I wrote this with a client in mind – sadly he stayed in the valley and left the new alone – it’s hard! Many cannot leave the old even though they know they have to.
Going 2.0 as Lee Bryant says is not about hanging shiny new objects on your old form. It is in truth that hardest of all things to do – changing who we are. As Euan says – it is the hard work of giving up our institutional form and re-becoming human again. So how do you make these changes to the inside of ourselves and our organizations?
I have been forced to reflect on this as one of my projects comes to the very edge of success. Here is the story I told the CEO today.
You are a chief. Your tribe lives in a valley. Over tall mountains is a much larger valley that has a huge lake – larger than Lake Ontario. It is like a vast sea. But you have never been there. You have never seen a lake. You have never fished in a lake or seen a boat. This new valley is beyond what you have ever experienced and so beyond what you can imagine. For your valley is savannah. It is plain full of herd animals and game of all types. It is lush and there are many plants that you use as well. Your tribe has been there a long time hunting and gathering. You are good at this. The Tribe has organized to do this work well.
But over the last few years, there has been a shift in weather. The savannah is drying out – the drought is getting worse. The game is getting scarce. The plants are dying too. Your success over the last 100 years means that you have many mouths to fill too.
So you have heard stories about the lake on the other side of the mountains from traders who go everywhere. So you send out a small reconnaissance party over the mountain to explore this new land. A new land where the skills to get food and the processes are very different. For remember none of you have ever seen a lake, a boat, a weir, a net. None of you have built houses in such surroundings. You don’t know what a pier is. You have no idea what weather can do on a lake. All you know are stories. Stories that might be fables.
The small party does quite well and returns home to tell you what happened. Now the lake and all that is needed to live by a lake is more real to you. At least people that you trust – your own tribesmen have seen it. But you are not going to up sticks and take all your people there just on the evidence of one trip. The risk is too big. You don’t know if enough of your people could adapt. And anyway, maybe the drought will end soon.
The drought gets worse. Now you send a larger party for a longer time. You tell them to really test this new life. Their mission to to see if a move to the new place is feasible. They set up a base camp in the new valley and build some boats and make nets. After much trial and error, they start to learn how to do well in the very new place. They spend a whole year there. They make a of of mistakes. Some die. But they can now see what has to be done. They are not good at any of it but they know the basics. They return home. Everyone is both fascinated and fearful. For if it is possible to live in this new valley, then it will be possible to leave our ancestral home. Everyone hopes that they don’t have to do that. Who wants to give up all they know? Maybe the drought will end.
But the drought gets worse. It is clear that this is a trend. It is clear that if the Tribe does not leave the valley, that in 5 years all will die. So now you send a lead party back over the pass into the new valley. Their job is to set up a new home for the tribe. They are not coming home. They are the beach head.
But as the new team settle in the new valley, they go home all the time in their minds. For the only home they really know is the old valley. Even though the new is feeding them. Even though they are gradually getting the new skills. They long for what they know. They are torn. They are in the new valley but they still are organized as if they were back in the old.
Still part of the tribe is left in the old valley. This left behind part of the tribe feel bad too. They know that they have been left behind. They know that the future is in the next valley. Both sides feel separated. One from the old, the other from the new. But this separation had to stand until the Chief knew that his people could make it in the new.
You could not wait however until he was completely sure because you could feel that the disconnect between the two groups was starting to threaten the whole tribe. So you moved the rest of the tribe over the pass into the new place as well. Because they were in a new place that needed new skills and new ways of working, you also had to realign who did what and for whom. You had to ensure that the tribe was organized to live in the new way. Fortunately because of the tension of the separation, most were relieved to have their doubts settled and quickly settled down to the new. Also because they all knew that they could not go back, that longing for “home” faded. After a while the new home became “Home” for all.
As I told this story, I started to see what had in fact happened. I had missed it all even myself. What we had done only became clear today.
The institutional world is dying. But it is the only world we know. Our place in it is home. We cannot just jump to the new. We have to explore it. This exploration needs to be organized as history tells us successful explorations are conducted – using larger and longer staying expeditions. At some point some people have to stay in the new world.
Even then history tells us that we at first long for the old. We even organize based on the old even when we live in the new. This tension is debilitating.
This is the story of America itself. Many expeditions lead in the end to the early colonies. The War of Independence is the re-org. This then opens up the west and the new culture and millions cross the sea for the dream.
Yes the tools are important, but it is the change in world view that is the key.
Soon I will have the data to prove this.
What do you think? Where are you on this journey?