Last week the cover of the Economist headlined BE AFRAID, Occupy Wall Street grew by giant steps around the US (in Portland, OR, where I live, the mayor and police joined ‘the 99%’,) and the balance of power shifted yet again in Syria.
David Berreby’s excellent article in Strategy & Business argues that we modern humans are actually well-adapted to live in this kind of a world. It’s a fresh and well-researched view of what it means to be fit for the Information Age reality, what puts us at our best, and our natural urge for freedom. One CEO
… put an end to all the complaints in one swoop, when he switched the teams from salaries and work rules to a hunter ethos: a team gets 26 percent of the company's take from a client. How and when it works is up to the team. Productivity has almost doubled…
Freedom and responsibility are the very best golden handcuffs there are…
I happened also to review this TED talk by Harvard researcher Dan Gilbert, arguing that, no matter what happens, we’re psychologically adapted to be happy about it. (Predictions to the contrary, a lottery winner and a new paraplegic are equally happy one year after the event…) Most of us our are short on friends who are happy about the Euro crisis and the financial industry in general, nor are they likely to happy about it in a year’s time, but there’s some good pondering here. Gilbert’s research shows pretty clearly that we’re strongly inclined to make it all OK. And yesterday a BBC health news article goes further into how the brain ‘rejects negative thoughts.
I am inclined to agree. The weak ties that enable innovation, as Richard Ogle demonstrated in Smart World, are key to forging new ways to thrive in our fast-changing reality. Berreby argues that they come naturally
Perhaps the information economy, that purely human creation, reproduces our ancestral environment, replacing literal landscapes and foraging with a virtual version.
…changes promote autonomy, flexibility and "weak ties" and that the "changes associated with post-industrial systems" are "more compatible with humans' biological nature than those occurring in earlier ones.
You probably believe that the ability to learn is the sine qua non in business. And maybe you’re on to your own and others' desire for freedom and autonomy as the ultimate golden handcuffs. Certainly some leaders have learned to put them to good use.
So we like to learn, we’re good at change - but we have a tendency to tell ourselves that things are better than they are.
How much trouble are we really in?
And how might we know? What combination of models and thinkers might help us see beyond our biases and blindness?
Got any ideas?