I love the idea of restoring the future rather than the past. opening up the future through the way we are prepared to think, feel, and act in the present.
The future is where we find hope. We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of the past. We don’t have to feel trapped by old patterns and habits but can create new ones. It’s where new insights can replace the old ones that no longer work.
Because the future emerges through people, itt will require the kind of conversations the like of which we have rarely seen or experienced.
Sherry Turkle picks up some weak echoes of the future in the way young people use instant messaging and avoid phone calls.
‘All the Richelieu sophomores agree that they thing to avoid is the telephone. Mandy presents a downbeat account of a telephone call: “You wouldn’t want to call because then you would have to get into a conversation.” And conversation, “well, that’s something where you only want to have them when you want to have them.”‘*
This is only a weak signal. We don’t know whether or how much such a resistance to conversation might develop.
Some would remind us that adolescents have always avoided conversation and have been monosyllabic. We were all there once.
We’re left pondering just how the integration of technology into our lives may make deeper changes in us as a species because of our neural plasticity and so. affecting the quality of our conversations.
A hopeful future will require four important conversations.
The first conversation is with ourselves. It concerns how we listen to our lives and what we must do as a consequence. We soon need to include conversations with others, otherwise we become too fixed in our thinking, feeling, and doing.
The second conversation involves those who are not like us. It arguable that conversations with others who are like us is really a first conversation – these only reinforce what we already think, feel, and do. The second conversation, however, introduces to us the thinking, feeling, and doing of others and can lead to anything from retreating into our first conversation to moving on into the third. There’s usually a lot of debate and disagreement in this conversation and we have to figure out some way of bringing all of this together into something more effective and productive.
(In the weeks ahead, towards 2017 general election in the UK, I’m expecting we’ll witness a lot of one and two conversations – it’s how the system is set up.)
‘We don’t move enough. Maybe you do, but the collective ‘we’ – we’ve left that part of our lives behind.’**
The third conversation includes others and also their worlds and, collectively, the world we share. Stepping into each others worlds means something more, a third thing, is happening. Maria Popova’s reflection on Anne Lamott’s book on mercy is very helpful here. Lamott reckons mercy will “buy us a shot at a warm and generous heart.”
“Mercy is radical kindness. […] Mercy, grace, forgiveness, and compassion are synonyms, and the approaches we might consider taking when facing q great big mess, especially the great big mess of ourselves – our arrogance, greed, poverty, disease, prejudice.”^
Conversation Three helps us to find our warm and generous heart as we step into each other’s worlds – a possibility Lamott hopes is still to be found in each of us:
“the sweet child in us who, all evidence to the contrary, was not killed off, but just put in a drawer”.^
Out of our openness to the contributions everyone has to bring, a more hopeful future is able to emerge, imagined and designed by more people for more people.
In their book on creating new markets, Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne tell the story of a company that came up with a win/win strategy. The problem was not everybody had been in the room when it was put together. The salespeople would sabotage it:
‘The strategy was doomed because the sales force fought it. Having not been engaged in the strategy-making process nor apprised of the rationale for the strategic shift, sales reps saw the expert system in a light no one on the design team or management team had ever imagined.’^^
‘[T]he capacity to be present to everything that is happening, without resistance, creates possibility.’*^
In coming from the future, Conversation Four, in one sense, means no-one is an expert, one of the causes of resistance. Instead, we are required to learn and practise a new set of skills. There are many but I borrow the following six from my friend and mentor Alex McManus, adding a little interpretation of my own.
Reflecting: We slow things down to consider everything, not just the first or perceived needs or issues, but all of them.
Anticipating: Our openness to the weak signals coming from the future; we will often find these coming from what everyone in the room is seeing, not just the few.
Imagining: We are the imagining species; we want to imagine and we will if we remove the barriers: time, hierarchies, privilege, limited means of contributing, etc.
Synchronising: Integrating our thinking, feeling, and doing with what is emerging and being imagined so that more details will emerge.
Designing: Making something happen sooner rather than later – meaning prototyping and experimentation and pilot schemes.
Creating: The final “product,” shaped by the many, tested to see whether it’s really the future, and finally delivered.
The future is already in the conversations we will have.
(*From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(**From Hugh Macleod’s gapingvoid.)
(^Anne Lamott, quoted in Maria Popova’s BrainPickings.)
(^^From Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne’s Blue Ocean Strategy.)
(*^From Rosamund and benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility.)