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We live in a connected world, wait, strike that…

A highly connected world.  Or as Thomas Friedman might say, we now live in a “hyperconnected world.”

Inability to tap into the diversity of thinking and novel and new ideas that exists within those networks, severely limits our individual and organizational ability to move into the future in a much more progressive and relevant manner.

It is within these spaces, these networks, that connectivity is acquired and achieved, cognitive resources and idea flows are managed and exchanged, and where provocation for action upon these ideas is often mediated, accelerated and catalyzed.

Or as the work Network Science by the National Research Council shares, “Networks lie at the core of the economic, political, and social fabric of the 21st century.”  For which the National Research Council adds, “Society depends on a diversity of complex networks for its very existence.”  And yet, “In spite of society’s profound dependence on networks, fundamental knowledge about them is primitive,” at best.

What we are learning, especially as we look at the scaling up and proliferation of networks across society, and the level of data and knowledge they are providing, is that today’s organizations must learn to support a much more robust and dynamic set of internal and external networks, utilizing a variety of metrics that lead to a greater understanding how divergent idea flows, as well as organizational novelty and innovation awareness and dissemination can be cascaded across the organizational landscape in much more fluid, clear and coherent manner.

Today’s organizations must be able to unlock and engage both internal and external networks, in an effort to not only tap into a diversity of voices, but a diversity and divergence of thinking and ideas.  These networks not only provide a platform for engaging an ongoing flow of the novel and new, they also create a cognitive space to play with ideas that often leads to not only the creation of new knowledge, but new actions and new ways of working.  Unfortunately, most organizations plateau from an inability to create more dynamic, robust and expansive networks of learning that feed forward these idea flows that lead to the creation of new knowledge and curation of new learning.

Rather, most organizational networks remain fragmented at best, unable to tap into these internal, external and periphery idea flows that feed the core of our organizational ecosystems with a steady diet of new and innovative thinking and ideas, keeping us caught in a constant iteration and amplification of the known.  Constantly caught up on a never ending chasing or our own tail on the hamster wheel of what we don’t know, we don’t know.

Which again is unfortunate, as authors Krebs and Holley share in their work, Building Sustainable Communities Through Network Building, where research from as far back as the late 1990’s shows the benefits of networks within large organizations, for which the provide below:

  • Teams with better access to other teams inside and outside the organization finished their assignments faster.
  • Teams with better connections discovered, and transferred, the knowledge they needed within the organization.
  • Managers with ‘better connections’ [inside and outside the organization] spotted and developed more opportunities for their departments or organizations.
  • Project managers with better network connections were more successful in reaching project goals within time and financial parameters.

So even in the 90’s, years before the explosion of the instant access provided by today’s social networks, we see research illuminating the benefits of how networks not only allow for enhanced communication, but increased speed of learning and spread of innovation across our organizations.

As with many things, it is not an either/or proposition.  It is not just about internal or external networks, rather it is about AND and the ability for both to exist in a dynamic and interrelated manner within an organization.  It is about connecting the inside, both the core and periphery, as well as the outside.  It is in that combination our networks allow for the access, reach, spread and scale of new and novel ideas that allow innovation to move across our organizations in a much more fluid and dynamic manner, at all levels. Or as Krebs and Holley add, “The lack of outside information, and dense cohesion, within the network, removes all possibility for new ideas and innovations.”

It will benefit today’s leaders and organizations to spend time investing in and learning how networks can better serve our individuals and organizations for scaling the level of learning and knowledge that is necessary to stay vital and relevant in a world of accelerated and often turbulent change.  Or as the National Research Council puts forth in the work Network Science…

“In summary, human understanding of networks has the potential to play a vital role in the 21st century, which is witnessing the rise of the Connected Age.  There is an enormous demand for information on how to design and operate large global networks in a robust, stable, and secure fashion.”




Creating Organizational Relevance

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“It is the very uncertainty, unpredictability, and uncontrollability of organizational processes that signal the adaptive capability of complex systems; their capacity for the emergence of novel practices, processes, and routines is at the heart of an ecology of innovation.”  -Goldstein, Hazy, Lichtenstein Complexity and the Nexus of Leadership: Leveraging Nonlinear Science to Create Ecologies of Innovation

Learning lies at the very heart of any complex, adaptive and innovative system.  Especially those organizational systems that are able to continually grow and evolve.  And while we can let that statement linger, it is not enough.  It requires more, much more.

It requires…

A diversity of learning

Curation and creation of new knowledge

Environments of experimentation where novel and innovative ideas and thinking can emerge

Spaces where ideas can collide to create new thinking and ideas

Engaging learning networks and idea flows, both internally and externally

Ongoing reflection of mental models, assumptions and cognitive biases

Ability to adapt and change in response to the ongoing emergence of the new

Unfortunately, in the midst of today’s organizational complexity and chaos that encompasses today’s accelerated and turbulent change cycles, leaders look to insulate and simplify, instead of embracing the opportunity and/or opportunities that begins to emerge from this complexity and chaos.

When change is needed most for an organization, it is often the status quo and stasis that is sought out and exemplified (both consciously and unconsciously).

In the face of change, whether incremental and/or disruptive, the comfort of the known is often held up as a model to stave off the fear of the unknown, even when the current model is proving to be ineffective.  There is safety in the known.  Unless the emergence of the novel and new can provide a strong promise of future success it is squeezed out in favor of the familiar and known.

Which is why the above “requirements” are necessary for any organization to be able to continually adapt and maintain innovative ecologies, environments, and ecosystems.  

Or as the old adage puts forth, “you don’t know what you don’t know” remains true for our organizations, as well as individuals.  For much of what happens in an organization is based on a “we’ve always done it this way” approach to working that has seldom been considered or questioned.  Which then begets the question, are the individuals and the organization itself on a journey to continually seek out “what it doesn’t know?”  Or is it happy to remain in the comfort of the known, often at its own peril and relevance.

For which Goldstein, Hazy, Lichtenstein add, “Since ecologies are driven by all of the exchanges, interchanges, interactions, and connectivities existing between its subsystems, whatever is essential takes place at these interfaces.”

Which reminds us that if individuals and organizations are not searching out and creating new learning and knowledge, engaged in internal and external learning flows and networks, seeking out and allowing for experimentation and the emergence of the novel and new, and constantly reflecting on their mental models as they collide with a diversity of learning and ideas, those “exchanges, interchanges, interactions, and connectivities” will do little to move individuals and organizations beyond and amplification of what is already known.

Or as Goldstein, Hazy, Lichtenstein share, “At the core of ecosystems are patterns of interactions – the vital exchanges – that connect all the subsystems together.”  For which they continue, “Because a complex system is composed of interdependent, interacting subsystems, information about the functioning of the system is distributed throughout the networks of connection.  This nexus of relations is the source of influence, the driver of innovation, and the regulator of change.”

Which reminds us that all individuals and organizations have their own borders, their own space where the known and the unknown intersect.

It is at this intersection, that the future relevance of our organizations is often determined and discovered.


Beyond Reverse Engineering: In Consideration Of Continuous Improvement (Part 3)

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“But why are you so interested in the solutions we develop for our specific problems?  Why do you never study how we go about developing those solutions?  Since the future lies beyond what we can see, the solutions we employ today may not continue to be effective.  The competitive advantage of an organization lies not so much in the solutions themselves – but in the ability of the organization to understand conditions and create fitting, smart solutions.”  -Mike Rother Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results

Years and years of leadership and organizational indoctrination has done very little to prepare today’s leaders and organizations for a future world that has shifted and a past world that no longer exists.  Leadership and organizational frameworks and structures that have often touted…

Answers over Questions

Control over Autonomy

Technical over Adaptive

Structure over Process

Bureaucracy over Agility

Standardization over Differentiation

Compliance over Creativity

Implementation over Innovation

Short-term over Long-term

Reform over Transform

In a world that has doggedly determined to accelerate the pace of change, linear mindsets and linear ways of thinking are often lulling leaders and their organizations into stasis and status quo ways of operating and responding to this turbulent manner of change.

Instead of responding with an “abundance” mentality of determining the opportunity that exists and arises from this chaos, most leaders and organizations rather choose to apply a “scarcity” mindset and look more towards finding ways to safely insulate themselves from the volatility that surrounds them and their organization.

In many instances, they choose to recoil and then reform…rather than adapt and move to transform.

So, rather than moving towards gaining the ability to adapt and transform, many of our leaders and organizations choose instead to try and “reverse engineer” their way forward.  For which Mike Rother shares as the process of “taking an object apart to see how it works in order to replicate it.”  

Which has been a continual problem plaguing our educational organizations for a plethora of years.  This idea that we can take something apart, see how it works, and then easily replicate it in our own organization.  Just like putting a new overhead on the projector.  Easy.  Right?

Only it’s not right and it’s not working…

Or as Mike Rother adds in Toyota Kata, “We have been trying to copy the wrong things.”

Rother provides us with 3 reasons in Toyota Kata as to why “reverse engineering” isn’t working:

  1. Critical Aspects Are Not Visible: Which means that you can’t employ the things you see without being able to understand the things that you can’t see.  The underlying  processes that led to the visible changes.  Or as Rother purports, “We have been trying to add practices and principles on top of our existing management thinking and practice without adjusting that thinking and practice.”  For which he adds, “techniques will not work properly, will not generate continuous improvement and adaptation, without the underlying logic, which lies beyond our view.”  Too often we try and change behaviors without attending to the thinking and mindset that enables those behaviors.  Without attending to the mindset, this approach to change will always be veneer at best.
  2. Reverse Engineering Does Not Make An Organization Adaptive and Continuously Improving: Organizations have this tendency to jump right to solutions without determining if they are even solving the right problem.  And if they are solving the right problem, are they really gathering a divergence and diversity of thinking towards solving that problem.  Too often, as we look towards this “reverse engineering” way of working, we try to save time by moving right to implementing solutions that worked well for other leaders or organizations, without considering the context, time and a culture in which those solutions were created…and then seem perplexed when they fall flat in our own organizations.  As Mike Rother adds, “Focusing on solutions does not make an organization adaptive.”  Instead of focusing on solutions, look to create the environment and processes that lead to the thinking and doing that provides the ability and capacity of the organization to continuously improve and adapt.
  3. Trying To Reverse Engineer Puts Us In An Implementing Mode: Focusing on solutions over engaging better problem-solving processes leads to an organization, “having an implementation orientation” which “actually impedes our organization’s progress and the development of people’s capabilities.”  Which takes us back to linear mindsets and linear thinking, which is based in trying to create certainty, which is very much in alliance with an organization being in implementing mode.  Whereas, a problem-solving orientation allows leaders and organizations to become much more comfortable with the uncertainty that is required of being more adaptive and focused on continuous improvement.  If we are going to move from where we are to where we want to be, it will require taking a path that is often filled with uncertainty and unknowns.  Or as Rother shares, “If we believe the way ahead is set and clear, then we tend to blindly carry out a preconceived implementation plan rather than being sensitive to, learning from, and dealing adequately with what arises along the way.  As a result, we do not reach the desired destination at all, despite our best intentions.”

We fail to adapt and continuously improve as leaders and organizations when we try to “reverse engineer” our way forward into a very uncertain and unknown future.  We have to understand that there is a large chasm of this uncertainty and unknown that lies between where an organization is and where they eventually want to be…and inability to deal effectively with that chasm of uncertainty and unknown that stands before us will impede progress towards that preferred future that stands waiting beyond.

“If someone claims certainty about the steps that will be implemented to reach a desired destination, that should be a red flag to us.  Uncertainty is normal – the path cannot be accurately predicted – and so how we deal with that is of paramount importance, and where we can derive our certainty and confidence.” -Mike Rother Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results

Facilitating Transformation

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“The more complex and unfamiliar the challenge we’re facing, the more important it becomes to test and adjust the underlying ladders of inference, beliefs, and filters we’re using to tackle it.”  -Craig Weber Conversational Capacity: The Secret To Building Successful Teams That Perform When The Pressure is On

No matter how many great ideas, strategies and levers that we can string together towards organizational transformation, if leaders are unable to facilitate their teams through and towards the conversations, processes, structures, and environments that actually lead to that transformation…not much has or will change.

Which means that today’s leaders have to be willing to push their teams into much more uncertain and uncomfortable terrain, where our mental models, maps and bias’ are placed on reflective display.  Where diversity of thinking and candor are natural and positive elements of the teams they engage and lead.

As Craig Weber adds, “The capacity to transform conflicting perspectives into learning gives a team an additional advantage that is invaluable in challenging situations where our old ways of thinking no longer fit the bill.  People with different perspectives are able to generate not just more learning, but a deeper, more powerful kind of learning.  They’re more agile, astute, and adaptive because they can deliberately double-loop learn.”

However, before we can get to what double-loop learning is, we should begin with defining both single- and double- loop learning.

According to Google,

Single-loop learning seems to be present when goals, values frameworks and, to a significant extent, strategies are taken for granted.


Double-loop learning occurs when error is detected and corrected in ways that involve the modification of an organization’s underlying norms, policies and objectives.

To add to that definition, Craig Weber shares, “Whenever there’s a gap between the consequences we intend and the results we achieve, learning is required.  There are two very different kinds of learning we can employ.  When things don’t work out as expected, the easy path is to simply circle back and adjust our actions (our strategy, behavior, or plan).  This is called single-loop learning.”

Which means that single-loop learning is best suited to the routine, technical problems that are stretched across our organizational landscape.  The issue with single-loop learning is that today’s leaders are seeing a big shift…from a decrease in the technical, routine problems to a heightening and growth of the adaptive challenges that are coming at them and their organizations in today’s turbulent and changing world.

To make matters worse, not only are teams and organizations struggling to engage and embrace more double-loop learning in their processes, they actually continue to engage single-loop learning as their go to response to these growing adaptive challenges they are now facing.  Which is a concern, especially in a time when organizational transformation is often vital for the future and the mere survival and relevance of many, if not most organizations.

Or as Weber adds, “In adaptive circumstances, where the problem is poorly defined, no proven solution exists, and our old habits of thought no longer fit the predicament we’re facing, single-loop learning is grossly inadequate.”

In the turbulent times we are now living in, one of accelerated change that is unleashing a densely growing number of adaptive challenges, double-loop learning will be vital to our ability to question our assumptions, reflect upon our mental maps and models, as well as test our often unconscious confirmation bias’.  Double-loop learning serves as a lens for ongoing review of, rather than blind acceptance of the assumptions of what we determine to be true.

Which means today’s leaders have to facilitate the spaces and environments where positive conflict and candor can be incorporated into engaging a variety and diversity of thinking and ideas that lead to greater capacity, especially in response to the adaptive challenges that now face our teams and organizations.

As Weber purports, “Holding our ideas, views, and perspectives more like hypotheses that need to be tested – a hallmark of more disciplined mindset – is conducive to double-loop learning.  When we hold a view like a truth it makes it much harder to question it, much less correct it.  But when we treat our thoughts, assumptions, and beliefs as suspect, it makes it easier to adjust or change them when they don’t pass muster.”

Our world has and is changing, often in a rapid and volatile manner.  It is not enough for our behaviors to change in response, so must our thinking and the lens’ that drive that thinking, both individually and organizationally.

“Trapped on the hamster wheel of their outdated thinking, unable to adapt to the novel predicaments they face, a team that can’t deliberately double-loop learn grows increasingly ineffective in a dynamic environment.”  -Craig Weber Conversational Capacity: The Secret To Building Successful Teams That Perform When The Pressure is On


The 3I’s Of Change In The Midst Of Uncertainty: Innovation, Improvement, Implementation

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“The ability to not only endure but to invite, amplify, and exalt uncertainty, then reframe it as fuel is paramount to your ability to succeed as a creator.  Visionary innovation and creativity cannot happen when every variable, every outcome, every permutation is known and has been tested and validated in advance.  You cannot see the world differently if it’s already been seen in every possible way.  You cannot solve a problem better if every solution has already been defined.”  -via Jonathan Fields Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance

The brain thrives on certainty, and in uncertain times, even more so.  And we are definitely entering a time of deep uncertainty.  As Jonathan Fields would add from his work Uncertainty, “Disruption is the new normal.  Now, more than ever, you cannot lock down the future.”

And yet, we do little to intentionally embrace the unknowns that we are facing.  Instead, we do all that we can to provide a deeper sense of certainty.  Instead of looking for the opportunities arising of the current chaos, we recoil to the shell of cover that we hope will insulate us from the growing complexity that surrounds us.  We look for the knowns in the midst of a growing plethora of unknowns.  We tend to search out predictability in the face of doubt.  We heighten the value of quick solutions over the asking of bigger, deeper questions.

Inevitably, we try to predict, when we should learn to forecast.

And more and more we hear the growing chorus’ of…

“We are preparing ___________ for jobs that are yet to exist.”  

Which provides us some sense of semblance, safety and understanding for this unknown and unpredictable future we are currently facing.  A sentiment that makes us feel less anxious and a bit safer as the chaos and complexity of these times pushes in upon us.  It allows us move forward with a “We don’t know what we don’t know” approach and attitude.  Especially as we begin to realize that we are definitely working our way through very volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) times.

While at the same time, the concern with leadership and organizations during these chaotic times is the tendency to become very reactive and reactionary in the midst of upheaval.  Especially when the leadership or organization is neither forward facing or engaged in future thinking.

As Jonathan Fields puts forth in Uncertainty“The more you’re able to tolerate ambiguity and lean into the unknown, the more likely you’ll be to dance with it long enough to come up with better solutions, ideas, and creations.”

But we are struggling to dance with it.  We are avoiding the need to grapple with the variety of unknown forces pushing in on us as leaders and organizations.  For us to eventually get to where we can have better questions, better solutions, better ideas and better creations, we have to create environments for our individuals and organizations that move us past surviving and on to thriving in these VUCA times.

Especially when the necessity of change presents itself in the midst of the chaos and complexity of our current times.

As you consider the chaos, complexity and variety of unknowns that your leadership and organizations are facing, as well as the necessity and need for change that may be required…it may be worth your while to keep your eyes on 3 very formidable I’s during the process: Innovation, Improvement, and Implementation.

  1. Innovation – Begin by truly determining if the change that is being initiated is necessary and needed?  Is it adding value to the user?  Is it worth the effort for those the change is intended to support, as well as those implementing the change, and the organization itself?  Is the change going to be incremental or disruptive to the organization?  Determining and understanding if the change being initiated is relevant and worth sustaining in the future is vital to commitment now and then. As the quote goes, “All improvement requires change, but not all change is an improvement.”          
  2. Improvement – There are two sides to improvement in any change initiative.  First,  how will the change or innovation be an improvement to the user and the organization?  Second, how will progress of the change be monitored and measured?  It is in this process that it must be determined, through questions as opposed to moving too quickly to solutions, “What is the problem we are truly trying to solve?”  For any improvement or change initiative to be effective, determining the real problem that the change is trying to solve must be tethered out first so that it is getting at the root of WHY the change is necessary and needed in the first place.
  3. Implementation – Too often our change initiatives and efforts inordinately spend time focused on “strategic” planning to make sure that the implementation is perfected before moving forward.  Unfortunately, all of the “strategic” planning in the world cannot plan for every issue that occurs upon implementation, from infrastructure to resource concerns.  Instead of wholesale implementation, spend time in short cycles of experimentation that allow for learning.  Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) or Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA Loop) iteration processes allow for the necessary learning and or pivots needed for any change or innovation initiative to move towards full implementation in a much more effective manner, which benefits the user and the organization.

The 3I’s: Innovation, Improvement, Implementation allows individuals, leaders and organizations to engage a process around change that better supports the needs of those the change initiative or effort is aimed at benefitting.  Processes that allow for greater empathy throughout the process, to make sure that the change or innovation is truly benefitting user.  As well as providing a process and/or space where people can spend time grappling with and embracing the unknowns of our future, over continual amplification of the known.

As Jonathan Fields adds, “If everything is known and certain, that means it’s all been done before.  And creation isn’t about repetition.  Genius always starts with a question, not an answer.  Eliminate the question and you eliminate the possibility of genius.”

And while the brain thrives on certainty, to engage change leaders must create environments that allow people the time, space and processes to effectively grapple with uncertainty, especially in the face of change.  It is the only way that we will truly begin to create a tolerance for ambiguity in a time of VUCA.

“Whether you’re just looking to thrive in uncertain times or deliberately amplifying uncertainty in the name of creating better things and experiences, you can train your mind to not only handle the unease that comes from having to consistently act without having all the answers, but embrace and invite it as a signpost that what you’re doing matters.  Rather than grasping futilely after a sense of certainty that’ll never come, learn how to dance with the unknown.  It’s possible, it just takes a bit of work.  Then look for the opportunity that always goes hand in hand with upheaval.”  -Jonathan Fields Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance


In Exponential Times, Questions Matter

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“What if our schools could train students to be better lifelong learners and better adapters to change, by enabling them to be better questioners?”  -Warren Berger A More Beautiful Question

And it begins with us, the questions we are asking as individuals and organizations…

What changes?

What stays the same?

What is relevant?

What remains relevant?

What is irrelevant?

What falls into obsolescence and discontinuity?

What questions are we asking?

What questions do we need to be asking?

How will the current digital transformation effect education at all levels, across the spectrum?

How will we determine to prepare our students for a digitally disrupted world that is facing an unprecedented acceleration of change?

How deeply will the digital transformation effect the future that our students are walking out into? (Think of the next 5, 10, 15, even 20 years)

How do we prepare our organizations, educators, and students for the proliferation of data that is increasing and expanding exponentially and how to use it without becoming overwhelmed by it?

How will we prepare our students for a globalized future that is being outsourced and automated, as well as continually disrupted and enhanced by artificial intelligence?

How do we ensure that our students are being equipped with the knowledge, skills and abilities that provide them opportunities in a vastly changing future?

Are we constantly asking…

What is?

What if?

How might we?

Too often we want answers, not more questions.  We thrive on trying to create safe environments focused on predictability and certainty, while avoiding the questions and conversations that may invite in more volatility, disruption and uncertainty.

As Jeanne Liedtka shares, “Innovation means moving into uncertainty.  To foster innovation, we need to embrace that learning only occurs when we step away from the familiar and accept the uncertainty that inevitably accompanies new experiences.”

But how will we truly define our individual and organizational challenges if we are not asking deeper and better questions?  How will we begin to invoke greater learning and inquiry, if we lack the questions that invite that thinking into our organizations?  If we are not asking better questions, how will we know whether or not we are even solving the right problems and challenges?

Far too often we find ourselves and our organizations providing well-considered answers and solutions, only to find that they are in collusion to solving the wrong problems and challenges we are facing.  

Asking questions allows individuals and organizations to grapple with their current circumstances, promoting both individual and team thinking, learning, inquiry, autonomy and agency, which is vital to dealing more effectively with the volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity that surrounds and infiltrates our organizations in today’s world.

Questions cause us to consider our future, as much as our current circumstances.  Questions allow us to move our thinking away from a predetermined consideration to more possible and preferable contemplations of the future.

Inability of individuals and organizations to endure the uncertainty brought forth and raised by our questions, will inevitably serve as the gatekeeper that locks us in status quo ways of thinking, doing and acting.  Or you might say, if we remain unable to ask what if, we will stay forever entrenched in what is.

“Questions challenge authority and disrupt established structures, processes, and systems, forcing people to have to at least think about doing something differently.”  -Warren Berger A More Beautiful Question


Exploring “What If” With Our Systems

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If the brain thrives on certainty, we must intentionally create environments and situations that both allow and force us to engage and grapple with uncertainty…if we are to gain the capacity that pushes us towards change that leads to transformation.

For transformation to occur, to really occur, we have to begin to create organizational environments where the willingness to ask “what if” moves us from greater awareness, to collective action around and toward a better vision for the future…

For this is much deeper than just risk-taking.  

It is embracing a willingness to move past the constant exploitation and amplification of the known, of what we’ve always done, in order to intentionally engage with the unknown and explore uncertainty.  Spending time in this arena, grappling with thinking and ideas beyond our current awareness and understandings, allows us to stretch and even unlearn the frames by which our current mental models are held in place.

For this is where new learning and new knowledge is created.

As individuals and organizations, we need to both explore and engage more “what if” questions that require us to create the mental scenarios that allow us to anticipate, forecast, and even prepare more effectively for the future, and what the future might require of us and our organizations.

We have to approach “what if” collectively…

What if we knew that we were going to be facing a possible dystopian future with automation and artificial intelligence causing major job displacement and economic upheaval, how would we decide to change our organizations and systems?

What if we knew that our current way of operating as an organization would be determined irrelevant and would face major disruption in the next two years, how would we decide to change our organization and our systems?

What if we knew that the content and skills we were teaching our students would be determined to be disconnected towards helping them find future success in a quickly changing world, how would we decide to change our organizations and systems?

What if we knew that the only way to thrive effectively in the future as individuals and organizations, required ongoing and continuous learning and change, how would that change our organizations and systems?

What if we knew that the way forward for individual and organizational success in the future required greater emotional intelligence, empathy, creativity, inventiveness, curiosity, how would we decide to change our organizations and systems?

What if we knew what the future would require of us and our organizations, would we be willing to change ourselves, our organizations, and our systems?

It is in our questions, much more than our answers, that we truly begin to determine a vision of what transformation may look like, both individually and organizationally.

And yet, what we often fail to realize, both individually and organizationally, is that even when we know the dire outcomes of an unwillingness to change, when we know that status quo thinking and doing will lead us into eventual irrelevance or worse…we still cling to the known, of what we’ve always done.

Too often, the fear of the unknown keeps us grounded in the irrelevance of the known.

Framing the future in fear is not going to create the change necessary to move us and our organizations forward more effectively.  Rather, we need to create new frames, new scenarios of a much more positive future, by allowing our “what if” questions to paint a picture of what we could become, of a better way forward, and a better future for us all.

In the end, always remember, if we never ask what if…we will always be left with what is.