Our organizations are failing; as leaders we’re struggling. Nothing seems reliable anymore. How do we respond to adaptive challenges? Why do we feel so lost?
The Franklin expedition was a non-adaptive response and contrasts with Jesus’ sending the disciples out on mission – vulnerable and with nothing. How do we get comfortable with vulnerability? Living on the edge is a journey into experimentation and adaptation. It requires new capacities and skills from leaders and teams. I examine the experience of getting lost. Who survives and why? How do our mental maps limit us? How do we get unlost?
Iceland’s Silfra fissure is formed by the pulling apart of tectonic plates. Modernity has fragmented and broken into post-modernity. Rather than manage the crisis, we find a way to withdraw and reflect, opening space. Our paradigms of progress are oppressive. Jesus told us that we would lose our lives to find them. We move down to rise up.
Living on edges creates tension, and tension generates wakefulness. In nature phase transition occurs suddenly, without warning. The old assumptions about growth and leadership no longer apply. Our landscape has gone from solid to liquid. When we can no longer read maps, we train navigators. We work with tools and practices that help us “read” the landscape.
Change is a constant condition, and local knowledge has become paramount. Innovators start before they are ready and develop prototypes to test new conditions. New leadership types are appearing: poets and synergists and boundary-crossers. Listening and observing together we invite a new future. The need for a community of leaders. I describe organizations that experimented into a new future.
Goal-posts have shifted and the field has become fluid. I offer a framework for understanding organizational culture and examine the role of leaders in emergent conditions. In self-organizing systems leaders disrupt existing patterns, encourage novelty and act as sensemakers. Leadership is less about decisive action and more about shaping environments. I consider the importance of wide participation in learning organizations.
Pilgrimage begins when we discover a yearning for something more. The final phase is arrival at the beginning and “knowing the place for the first time.” The metaphor of exile fits the experience of leadership in our time; there is no going home, but God is with us. What feels like a trap might be a womb: a place of transformation and rebirth. The One on the throne says, “Behold! I make all things new!”