Leading up to an exciting opportunity for you to engage with our two experienced Future & Ancient Wisdom experts Jim Burke and Cynthia Cavalli we’re running a three-part series of articles on how unique combinations of foresight and ancient wisdom tools can be applied in powerful ways to successfully tackle the uncertainty and complexity of our present business environment to be better prepared for the future – This is Part 1.
Does this look familiar to you?
The CEO of a medium-sized business in the healthcare sector was struggling to complete a critical project. The objectives seemed clear and achievable, yet the timeline kept getting derailed. Frustrated and increasingly worried about the future of the company she also co-owned, the CEO turned to Cynthia Cavalli, complexity science specialist and coach.
On the surface, the company appeared in good shape and was crafting an even brighter future for itself. The challenges it was facing seemed unforeseeable, one-off issues that would quickly pass. Yet the problems kept coming and tension in the organization continued to rise.
The art of asking the right questions?
Some judicious questioning revealed that the organization was struggling to differentiate itself from its previous identities. As a result, organizational goals no longer aligned with the current version of the organization. The company was trapped in its past even as it struggled to reinvent itself for the future. The organization’s leaders, employees and even mission were undergoing simultaneous transformation that made executing on project timelines almost impossible.
Each company’s challenges may seem unique to the moment, but the underlying causes can often be traced to fundamental forces that have been in motion since the start of time. The cyclical nature of future and past trends creates patterns that resemble the complexity cycles of modern transformation. Critically, the uncertainty that surrounds transformation can be massively disorienting, throwing even the best-laid plans off-track. Yet those who can accommodate the uncertainty make the space to be truly creative and reinvent themselves and their organizations.
Using wisdom to unlock complexity and uncertainty
Cynthia was able to help the CEO identify the various stages of transformation from the viewpoint of complexity and the wisdom of ultra-long-term perspectives. Specifically:
- What are the key stages and which stage am I in?
- From the complexity perspective, what does each stage require to move on to the next stage?
- From the wisdom perspective, what instructions or insights do history provide on how to navigate each stage successfully?
The CEO was therefore able to understand what was required to break through the impasse and realize the full potential of the future that the company’s leadership could see before them. By applying the tools of ancient wisdom and complexity theory, the CEO could reexamine her organizational goals and trajectory, as well as the community she sought to serve.
It remains a work in progress, and that’s probably the way it needs to remain. The business has undergone two restructurings, but the CEO is healthier, stronger and more confident that in whatever direction her company goes, it will support the long-term goals of her employees, their community and herself.
The second article in this three-part series will go into greater depth about how the past informs our present understanding of the future, and what this means for company strategy and individual decision-making.