There is much to concern all-aware leaders these days. The global issues are too prominent to ignore. Whether it is rising stress in the work place, disruptive innovations left-right-and-centre, increasing volatility and changing stakeholder expectations, rapid digitization and globalization, mass migrations of peoples, increasing social tensions, political extremism, endemic violence, Brexit, Trump, or unprecedented sovereign and consumer debt levels the world over – we cannot ignore the fact that we are living in a time of great upheaval and change. The very planet itself is changing in character – with global water shortages, rapid soil erosion, marine species on the verge of collapse, and Arctic sea ice at record lows, and a warming atmosphere that threatens the biosphere on which we all depend.
What is insufficiently understood and recognised is that amid these times of systemic breakdown, there are also signs of breakthrough. A metamorphosis is in progress, with profound consequences for all of us as leaders, managers, employees and citizens. No one is spared from the immensity of the global transformation that is everywhere apparent. The ancient Greeks called such a time Kairos, a supreme moment of history, which if not adequately acted upon will pass us by.
Nowhere is this metamorphic change more evident than in the way business organizations are being organized and managed. The ideal of ‘organization-as-machine’, which emerged in the 18th century and lasted into the late 20th century, has now given way to a different ideal: the ‘organization-as-living-system’. As a conceptual shift, it affects all aspects of our enterprising futures: from how we perceive the world around us, to the ways we think and manage, to the evolution of our technology down to the ways we manufacture specific items, like our pets’ food and the cars we drive.
In order to thrive – and not ‘just survive’ – in this era of increasing volatility and unpredictability, our leaders must deepen both their personal and organizational capacity to comprehend the field of future possibilities that’s emerging; and also to unlock more of the creative potential of their organization. The implications are huge. Corporations that seize the breadth and depth of this shift in thinking will be tomorrow’s success stories, those that don’t will be yesterday’s news.
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