Can we rely on heroic leadership to get us into the future?
Do you know what will happen to Public Radio or TV in 2 years? What about 5 years. Hey what about 6 months?
Of course you don't and nor do I - knowing what will happen when all the givens have been removed and a new system has not fully evolved is impossible. Why because the situation is Complex. There are too many items in motion. The future is unknowable. Much of life was knowable until recently.
If you were the head of a major network in 1985 could you have looked ahead into the future with some certainty ? I think so. While the future was Complicated - you could apply your engineering skills to find a way. Much of what was your environment was stable and was only changing by degree. Most of what you had to deal with lived inside a known framework where interactions were predictable. You could see cause and effect. Everything was cast in engineering terms.
If you are a programmer and you have a show to put on tonight are you really concerned about how you will do this? I doubt it. While for a newbie it like me it would be impossible, for an experienced person like yourself it would be Simple. Even your problems are known and predictable.
Where am I going? I want to show you that it is not smart to use skills honed for the Simple and for the Complicated to find answers to Complex problems.
Our problem in making sense of today when all is complex is that for many of us, these are the only skills we have. Our entire education is confined to the Simple and the Complicated. That is after all how School is designed - the teacher looks for the right answer and there always is a right answer in that framework. At work, we also mainly have lived in stable environments where there was a lot of predictability and where doing better was a process of optimization of known rules and known outcomes. We could use engineering precepts to plan. Above all we sought to find the right answer and we tested it against the knowns of cause and effect.
But now - everything is up in the air. The web has bumped every aspect of life into the unknown and into the unknowable. It has done this by collapsing time, cost and space for all types of relationships. In Complex systems there are no simple linkages between Cause and Effect. In the new science of Complexity, the rules are the rules of Nature and not the Rules of Engineering.
When the engineer confronts nature - guess who wins? We see this in war - look at the trouble the US and all conventional forces are when confronted by a networked foe. We see this particularly in the media with print falling first. There are huge rumblings in education and in health. No one is spared - even lawyers and accountants!
In this new world of Complexity, the competitive edge will go to those that grasp, accept, understand and deploy the rules of Nature earliest and best.
You don't believe me? OK look at this. Let's look a little deeper using a chart from the brilliant new book called "Getting to Maybe -How the World Is Changed" - that was published this week. (I will review it this weekend on Amazon)
See why school doesn't work any more? See why health care doesn't work? See why governments cannot help us? See why bureaucracies of all types have to fail?
We have to take this new reality to heart ourselves. What this chart shows me (click for a full view) is that it is impossible to find how Public Radio will work in the future except by using the rules of Complexity.
It also shows me that if raising a child is complex - running any kind of team, organization or company in today's rapidly changing environment is also complex and that is why organizations that rely on rigid rules find coping with complexity all but impossible.
So how do you navigate in Complexity? You have to search for "Emergence" - as we started to do in New Realities - we have to talk a lot more. Most importantly we have to find the best Questions. The Questions have to come first. In coping with Complex issues - the right Question is the key to the kingdom. You also have to tap into the Wisdom of Crowds for Emergence is a Pattern and you can only see a Pattern with a lot of data.
This is what Emergence looks like. It is the result of a power but simple equation being recursed many many times. In effect it is like having a powerful question conversed about many many time. The question and the recursion deliver a new form that has Emerged.
This is why Community is going to be the organization of the future where the Many talk to the Many.
Conversation between the Many and the Many is the Darwinian Creative Process that delivers Emergence. For the right Conversations to happen - you need a Trusted Space. A Trusted Space must be Peer to Peer. Extreme power differences prevent conversation and hence emergence. Hence traditional bureaucracies have profound challenges in coping unless they find ways of opening up the space safely inside to allow for peer to peer.
The problems that face America and the world today are all Complex. That is why our traditional organizations keep making them worse as they try and solve them. They use the rules of the Simple or the Complicated. The traditional leading organizations, that have the resources, have a huge power imbalance as well and therefore cannot have a conversation with a real person. Have you ever had a real conversation with your local school, government official or the phone company?
That is why I think Public Radio has such an opportunity - You are peers. You can hold the space for the conversations that will enable your neighbors to solve the Complex problems that confront us.
If you do this - you have then solved your business problem which itself is of course a complex one. In providing this Attractor for your community to solve its problems - you become essential. Somewhere in there is the question that will lead you to the answer that we all seek.
This weekend I will expand on this in my review.