The last two posts in this series were about pivoting. A few decades ago we would have talked about guerilla marketing. More recently, the topic would have been the nimble organization. Nowadays, you probably know about the microenterprise movement, you’ve noticed all the Colorado microbreweries and wineries, and you’ve probably seen stuff online about micro-housing. Long before any of that, we had Small is Beautiful. Plus variations on the theme along the way.
That adds up to four decades of thought leaders telling us the same thing: our world isn’t supporting monolithic monuments to status quo anymore. There’s just too much change going on. Centralized, formalized, institutionalized “corporate cultures” can’t stay relevant and responsive. Globalization has paradoxically both homogenized world culture and shattered the “market” into a gazillion shards, where it’s indie-this and indie-that, micro products delivered to micro markets.
What does all this have to do with our desire to live fulfilled and meaningful and satisfying lives? Lots, actually.
For starters, it’s evidence of a systemic pivot that’s running through human existence — an evolutionary neurological adaptation playing out on billions of micro-stages. Consider this quote from a blog post entitled “Nimble: The New Big.”
We define organizational nimblenessas the ability and willingness to make smart and timely decisions about core organizational strategies, resources and actions based on real-world dynamics.
Consider what mind scientist John Medina says about human history and our ability to adapt:
“How, then, did [humans] go from such a wobbly, fragile minority population to a staggering tide of humanity 7 billion strong and growing? There is only one way. You give up on stability. You don’t try to beat back the changes. You begin not to care about consistency within a given habitat, because such consistency isn’t an option. You adapt to variation itself.”
Less stress and more peace, freedom, autonomy, meaning, satisfaction, fulfillment, purpose, and whatever other qualities of experience we put in our enlightenment bags aren’t about settling down, getting low and slow. Not so in a world where a single new product announcement can wipe out a whole industry, and dealing with “Big-Bang Disruption” is part of a CEO’s job description.
If we want personal and career enlightenment in the year 2014, we need to “adapt to variation itself,” which means staying light on our feet, nimble, ready to pivot. We need to go micro, create meaning in small, powerful doses, while simultaneously sticking to “core organizational [and personal] strategies.” In other words, we need to embrace chaos while staying centered.
That’s a lot to ask the human race. We were just getting comfortable in our evolutionary recliners. (“Hey, grab me some more self-actualization while you’re up, would you?”) And it’s especially a lot to ask the sector of the human race that makes its living in the legal profession, where precedent is our shared genome. No, we’re not all hidebound — as we’ve seen in past blogs about “disruptive innovation” in our profession — but most of us aren’t exactly early adopters either.
Is the prospect of enlightenment worth all this chaos and disruption? How do you find peace in the midst of chaos? Even Bob Dylan had his reservations: ““I accept chaos,” he said, “But I’m not sure whether it accepts me.” Are those dreams of enlightenment more trouble than they’re worth? How bad would it be to just hunker down into ego and enjoy a decent paycheck and let the Avant Garde do the crashing and burning for the rest of us?
Good questions. We’ll tackle them next time.