“Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail, and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but refuse. They cling to the realm, or love, or the gods…illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is. But they’ll never know this. Not until it’s too late.”Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Game of Thrones)
[The following is an edited extract from “Undisruptable, A Mindset of Permanent Reinvention for Individuals, Organisations and Life.” available here.]
One of the challenges that so many organisations and individuals face is that we have been educated for and grown accustomed to a steady and stable environment. The relative stability of the post-war period, an anomalous period in world history, has somewhat contributed to our conditioning for stability. As a result, our mental and operational flexibility has atrophied.
Our parents and grandparents lived in the aftermath of the devastation of world wars while most of us have lived through a relatively stable period in human history. However, as pandemics, socio-political turmoil, climate change and financial downturns demonstrate, we are still susceptible to crises. According to IMD-Lausanne’s Professor Jim Ellert, since 1988, the world has experienced 469 country recessions alone. Crises are a phenomenon that we have managed for millennia and we need to become comfortable with them once again. Crises reshuffle the tectonic plates of the economic landscape. To adapt and benefit from the change we must be mentally flexible and prepared. A crisis can be viewed as an opportunity or a danger, depending on one’s perception about a situation. Framing matters. If you think laterally, you can turn any problem into a huge opportunity. The more we refocus on opportunities, the greater our chances of adapting successfully to our challenges. Sometimes a crisis reveals a path we would have never pursued without the push.
In 1942, Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter introduced the concept of Creative Destruction. According to Schumpeter, the creation of any new value brings the destruction of the old. Think how the Covid-19 pandemic saw the decline of some industries and the stellar growth of others.
Today, we are experiencing creative destruction at an alarming rate. As industries collapse and others emerge, many professionals will continue to find their skills outdated or unnecessary. One day they are enjoying their peak, the next they find themselves replaced by more cost-efficient solutions such as artificial intelligence.
Friend of the Innovation Show and recent guest, Dr. Nadya Zhexembayeva shared how, 17% of companies died in past crises… but 10% skyrocketed. How did the 10% thrive? They not only adapted, but anticipated and prepared for the crises by adopting a permanent reinvention mindset.
We have lost touch with chaos and the mental agility that helped us thrive for millennia. We strive for control and long term results, neither is possible, it never was. This mindset, I call permanent reinvention helps us become comfortable (as is possible) in chaos, because chaos and progress are symbiotic. Even when we become comfortable in the chaos, that is a signal of entropy, it is time to add some chaos to the comfort.
In the French movie La Haine, the protagonist Hubert Koundé says, ‘L’important n’est pas la chute, c’est l’atterrissage’. This translates to English as, ‘The important thing is not the fall, it’s the landing’. When I coached young players in rugby, the first thing I taught them was not how to fall, but how to bounce back up again. This skill is vital in sports where you get knocked down on a regular basis, but we often take it for granted. While it appears to be a physical skill, it is truly a mental one, it is a mindset. Conceptually, it is something we must defamiliarise ourselves with. The only true fall is when we don’t attempt to get back up. That is easier for some of us than it is for others, in rugby, we encouraged our team mates to get back up, heck, we even helped them, we need to do the same in life.
Progress and change only happen when we adapt, when we permanent reinvent, when we understand that chaos and order are bedfellows.
THANKS FOR READING
“Undisruptable : A Mindset of Permanent Reinvention for Individuals, Organisations and Life” is available here.
On this week’s innovation show we explore a Playbook that helps innovators and entrepreneurs to harness new, extreme ideas despite complex business barriers. This visual guide provides insight, practical solutions and reusable canvasses to help innovation managers, CEOs, Chief Innovators and directors of innovation labs to develop breakthrough ideas and manage chaos.
Our guests are Olga Kokshagina and Allen Alexander.