As humans on a small blue planet, we sometimes look out to mostly empty space for signs that there may be life in the boundless beyond. Perhaps there are planets like ours with abundant life and people constantly creating and moving towards their future reality and without all the struggles we face here on Earth. I don’t doubt there are others in dimensions perhaps unseen but I suspect they struggle as well.
As with most things, including physics, reality tends to be stranger than we can suppose. It doesn’t take a strong telescope or even planetary exploration to see that even in this world that we occupy is made up of many different realities. Lately, the degrees and variances that these realities operate within leaves me to wonder if we, as human members of this small speck, even care that we share the same sphere in the vast universe. If your reality doesn’t agree with my reality, am I not alien to you? Does our relative proximity make our foreignness any different or less remote? There are potentially over 7 billion other realities already out there. Is there any doubt we have already found alien life in vast multiverse?
Turn on your preferred source of information and you will come to the conclusion that the chaotic street is taking over. Policymakers are operating in chaos. You can see and feel their fear. If you haven’t figured it out yet, deterministic, machine and clockwork-models of governance are not enough to control a chaotic environment.
Nature and our environment is more complex than that. For much of recent human history, it was assumed that if we could only just get more information and just get down to the minutiae of detail that everything could be predicted and controlled. This is an incorrect assumption. Our system is so complex it changes just by our mere observation let alone by our constant tinkering. So what if anything can problem solvers do in this chaotic environment? Here are some current thoughts and ideas:
1. Lose Control and Embrace Chaos.
All living systems and social system are constantly re-creating themselves from the friction of chaos. This causes fear in many from the perceived loss of control. Backwards or nostalgic thinking that gets stuck, compartmentalized and fractionalized is likely to appear in such an environment of fear. The perceived loss of control comes from the notion that the holy models of governance we have created on any level, whether government, business or families, if not working correctly or faltering, is likely due to our failure to understand or to have allowed inappropriate change to occur. The problem with this view however, is that complete control was never a possibility in the first place.
2. Broaden and Lengthen Tolerance.
Fear due to chaos causes a rushing in to make sense of the darkness or even worse, paralysis. If your model is based upon a machine instead of a living system then tolerance becomes critical because machines have little variance. This lack of variant tolerance can have a perceived chance of catastrophic failure. If, on the other hand, your view is of a living system, tolerance is far more holistic and manageable. It has great variability and flexibility.
In the Western world we like our problems in 10 minute sound bites or perhaps a bit longer depending on the magnitude of the issue–but four years tops. However, developing longer time horizons is one of the key ways to get out of the chaos we perceive we are in. Broaden and lengthen your view.
3. Step Back and Observe Patterns
Looking for patterns in chaotic systems takes time…they are there it just takes time to see them. It requires a new type of systems patience. Step back. By constantly looking at the chaos you will predictably see only chaos and your ability to predict will be likewise be challenged. Vision requires spacial thinking (right brain creativity) that takes you out of the chaos box and helps create goals. Further, any attempt to control more will serve only to cause more breakdowns. Make your framework flexible. While it is true that my immediate environment may be local your local environment is connected outside of its present space in ways we don’t even understand fully yet. Yet, they exist on even the smallest of levels. Einstein would agree and call this “spooky.”
4. Solve from Within
You cannot just download your expertise or masterful thinking and expect it or them to fit nicely into different systems — solutions ultimately will be best created within the particular system even though the multi-systems will all have impact. Don’t assume because it worked here it will work over there. Ultimately, the expertise needs to come from within the particular system that is being impacted by chaos and in need of change.
Outside experts, when used at the beginning to facilitate change, can help by creating broad and flexible frameworks for the “inside the system experts” to create within so that new ideas creatively emerge and take root in the local environment. Time may be best spent by these problem solvers in identifying potential leaders and experts within the local system–the ones that have the ability to create new knowledge. Spend time helping them emerge. Look for those who have the ability to change and thrive. They are likely willing to be vulnerable and metaphorically have blood on their hands from trying to climb their mountain of chaos. If they don’t, look elsewhere as it will be a waste of time to try and mentor someone unengaged who will eventually not survive within the dynamic system any way.
5. Discomfort is Required.
Being authentic, mindful and in the moment requires letting go and becoming vulnerable. Only then is the change within a system possible. Not knowing is a place that you need to become comfortable with. No one person knows everything. A sense of humor helps. Sometimes the best thing to happen is to allow whatever you are working on to fall apart–it may allow for change and adaptability. A vine won’t produce fruit if given too much fertilizer. Stress is healthy in producing fruit. It sounds like a paradox but letting go may be the key to working within chaos and generating transforming solutions.
6. Chaos is Fuel To Resolve
Chaos is the fuel of creation. Study the black holes of the multiverse. Creating a bit of tension might be beneficial in the long run. However, follow it up with resolve like a good piece of music. As we have seen from the Arab Spring information in organizations that is over controlled has the opposite effect that is desired. Controlled information flows create bottlenecks and frustration. The complete opening up of information in a democratic method, while it will create temporary chaos, will eventually lead to innovation and vision seeking. This will be a very hard lesson for most to learn. It will have to be given in bits as it is like chocolate and if given too much too soon you will grow sick. But as a problem solver it is also our secret sauce. We are mentoring in letting go.
7. Relevant Information for the Core.
The key to Problem Solving is the use of relevant information for that particular system.
A good organization must have a clear vision. Who are they? What are they about? What is their purpose? Ask it constantly. Its core can then be viewed clearly by other systems in which it is connected. More core, less mission. Why bother to exist if they don’t know who or what they are? The answer needs to arrive as a whole. Involve everyone. Allow for other systems to see and organize around their/your core.
8. Additional Ideas
Old approaches won’t work just by doing them faster. New ways and transitions feel strange at first.
Create systems in which as many as possible can thrive. Don’t just try to motivate or incentify people. It doesn’t work long term. We are social beings so create social systems that work. If people are not socially satisfied then your system is in need of being re-invented. Don’t put them literally or figuratively in a box. It will be their coffin. Create an environment that gives them variety, including free flowing information that is relevant so they can live and flourish.
Engage everyone. Make it messy. Enjoy the ambiguity.
A vision is in your gut. And if your organization doesn’t understand what the hell it is, then it has no core. It’s about heart and feeling. Putting it on a poster or a wall is meaningless unless everyone walks by it and says those words come close to capturing my feeling. By the way, your gut is a system too. It needs chaotic bacteria to function.
Be as a little child and become as you play. Create an atmosphere/system that is conditioned to be compassionate and empathetic towards trial and error. Mistakes are allowed here. The more you make the more solutions you will find.
Many have said if you are laughing it is important. Be embarrassed. Embrace surprise.
Muddy water clears eventually if you have the time to wait it out and stop stirring them up.
Creating systems that learn to listen and grow more and more with other systems is the only real possibility for future growth. It’s all connected.
What you do as a problem solver has to be designed as a whole systems with EVERYONE’S involvement or it won’t work. It can’t be the few, the proud, or the just the old boys. Engage more and more people, not less.