The Normalcy of Uniqueness

Tom GibbonsChange, Leadership, Presence, Social ConstructionLeave a Comment

If you listen to pretty much any discussion on organizational challenges or read virtually any book on organizational change, leadership, management or whatever, somewhere it is bound to mention the ‘unprecedented’ pace of change, or the presence of challenges ‘never before encountered’ or some other term to describe how our specific time is unique in the experience of being in an organization.

It seems unique or unprecedented is pretty normal.

I’ve been in or around organizations for over 30 years now and this uniqueness seems to be one of the constants of conversations over that time.  And if I go back a little further I can remember my father and mother talking about how fast the pace of change was in their organizations and how what they were experiencing had never been experienced quite like that before.  I imagine they heard similar things from their parents and that we could go way, way back and find similar conversations for as long as conversations have been happening.

I think one of the big challenges with this perspective of always being unique, of always being different and special is that we think there must have to be unique and different ways to solve our current challenges.  This seems to feed an almost insatiable appetite for the next new solution, the next new tool or the next new idea.  And quite often this thirst for a new solution, tool or idea misses the point of the foundational fact of what has been occurring since people organized themselves.

People have been interacting together.  And at the heart of interaction is uncertainty.

When we look back at history, even recent history, this sense of the experience of uncertainty tends to get lost.  Primarily because we know what actually happened and we assume someone ‘back then’ either planned for what actually happened or should have been able to.  There just couldn’t have been quite the same level of uncertainty that we are experiencing today.

I would think that there was very much the same experience of uncertainty.  And also a very similar response to it, another foundational fact of what has been occurring forever. 

People have been interacting together into their very uncertain futures.

It might be a good time to remind ourselves that the experience of uncertainty and the courage to act together into it is a story that we share with all of humanity throughout time.  Our present experience may be unique from a content perspective but we are not unique in how we will respond together.  If we remind ourselves that for all of history people have acted and interacted together into an uncertain future we can stop waiting form ‘someone’ to fix our challenges of today and become that ‘someone’, fully realizing we may not ‘fix’ anything but we can certainly move forward together.

That movement forward will be one different interaction at a time and we’ll just see what happens.  If we can accept that our interactions are creating an uncertain future perhaps we can move forward with a little less fear and worry.  We can do what we think is best and see what happens.  We do not have to be certain of the outcome since waiting for certainty is a very long wait.

What interaction might you change tomorrow?  And can you change it with a little less fear of what might actually happen?

Author – Tom

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