The heading of this post is a paraphrase of a well known quote by management consultant, educator, and author, Peter Drucker

The greatest danger in times of turbulence, is not the turbulence, it’s acting with yesterday’s logic

It’s a quote I’ve used on many occasions to illustrate the danger of looking backwards for solutions, when we find ourselves in places and spaces we’ve not encountered before. It’s a natural thing to do. Why invest the time and energy to find new solutions, when there may be something in our past that can fix the current problem? It’s a far more efficient approach to problem solving than generating new ways of doing things.

However, when we find ourselves in turbulent times, in places and spaces we haven’t experienced before, there is very little chance that the solutions we require will be found in the past. And even if we think we’ve found one in our history, it’s highly probable that it will be an inferior fit, and while it may work in the short terms, it will ultimately come up short, and leave us in crisis again.

You Can’t Go Backwards to Move Forwards?

There’s no doubt that we’re currently living in a time of extreme turbulence. One doesn’t have to be an expert to interpret the signs. Pick a topic and there’s unprecedented chaos that defines it. Politics. The Environment. The Global Economy. Health Care. Global Pandemics. The gap between the rich and the poor. Education. The list is long as it is diverse.

And when I look at all the incredibly smart minds being applied to the situation we’ve created, I’m often dumb-founded that we’re unable to solve the mess we’re in. Why is that?

We Lack Imagination

It’s clear to me that there’s a lack of imagination. An inability to collectively imagine a future in which we’ve solved our current problems. If we can’t imagine a new world, then we certainly aren’t going to trust the leaders, politicians and incredibly smart people who ask us to join them in creating a better future, for ourselves and everyone else.

Without a better future to move forwards to, we’re only left with staying where we are (which nobody wants to do), or returning back to a time in history in which the narrative was better than the one we currently have.

It’s the only explanation I have as to why the informal conversations I am part of, from time to time, so often end up with people longing for ‘the good old days’. They want to return to a time in history where things seemed to work better than they do today. When the environment wasn’t falling down around us, where foreigners hadn’t arrived in our countries on mass, where more people had jobs, money, and time. Where families seemed to stay together longer.

It’s the only explanation I have as to why political parties that promise to return ‘back to how things were’, are gaining popularity.

It’s the only explanation I have when I read of world leaders and powerful business people, dismissing the call from young people to change the status quo and lead us into a new future where hope and progress will be the currency, replacing fear, greed and injustice.

You Can’t Unring A Bell

We cannot move anyone forwards if all we have to offer is a road to nowhere (even the 80’s band Talking Heads spoke of having a ‘City in Mind’). What scares me most is that there is much being written on the demise of creativity. If we’re losing our creativity we’re going to find it increasingly difficult to imagine a new and better world. And if we can’t imagine that, then our option of moving forward to something new disappears, and all we’re left with is staying where we are, or going backwards.

But we can’t go backwards! Everyone knows that you can’t unring a bell. You can’t reverse the last 10, 20, 30 or 40 years. The genie is properly out of the bottle.

We have to move forwards. We have to start imagining and creating. All of us. We certainly can’t leave it to the politicians. And we can’t leave it to business. We also can’t leave it to the incredibly smart people. This is something we all need to do. We all need to be active participants of our collective future.

Imagine. Get Set. Go.


Photo by Stephen Radford on Unsplash