Standing on the Sun


Just a moment ago, in the sixteenth century, Copernicus caused a bit of a stir.

He postulated that the Sun was the centre of the Solar System, rather than the Earth. Cue much huffing and puffing by Ptolemy and the Establishment. It was a Paradigm Shift. It was a revolution in the making.

Paradigm shift is a phrase coined by Thomas Kuhn in his book “The Copernican Revolution” and later developed in his ground breaking “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” in 1962.

Everyday Revolution

I really like Kuhn’s idea – we’ll come to it in a moment – but what I notice is that what he so elegantly describes is mirrored in many other accounts of how things change, from Alchemy to Military Strategy and has real implications for us as individuals, right here right now.

A simplified version of Kuhn’s model goes through the following stages, from a start point he called “pre science” – when things are”unstructured” – we don’t have a model for them:

“Normal Science”

This is when we think we understand it. We have models, they replicate and they enable us after a fashion to predict. It allows experts to appear. It’s where consultants come from. Careers and enterprises are built, and there is a sense of “truth”. Stability.

“Model Drift”

This is when “anomalies” start to appear. We discount them as obvious mistakes, as “outliers”. We find ways of either isolating them or ignoring them. We conspire, unconsciously to become “wilfully blind

“Model Crisis”

The arrival of the Black Swans. Those events that are in retrospect obvious but which we allow to take us completely by surprise. We can no longer isolate or ignore them. We are forced to see. Our view of experts change. A time of huge uncertainty.

Model Revolution

Out with the old, in with the new. A new way of doing things, a new way of seeing things. We have a paradigm shift and now have, for a while at least a new “Normal Science”

Rinse and repeat.

Standing on the Sun

“In order to see the solar system as it is, Copernicus had to be standing on the sun.”

Richard Morley. MIT Physicist

Such is the nature of a paradigm shift.

Whether as individuals or businesses, I find it hard to see other than we are leaving model drift – the stuff of the 2008 financial crisis, the current Covid crisis and the hunger for “normal” – and heading rapidly into model crisis. Climate Change, Inequality and the idea of Singularity make that inevitable and necessary.

I think it means that each of us, in our own way need to “stand on the sun” and take a different perspective on what is happening. To lose that comfortable ability to blame someone else, and take responsibility for ourselves and those around us.

How might we “stand on the Sun”?

The fact is that the model we have been using is broken (there’s good argument that the sort of meta model that is our current form of capitalism, like civilisations, last around ten generations. That puts us in line for a change)

Our overriding abilities as humans is our ability to think, to imagine and to turn that imagination into reality. Of late, that imagination has been impoverished. If the best our imagination can do is to invent Collaterallised Debt Obligations, then we’re losing the plot.

So, how do we stand on the Sun? Quite simply, by changing the conversation. The more we do as we are bidden to “focus” “concentrate” and go for efficiency the less we see.

“Zero based” conversations that acknowledge that in many areas, we do not know, whether as a business, a team, or as ourselves.

With people you trust, who share your values, and who will explore possibility with you. Not about what is, but what might be. Ambition for what matters.

If you want to see what a conversation like this feels like, come and look at a tiny, but important experiment we are running at Originize.

4:30 – 6:30pm UK time tomorrow afternoon. You can register here.

Imperfect with perfect timing.

We are in a time of stories. 

Stories we tell each other about what is going on and about what we believe will be.

Stories we tell others about ourselves. Stories we tell ourselves about us.

 Stories are works of art, not logic. Where science and mystery meet. They are where our Muse lives.

In the headlong rush to efficiency, we have tried to commoditise stories. We have structures, courses, graphic support. Marketers can think stories belong to them. They don’t of course.

There is no such thing as an efficient story.  Goldilocks and discovery of perfect porridge.? Jack and the genetically optimised beanstalk?

Stories are wonderful because they are always imperfect, and inefficient. They require effort, and multiple visits to get the best out of them.

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen. “Anthem”

Stories work because they leave us room to insert ourselves into them, flaws and all.

They offer us a glimpse of an alternative to where we are, and the possibility of redemption.

And Good Company

In “How many friends does one person need” Robin Dunbar offers valuable insight.

No more than Five for a leadership team, Fifteen for a management team, One hundred and fifty people for an effective organisation unit. We cannot meaningfully integrate more than 150 people into our lives. remeber their names, notice their lives, think about them. More than that and we end up in the vast expanse and shallowness of social media. Connection in name only.

Anthropologists understand story.

Jim Rohn, a coach, has asserted that we become the average of the five people we most associate with. Psychology and neuroscience as well as intuition back him up.

Now, more than ever, with vast swathes of all media either complaining about whose fault Coronavirus is, or offering digital equivalents of snake oil, choosing who we associate with is important.

I notice that those who shout loudest often have no “skin in the game”, but are quite happy for you to trade yours and watch – either for attention, or money, or both.

The people to associate with are those who value you for who you are, understand that they don’t know the answer, but will by your side as you find out together.

In the Right Surroundings

We get the most out of great stories in the right surroundings. The surroundings bring context, atmosphere and shared experience. 

Who ever listened, rapt, to a great story huddled round a radiator?

Fires, crackling and flickering, give us a shared focus and bathe us in warm light. They keep the spirits our our doubt at bay. They are sociable and memorable. Precious moments in time.

Great stories, like great leaders, are merchants of hope.

As we sit here, socially distant we do not have to be socially isolated. What people see of you as you Zoom or Teams away speaks volumes. Not only how you’re dressed, but what’s behind you. It shows what interests you, and where you’re comfortable. Clever “green screen” backgrounds are efficient, but as evidently false as a Bank’s marketing promise.

Turn up as who you are, where you are like it matters and you’re pleased and relaxed to be in the company of others. You don’t have to impress. You just have to be real.

At an Imperfect Time

There is never a perfect time; only perfect timing.

If we can balance real pleasure in the moment being lived, whilst accepting its passing we can start to do some good. 

Whether we choose to see the present time as one of looming danger, or emerging opportunity, we are right.

The difference is the stories we tell ourselves, and the company we keep. 

Imperfection presents us with a perfect opportunity.

Do one thing in pursuit of your story. Today. Perfect timing.