Creating 'future fit' organizations today

Creating 'future fit' organizations today

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For some years, thought-leaders have been heralding a time of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity — the so-called VUCA world.

Yet only in the times upon us have a significant proportion of our leaders begun to really feel this turbulence directly, on the ground, in the day-to-day thick of it. 

Today’s leaders are holding an increasing tension. This tension is, on the one hand, caught in the reality of today, with the pressing need to quickly react to increasing volatility, disruptive innovations, changing expectations, system shocks and more.

It’s a challenge just to keep our heads above water in these business climes, and yet on the other hand, this tension is also about tomorrow — not some distant future but just three to five years from now — with an increasing recognition that the "new norm" of our future is unceasing transformation and increasingly volatility.  And so today’s leadership challenge is framed by the inquiry, "How do we keep our head above water today while we begin to radically redesigning for resilience, so that we don’t just survive but actually thrive in the times ahead?"

As the organization specialist Peter Drucker insightfully said, "In times of turmoil, the danger lies not in the turmoil but in facing it with yesterday’s logic."

This new set of business challenges requires a new set of leadership skills, as well as an overhaul of our approach to organizational learning and development. To not just survive but thrive in this new norm of business requires our leaders to deepen their personal and organizational capacity to sense into the emerging field of future possibilities and attune to the synchronicities amid these complexities. It requires a widening of leaders’ perceptual horizon so that old habitual patterns of management and control can be transcended as we learn to open ourselves up to a more conscious sense of what it means to create and deliver value in an increasingly interconnected, digitized fast-moving world.

What I convey in my latest book, "Future Fit," is that to let go of yesterday’s logic while opening up in a responsive way to the unceasing transformation that lies ahead of us actually requires nothing more nor nothing less than for our leaders, change agents, managers and team members to become more alive, more creative, more purposeful, more authentic, altogether more human. It’s a case of us remembering who we truly are while learning to act in accord with the wisdom of life as it really is. 

Organizations can take inspiration from nature’s 3.8 billion years of R&D on how to be more resilient, vibrant and coherent. We know that for living systems to thrive they have to be coherent both intrinsically — within themselves — and extrinsically — within their inter-relational context. This is called "super coherence." Today’s organizations need to learn how to cultivate this super coherence. At present, the vast majority of our organizations are inured in a faulty mechanistic logic that undermines this coherence, and so undermines the resilience of our organizations.

Detailed studies now prove that organizations embracing this living-systems logic consistently outperform their mechanistic counterparts in terms of financial returns and longer term financial resilience. Joseph Bragdon from the Global LAMP Index notes, "As an investment manager I have discovered that the more companies model themselves on living systems (as distinct from mechanistic systems) and the deeper they go into aligning themselves with life, the more creative and profitable they become." This is simply good business sense.

There are a great variety of organizations of all shapes and sizes embracing this living-systems logic in practice. "Future Fit" is packed-full with practical tools, techniques and real-life business examples to help our leaders, managers, entrepreneurs and change agents embrace the future of business today.

Crossing the Threshold

Mechanistic → Living

Linear → Inter-relational

Extractive → Regenerative

Dominator  → Partner

Power over → Power with

Trade-offs → Synergies

Dog-eat-dog competition  → Collaboration across boundaries

Short-termism → Inter-generational

Exclusive →  Inclusive

Ego  → Soul

Anthropocentric → More-than-human world

This regenerative living business approach goes beyond new leadership techniques, sustainable product innovation, process re-engineering and the crafting of purposeful mission statements and ethical values charters. Regenerative business is a fundamentally different logic, a timeless logic, drawing on the deep wisdom of life. 

To summarize, we are in the midst of a metamorphosis. This crucial time bears witness to a profound window opening between two worldviews, that of the outdated yet still prevalent logic of yesterday (with its hallmark models, mind-sets and metrics) and the dawn of our emerging future whereupon the perceptions and practices of yesterday melt amid the heat of the moment, alchemically reconfiguring new pathways, perspectives, principles and behaviors. The ancient Greeks called such a time Kairos — a supreme moment of indeterminable time which, if not adequately engaged and acted upon, may pass us by.

This supreme moment requires us to deepen our perspective of who we are and why we are here both organizationally and personally, enlivening our organizations in the process, and becoming who we were truly born to be.