Picasso said, “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.” Anybody who’s tried to do something new knows what he was talking about.
New exists only when old steps aside – or, to put it in “morphic field” terms, change only happens when an existing morphic field dissolves and reforms into a new one. Our bodies and brains prefer status quo, and change will eventually give them the new equilibrium they’re looking for, but first there’s destruction of the old equilibrium and a resulting period of chaos before a new one is reached.
Change ALWAYS begins with destruction and chaos. You’d think we’d have figured that out by now, but we haven’t, so instead of welcoming Picasso’s creative destruction, we react with surprise, fear, and judgment. Truth is, we’re living in a shifting morphic field, where things are taking their normal and natural, biological and psychological course. That sounds reassuring, but try telling that to your rampaging emotions when you’re awake at 3:00 a.m. wondering if you’ve screwed up your life for good this time. If the change process could be seamless, we might be okay with it. But it’s not and we’re not.
If we could just keep our finger off the panic button for a moment, we might remember that homeostasis is a powerful natural force that can work for us. Think of the words organic and organism; they make you think of the natural world. Now think of the words organize and organization; they connote something artificial and mechanistic, the product of human intention and engineering. Curiously, though, despite their different connotations, all four words have the same root, and represent the same natural process.
We’d like to think we can organize our organizations to work just the way we design them, but not so. For us and for them, change is always an organic process. Not only that, but we’re biologically wired for constant adaptation; which means we’re constantly shaping and reshaping ourselves and our environments and institutions, and so is everybody else. Which also means that, on any given day, there’s a lot of creative destruction and chaos going on.
Next time we start moving toward something new and suddenly everything comes unglued, how about if instead of coming unglued ourselves, we take a moment to reassure ourselves we’re just seeing the normal and natural way the old ends and the new arrives. And then take another moment to thank Picasso’s ghost for the tip off.
Smart guy, that Picasso.
To be continued.