2020 accelerated changes already underway in the nature of work, and the way we work. It has compressed years into months as flawed business models have been exposed, many of us learned to work from home, and found the stories we thought we were part of being rewritten.
2021 will not see a return to an old normal, and as yet it is far from clear what 2022 will look like. It is confusing and exciting, unsetlling and transformational. To thrive in these circumstances, we need to create new stories for ourselves that will acknowledge the challenges we face going forward, from technology to climate change and everything in between.
There are no maps for the journey we are on. To make sense of what is happening, and craft our new stories we need to work together. To share knowledge and experience, ideas and fears, and explore the new as our world moves beyond complicated to inherently complex. In this new world, boundaries are dissolving. Everything we do has consequences. Some we may be able to predict, many we cannot. We have to learn, adapt, experiment and repeat, both as individuals and as businesses.
As well as new narrative, we need new language. Language that brings together and synthesises what are too often seen as being in opposition. It is too easy for what start as small differences to become polarities, and we end up in outright opposition to something that would benefit us more by evolving than by being fought against. We need a “Language of the Middle” where opposites can meet in constructive dialogue.
In the Spring of 2020, a small group of us started meeting to consider how we might do this. It has been a time of experiments and learning that has taught us a simple lesson. Don’t start with a problem, start from the beginning.
That is what we are doing in 2021, following a set of values we have come to understand.
Work in small groups. Nobody ever had a good idea in a large group. We have found eight to be ideal. Not more than ten, nor fewer than six,
Respect. There are no experts on the future. There is after all no data on it. We are all beginners with equal voices. We need to listen, and be listened to with respect.
Connect. Build trust. Understand each other. As Human Beings, not as roles or titles. Create safe space for different ideas to emerge without judgement and involve real diversity of experience and worldviews. We cannot understand a system we are part of.
Reflect. We are all creations of our cultures and background, and all see the world differently and it’s easy to be trapped by obsolescent beliefs. Clarity comes out of thinking as a group, and letting the agenda emerge.
Direct. Act on the new knowledge and understanding in a way that is negotiated between all those involved and affected.
Our approach is beautifully summed up in this extract: