Leadership: immersion in emergence (learning to “busk it”)

Are you ready for immersion in emergence?

They say that fortune favours the brave. They also say that there is a thin line between genius and insanity. Those leaders embracing the path of strategic emergence need to be both brave and prepared to toy with the boundaries of their own sanity.

If only the landscape was this static

If only the landscape was this static

People, in general, like “normality”. The staid trudge of daily life. The predictable. Many people, the majority, like to settle into patterns, to bask in the warm comfort of routine. Imagine a daily commute. Movement from point A to B is known and optimised. Disturbances calculated for. Alternate routes known and expectations verified. Route choices re-optimised to account for the day of the week, time of day, weather and special events. Sound about right? A lot of people like to take the unknown and reduce it down to a point of familiarity, something known. The landscape, in their mind, is static or moving at the pace of a drop of Pitch. The buildings, the points of reference, never change, or change at such a slow pace that their change eases the mind with a slowness that breeds an easy sense of new familiarity. People who simmer gently in environments like this are not adventurers. People like this would not take a computer company and transform its revenue streams to a point where its main source of income became music sales (bonus point for naming the company). That’s fine. But people such as this will not, in all probability, discover the next “new world”.

In the vanilla of the day-to-day lie the ponderous deliberates, the sceptics and the traditionalists. Their nemeses are the adventursome. Those in tune with their senses. Those who realise that the world is dynamic and that the only certainty is change. These people realise that you can wait to react, and hope you have the capability/capacity to do so, or you can act to prepare, to adapt to a changing world. Imagine if you woke up and every morning to find that your house had moved  location and so had your work location. What would your commute look like? What would you find along the way? Would you have the knowledge, skills and experience to cope? Would you have what it takes to get every morning and start to sense your new surroundings? Would you have the skills to probe the environment, reflect upon your findings and respond with a course of action? Would you be capable of dealing with immersion in emergence?

These are some of the most pressing challenges facing leaders today. The environment as they know it is constantly changing. The pressure from within often swarms around urges to constrain change, to maintain the norm, to fight the deviation from what is known or, worse still, play the ostrich and hope it all just goes away. Tomorrow’s successful leaders will be those who negotiate immersion in emergence. The organisations that will emerge (no pun intended) as the successes of tomorrow will have leaders who act to prevent, who enable those around them to bounce forward when the unexpected happens. They will have the nerve, the bravery, to change direction when others urge them to stay the traditional course.

There will be many Titanic style corporate disasters created by leaders who fail to see that they are just another Captain Smith. On the other hand, those who succeed will have learned to “busk it” (from busk, to go about seeking, cruise as a pirate, perhaps from obsolete French busquer, to prowl, from Italian buscare, to prowl, or Spanish buscar, to seek, from Old Spanish boscar.]). These leaders will have to negotiate/manage the deliberates, the sceptics and the traditionalists. They will have to empower. Inspire. Lead. And when it is all hitting the fan, remember Kipling,  “…trust yourself when all [might] doubt you. But make allowance for their doubting too.”

Moving away from the steady course will have some questioning your sanity. Being prepared to make radical changes to stay relevant. Acting to prevent that which you cannot explain or predict. Knowing that your journey has no destination and that each day could bring the start of a new journey. This immersion in emergence is not comfortable for the majority. But for those that chart their own course it will never be easy. You have to be prepared to fail. To scale failure and embrace it. All the while knowing that the crew is hovering around the tipping point toward mutiny. This is the challenge for those who lead for tomorrow. This is the challenge of today.