"We live in a real world of rivers, trees and lions and an imaginary world of gods, nations and organisations."by Yuval Harari
If nothing else Covid19 has shown us, in the harshest of terms, that human stupidity is the most dangerous threat to our survival. Last week I wrote that it is our Achilles heel, our Black Swan. The Black Swan is already here. It is not Covid19. This week I will offer a practical solution. The Game Changing Bridge.
Yuval Harari is a real Game Changer and perhaps the most important conceptual warrior of our time. Fearless in the face of those who peddle conventional mind numbing nonsense, the source of much human stupidity.
His key underlying philosophy is both simple, profound and timely.
"We live in a real world of rivers, trees and lions and an imaginary world of gods, nations and organisations."
The universe is an infinite treasure chest of possibility and it is accessed through a combination of consciousness, memory and intelligence. This has allowed us to escape the African savannahs and move to a wonderful land of fantasia filled with our philosophies, religions, political systems, dreams and ideas, together sadly, with all the wickedness, greed, evil and witchcraft which flew from Pandora's box when she opened it.
This is Harari's imaginary world, a form of Cartesian split, where we have divorced our connection to the real world of "rivers, trees and lions". We have lost our connection to the real world, simply using the planet as a source of materials and spare parts and a convenient rubbish dump. We have lost the wisdom to even understand that this imaginary world we largely occupy today, is but a candle in the wind. It can be snuffed out tomorrow.
Covid19 has rudely changed all that. If its impact over the next three years is anything like the Spanish Flu of a century ago we may have to deal with 2,5 billion infections and more than 250 million deaths. We are back in the real world, and we need to deal with it to survive.
What we need is a new bridge. Urgently. To connect our imaginary world to the real world.
And who can do this? What is abundantly clear is that the current crop of presidents, priests and politicians won't do it for two key reasons. Collectively they have neither the will nor the intelligence and capability to construct such a bridge. I offer this as a current and observable truth, and not just an opinion.
And what of organisational leadership? Sadly we may not find the solution here either. Instead we see conventional thinking, military-style silos and hierarchies, and an obsession with reverse mirror best practice. Over the past two decades of working with thousands of leaders and their organisations, the most dangerous and destructive cultural force is the powerful but unconscious meta-rule of "Don't change!" A most dangerous paradox, the all invasive pandemic of human stupidity.
THE GAME CHANGER. THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL.
Who and what is a game changer?
Game changers are a rare breed. In organisations, probably less than 5%. In state run bureaucracies even less. They are the independent thinking warrior magicians that see new futures and put their bodies on the line to build bridges to connect their ideas to the real world.
The mavericks. Socrates, Aristotle. Copernicus. Lucretius. Galileo. Newton. Einstein. Curie. Eddison. Hawking. Shakespeare. Mozart. Beethoven. The special ones who have laid the foundation to change our world. In today's world we could add Berners-Lee, Jobs, Gates, Branson, Musk. You will surely know more in your own circle.
These are the intelligent creators of the new world. The revolutionaries. They unclog the existing arteries of entropy releasing evolutionary energy and possibility. And they threaten existing power structures.
But Covid19 in spite of the terror and pain it has released, has also opened this gate of opportunity. Traditional political, financial and economic structures, evolved over decades and even centuries now face an existential threat. Their power base could evaporate overnight.
The very people who have brought us to this point are least likely to be the people to take us through this crisis into a brave and beautiful new world.
Herein lies the potential for the devil's contract. Wielders of power need the game changers to survive. Game changers need the power and support to convert their potential ideas into action. In principle everyone, for the first time, needs a fine bridge to connect Harari's imaginary and real worlds.
And the warrior magicians hold the key.
HERE IS HOW TO USE THIS NEW BRIDGE TODAY
If you believe the concept has practical, positive and evolutionary merit, this is how you can start building your own bridge in your organisation.
First, identify the game changers, the warrior magicians. (We use an internationally recognised tool for this. It takes the politics out of the process.) The genies for our time. They are easy to find, difficult to manage. They don't conform, they challenge. They don't accept authority easily. They disrupt things. Mindless and endless meetings are their kryptonite.
Secondly, gather them together. Tell them you need their unique game changing skills to find and build the new future. Don't be afraid. Just let the dogs out. It will be a feeding frenzy of every obsolete and energy draining and destructive practice in your business.
As this new energy emerges, remember something absolutely crucial. At least 95% of current leaders in your organisation are unlikely to be true game changers.
If they are not game changers themselves they will find it difficult to understand. Malcolm Gladwell was wrong about 10,000 hours. I can stand on my head and whistle dixie but I will never be a concert pianist. If you are a successful CEO in an established organisation and market (retail shopping or retail banking for example), the message should be clear.
If you are bright, competent and a successful strategist this does not make you a game changer.
Thirdly, create the structures and space to fully engage the game changers, integrating them with your existing hierarchy and decision making. Use the special skills you have to create this new organisational space, a thriving, bustling evolutionary context.
Be honest. As a leader you have two choices. Hide in the corner and wait for things to go back to the way we were. The good old days. And enjoy your imaginary space until the real world comes knocking at your door.
Or build a beautiful bridge with your game changers.
Like the magnificent Charles Bridge in Prague. Commissioned by one of the greatest warrior magicians of the middle ages (1357).
The choice is yours.