John Hagel lays out a passionate argument for us to look below the superficial swirl of events, and to seek out deep meaning in our lives and work. He offers an approach to make that happen. He suggests we need to focus on three key sources of stability — aspects of society and our psychology — that are unchanging, even as everything else may seem to be chaotically shifting.
These are, John suggests, tacit knowledge, trust relationships, and talent development. I suggest that the avid reader look over John’s descriptions and his motives for selecting these, and not others. But I want to cut to the chase, where John offers his conclusions:
John Hagel, Finding Stability at the Core of Change
So, the optimist in me says that accelerating change breeds exactly the kinds of needs that will give rise to new sources of stability. While the digerati remain entranced with ever larger data flows and millisecond transactions, something much more valuable calls for our attention. As we enter a new decade, the greatest wealth will be created by a new set of entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs will understand and address the unmet needs of those who want to participate in environments that foster deep, trust-based relationships across both virtual and physical space. These environments will focus participants on the opportunity to learn faster by working together in addressing challenges that draw on the tacit knowledge of each participant. This is an opportunity that none of the current leaders of the commercial Internet understand, much less address. There is a white space here.
In addressing this white space, we may begin to find common ground with the millions around the world who have reacted to accelerating change by opting out and embracing the never changing word of God. These people might begin to see change as an opportunity to develop their potential more fully and, in the process, develop a deep set of relationships that offer a foundation for coping with the challenges of change. At the same time, the digerati may begin to embrace more fully the need to build long-term, trust-based relationships in order to effectively harness the opportunities created by change. They might in fact begin to articulate a new variant of the sacred, one that is not static and defensive, but one that celebrates the infinite creativity of the universe.
If we listen carefully to the fundamentalist critique, we may come to recognize that our lives have indeed become less satisfying and more superficial because of our growing focus on data and transactions in ways that make it more and more difficult to achieve our potential as individuals, institutions and society. The three T’s – tacit knowledge, trust-based relationships and talent development – may become the common ground to help us all advance to new levels.
Both camps across the global chasm may finally begin to see that sustainable change requires a foundation of stability and that stability has even more value if it enables all of us to more effectively realize our potential. Beyond stability lies thrivability and thrivability can only be achieved by more effectively integrating change and stability. Perhaps it is too much to hope for, but I believe that many of those displaying the passion of the true believer could discover the delights of the passion of the explorer.
John’s thoughts, particularly the premise that we need to find stability at the core of the increasing and incessant change in which we live, are very close to my own. Like John, I am certain that there are new ways to apply social tools — many that have not yet been designed or built — that will support a more resilient way for us to live, and share the Earth. This will require changes in our thinking at many levels, and at the deepest level, the belief that there is a basis for us to find a still point in a turning world: that there are timeless and enduring truths that are the wellsprings of our creativity, innovation, and energy.
John’s piece called to mind T.S. Eliot’s ‘Burnt Norton’. Here’s an excerpt:
Garlic and sapphires in the mud
Clot the bedded axle-tree.
The thrilling wire in the blood
Sings below inveterate scars
Appeasing long forgotten wars.
The dance along the artery
The circulation of the lymph
Are figured in the drift of stars
Ascend to summer in the tree
We move above the moving tree
In light upon the figured leaf
And hear upon the sodden floor
Below, the boarhound and the boar
Pursue their pattern as before
But reconciled among the stars.
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.