“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”Seneca
Despite the chaos that was the year 2020, we can look forward to a period of order again. Every system tends from an ordered state to a disordered state and back again. The year we experienced, was certainly a period of chaos that will precede a period of order. Many of our grandparents lived during or in the aftermath of World Wars. Some of our parents lived through the aftermath of those periods too. Throughout their lives, they experienced highs and lows, peaks and troughs, chaos and order.
This current period of chaos is accentuated because we have enjoyed an anomalous period in history, one of relative stability of the post-war period. We grew accustomed to sustained order, despite the chaos we experienced from the 2008/2009 financial downturn.
When we are experiencing chaos, it can be all encompassing, we can forget that there is order ahead. Our guest on Innovation Show 253 is John Rogers, John reminds us that the devastation of the “Black Death” was the chaos that preceded the Renaissance.
The Black Death Preceded the Renaissance
The bubonic plague or “The Black Death” of 1347 to 1351 was one of the deadliest epidemics in human history. The disease killed an estimated 75 million people, including up to 50% of the European populations affected. It was called the Black Death because of the black spots the bubonic form of the plague caused on the skin.
The plague, which was almost always fatal, spread most rapidly in cities, where people were in close contact with each other. To avoid the disease, those wealthy enough to leave the city fled to the country. Due to the sudden shortage of labour, innovations in production methods and farming took place. This is reminiscent of the current pandemic, in the absence of physical presence, innovations and acceleration of digitisation has swept through numerous industries. Digital connectivity (Zoom), online shopping (Amazon) and logistics (drone delivery: Manna Aero) have all benefited from the shift in the tectonic plates of disruption.
Of course, the Black Death, like Covid-19 was only part of the chaos of that period. The crisis of the late Middle Ages was a series of disasters in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries beginning with the great famine, including climactic upheavals of warm periods and mini ice ages and war and political instabilities and religious upheavals.
If the Black Death was a symbol of the chaos of that period, it was followed by one of the most magnificent times in human history. The Renaissance marked a transition from the Middle Ages to a time of great social change. The word Renaissance is a French word that means Rebirth. Sometimes, the systems that prevailed needed to self destruct to be reborn and this is what appeared to have happened then and perhaps now. As Picasso said, “Every act of creation begins with an act of destruction.” This creative destruction must be accompanies by a shift in consciousness, from one of competition to one of collaboration. This is what happened during the Renaissance, what our guest on the Innovation show, John Rogers, the author of “The Renaissance Campaign” calls mixed tables.
Collaboration: An Accelerant of Order
“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”Charles Darwin
In his 2014 book, Frans Johansson introduced what he called “The Medici Effect”.The effect is derived from the Medici Dynasty, an Italian banking family that came to power in the 14th century. The family used their considerable wealth to fund art, literature with the ultimate goal to accelerate cultural change. Johansson argued that innovation occurs when people from diverse industries, cultures, and disciplines collaborate and mix ideas from their various fields. This concept is what John Rogers calls a mixed table.
“If we truly want to advance society, intelligent, insightful people must be able to share their real thoughts without fear of backlash, and a mixed table, done well, can pro-vide that opportunity.” – John Rogers Episode 253 of The Innovation Show
Rogers has used this technique for decades as a way to innovate and seek solutions for wicked problems. Mixed tables involve the mixing of people from diverse disciplines such as creative fields like movie directors to army generals and business executives. The desired outcome is holistic thinking and thus complete solutions.
Chaos and order are bedfellows, they exist in a never ending cycle. When we understand this we can enjoy the order when it arises, while preparing for the chaos that will inevitably arrive. When we are in a period of chaos, we can manage it and take solace in the knowledge that order is on its way. Perhaps this period of chaos is akin to the crisis of the late Middle Ages. That crisis triggered a Renaissance. Perhaps we can trigger another Renaissance.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
If you are aligned with this thinking and would like to explore a conceptual journey of change, you may like my forthcoming book: “Undisruptable” which promotes a mindset of permanent reinvention coming in March 2021. It is also available in a story-rich, visual and experiential course for organisations big and small.
On this week’s Innovation Show, we host John Rogers, former senior Pentagon official and CEO of a billion-dollar company and author of “The Renaissance Campaign: A Problem-Solving Formula for Your Biggest Challenges”
Watch here or listen below:
More about John here: