Nine – Persistence – Flawed but Willing

NINE

Persistence

You seem to want accepting defeat to lead to a brighter future. Perhaps. What is the energy of defeat? Or the energies of defeat? Certainly giving up something ‘past its sell by’ can be a releasing and energetic process ... but I don’t think always. Could be a quietening or some other quality too.

Final thought, is there enough in this book about the invisible companionship you talk about? I feel that increasing the reader’s faith and belief that there are others out there who share their ambition and feeling, is critical to them finding the courage to Live in the age of connection! Not sure how you do this but maybe it needs more space in the book.

NINE (A)

Practices for inside myself

A LIST OF 36 WAYS TO KEEP IT SIMPLE

We are preparing as a team for some work at a conference the following day. One of our team members has gone ahead and is reporting back from the venue where he has spent the day with the client.

“A few notes from today which I hope will be helpful for tomorrow: we are in a nice room, which is too big for the number of people gathered. Only about two-thirds of those who were supposed to come along actually did. Tomorrow, we will probably have about the same number, at most, although there will be some people tomorrow who weren’t there today.

The atmosphere was dull, quiet and serious. Presentations were dull, quiet and serious - lots and lots of initiatives, numbers, words, but no sense of cohesion or overall meaning; no attempt to stimulate conversation or engagement. It felt like the organization at its lowest ebb, everyone desperately trying to convince themselves that the new plan made sense, but knowing the world was moving on very fast and ignoring the plan.

There was talk of integration with the new business-exhausted people (their words). The new CEO arrived earlier this year from one of their competitors, started a big strategic review which led to lots of new initiatives and job shuffling. Whether you are viewed as ‘core’ or ‘non-core’ to the group now seems to be determined by your potential profit margin - meaning that some who were previously side-lined are now in the spotlight and vice versa. People in the acquired business are worried about being consumed by the parent company (employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction have both fallen).There is a number of paradoxes in play but no one sees them as such, or if they do they are not willing to talk about them.

• A strategic pillar of simplicity and eight (I kid you not) simplicity programmes, plus countless other initiatives, strategic themes and sub-themes

• A strategic intent of focusing on the customer relationships and decisions, which are based (it seems to me) entirely on profit and product

• A very tired organization and “no sympathy for tiredness” in the executive team

• A desire for people to be passionate and to up the pace alongside stunningly unexciting leadership (if today was any indication)

• A need to collaborate much more effectively and yet make no time for conversations

• A strategic theme about becoming a trusted advisor and “... client contract amendments are a great opportunity to build in profit”

Some data points for you that blew my mind: 16 major change initiatives (considered a big step change in simplification); 1,100 unique internal reports; 255,000 pages of analysis; 400 key performance indicators, produced every month; 12 divisions within this part of the organization (considered a huge streamlining of the previous organizational structure).
See you tomorrow. Looking forward to it!”

When faced with this quality of environment, one that is common in our large organizations, it is easy and understandable that many choose to give up.

Some give up obviously, through leaving organizational life; others less obviously through keeping their job but deciding to give as little of themselves as possible, resigned to their lack of efficacy in a system too hard to change.

So, the final quality we are covering in our exploration of power and love is that of persistence as a form of power. I have struggled to find the right word for this quality as I don’t want it collapsed with its near enemy - that of endurance. This quality is not about enduring the inevitable pain and exhaustion of a long distance runner. It is about developing ourselves to live through the difficulty of what we are attempting.

Those of us 20 years into our careers have chosen a difficult time in which to lead our large organizations - the disorientating, often unrewarding liminal phase in the middle of a phase shift. This time doesn’t offer any degree of resolution; this is its poignancy. There is no immediate resolution, you don’t necessarily get to move on from this and I have no idea for how long we will be here.

So, learning to lead with persistence, despite a lack of resolution, becomes an important quality. In this chapter, we are talking about persistence in our acknowledgement of defeat; persistence in our capacity to keep feeling; persistence in wiggling through the restrictions in whatever way we can create; persistence in developing practices that keep us sharp and healthy; persistence in staying open and connected in the face of old systems that nudge us towards closing down and disconnecting.

GIVING UP THE FIGHT

“I have never missed plan two years in a row so if it happens this year that is the end of the road for me.”

“Does that mean they will fire you?”

“No it means I will resign and find something else to do.”

There is a range of expression on the faces of members of this team as I look around the room; mostly dazed, if not shocked. They are all struggling to find a way to meet the new targets and weren’t expecting this from their leader.

The usual response would have been a shouting match. In would come the boss, grim-faced with little time for pleasantries. A pretence of going through the agenda would be acted out until some random item would become an excuse for the trading of accusations and aggression. One member of the team described this response as combative. That was my sense too.

Each meeting was a test - would you end up top dog or bottom of the pile in this exchange? There would be emotional and tactical preparation before the meeting to ensure the former and emotional recovery and tactical panic if it turned out you were the latter. It sapped energy from everyone in the team and when you have been in this position for a while it shows on your face, even if you think you are doing a good job of hiding it: stern, still, staring faces, statues for bodies, tensed and waiting for the next accusation, hyperactive minds working out every permutation.

This was the first time he had publicly looked inward rather than outward when looking for a place to lay responsibility and blame.

“I have tried everything I know how to do, everything that has worked for me in the past, but, if anything, it is making things worse rather than better. My holiday has helped, it is the first time I have been away from work for three weeks and even that decision was telling me something was wrong on the inside rather than just the outside. And then I received the 360° feedback results which some of you completed. Thank you. They were a shock to me. I just don’t know what to do now; I feel this team, this business slipping away from me. If I am going to go down, I want to go down fighting. That was my first thought and then something else came to mind: maybe the fighting is the problem, fighting to hold on to a way of leading this team. It is what I know to do but it is not working and it is out of date.”

There is nothing wrong with defeat; I often secretly wish it for our clients, just enough failure so that a significant re-evaluation becomes necessary. There is a paradoxical strength in this kind of giving up; accepting defeat makes our longerterm persistence more sustainable. (See Figure 43)

TOUCHING DEFEAT

I am sitting in the small room my supervisor uses to examine my work. She is old, the sofa always creaks when I sit down, the door doesn’t shut properly, it is comforting in its disorder. The books are piled a little higher today on the coffee table. I always expect them to topple over but they never do, it will be some kind of sign when they eventually succumb.

The nights are drawing in, I am tired, irritable, cold and it is only Monday. We start talking about my work, particularly one of the projects I would like to hide from her examination. As I become more experienced, it is easier to hide behind my supposed knowledge but I know I have to push this particular difficulty into the light.

Looking back on this project, it should have been obvious from the start that it was going to defeat us. My story was that the group structure was too oppressive, the CEO too invested in its image, the executive team antagonistic to anything that challenged the status quo and leading a business that had been repeatedly disappointed by previous broken promises.

“We really want to shake things up,” they would say and then react negatively and punitively to the initial stirrings of difference. Our team would be returned to a never-ending round of justification for something the business wasn’t ready for yet. But my ego got the better of me; if anyone could help this organization, we could. The business played a critical role in our society, the people in it were deeply committed, doing their best, and the venture’s success was a marker of our ability as an economy and country. But now it had become too heavy a weight, one with which I didn’t have enough support.

Usually, this process of supervision generates new insight, a way of viewing the situation that I hadn’t considered. It renews my energy and off I go, bouncing back into the fray with a vitality to which others contribute. This time, it didn’t and I left feeling worse. I returned the following week, and the next one, with the same outcome, expending more energy with less return.

Defeat is not something we allow ourselves to talk much about is it? Well, sometimes we do but it is in a way that immediately returns us to success, you know... the cliché that my failures taught me a lot and prepared me for my future successes. There is nothing wrong with that version of events, I love a good cliché and have trotted it out enough times in my past. And at the same time, I am curious about a new quality surfacing from many of our clients, one that we struggle, in the day-to-day conversations, to describe, to share and to integrate into our ways of working and our challenge to the status quo.

“Sounds like you are defeated by this”, says the supervisor.
I feel my internal world crumble, I don’t do defeat. Much of my psychology and the underpinning structure of my belief system is that we “don’t do defeat”. There is always a way through - isn’t there? Experience has taught us (and many of those we support) that this is nonsense. If we only identify with our potency, we are missing a whole part of ourselves that wants to understand defeat and let ourselves sink into it.

In the supervision, I turn inwards into my body and realise my arms feel weightless, like jelly, and that there is nothing there. “Push against my hand,” says my supervisor. I am 6’3” tall, and while a long way from being Arnold Schwarzenegger should have been able to push over this elderly woman with three fingers of one hand.Right now, I can hardly lift my arms and pushing seems out of the question. So much of my life has been spent avoiding defeat that to allow it a place is something new.

When I fully accept it as part of our connected life then, in that moment of acceptance, real acceptance, something shifts. What did move? I can’t describe it vividly enough, I just know something did.

What I would say to myself now is “don’t get cut off from the defeated part of yourself. When you do, you freeze. And so do all those who are relying on your leadership.”

Defeat is mostly avoided or hidden in the Industrial Age as a source of shame. In the Age of Connection we may become more used to its repeating nature, maybe even welcoming of it.

Colleagues and clients have described it as: “Nothing changes until someone says we have had enough, we can’t do this anymore, is this all there is? When you feel that deeply enough you know that something new and positive will emerge but it comes from a place of giving up rather than battling through.”

“Our institutions often suck the life and energy out of something that was once alive. But we earn the right to start something new by allowing what needs to die to die. This includes brands, strategies, ideas, structures, promotions, and career expectations. In keeping it all going we have lost the ability to live with the reality of what is in front of us. It is becoming an unnatural way of operating.”

So maybe the Industrial Age leader refuses to accept defeat under any circumstance, holding on to a belief, against all the evidence, that we will overcome. The energy is invested in the fight and there is desperation to avoid defeat. Another version of this may be those who are so exhausted and defeated that they give up on everything - themselves, their colleagues, the business, their whole cause. They leave corporate life, or their organization, with some resentment and a lot of disappointment in themselves and others. Their pessimism takes hold in such a way that they can’t shake loose from it.

Maybe the leader in the Age of Connection touches defeat, feels it deeply and then finds a way of integrating it into their work. It gives them a lighter touch somehow. They are not carrying the same weight of expectation in themselves. You can cross this particular threshold through your compassion for defeat in yourself and others.

As we end this section you might want to ask yourself “what am I finished with?”

Declare it to as many people around you as you feel comfortable and see what emerges afterwards.

NINE (B)

Practices for between us

THE NEVER-ENDING CURVE

There are 200 employees, standing on a line that initially expresses a change curve. It has been hastily prepared by fixing thick masking tape to the carpet of this large, slightly gloomy, hotel conference room. I have a faint memory of having been here for another event one evening; it didn’t scrub up that well then either. They stand along a line that starts to decline and then slumps into a crevasse and then slowly recovers ending at a point higher than where it started.

The 200 people are part of an engineering company that has lost its way over the past few years. They have a young age profile, having been recruited for a customer service-type role that was new for the business. But the business is rejecting change and this unit has gone through three directors in the past 15 months, has had some internal investigations conducted and is suffering from a high level of staff turnover.

There is a range of clothing styles on display, many of which I am too old to recognize let alone attempt to match. Some carry the style with panache, most look a tad uncomfortable in the tightness and high heels of it all, as they stand on the line looking to their right and left. Some large groups huddle together, shoulders touching, others spread out until at the ends of the curve in which

they are standing in ones and twos.

What is different this time is the stages that have been defined and named on the curve: numb, cynical, discouraged, disorientated, scared, curious, hopeful, energetic, committed and achieving.

They have created their own labels to represent how they have felt and it strikes me we now have a change curve for those bringing the novel to bear.

From their positions, they tell their stories; the thing that hits me most strongly is how frequent and quick the movements between stages are. they don’t follow the usual pattern of a change curve though; there is no progression to an end point. The group is in a constant state of flux and this becomes the key insight for them and for me. If we are standing at the edges of the Industrial Age, attempting to bring forth something novel, then there is going to be a constant shifting between positions, many of them difficult and all of them, including the ones associated with success don’t last long.

The group decides to pick up the masking tape so they can turn a curve into a circle; it means there is no end point and you can start anywhere: start energetic, end up numb; start disorientated, end up hopeful.

The next little bit of magic that takes place during the conversations that follow is yielded simply by more contact and connection. Even those who had felt themselves rooted to a particular position found that, by making more contact, they moved, even if it was just a small way to another position on the curve (now circle). Contact and connection is the way out of the stickiness - contact with the organizational family, friends, old beliefs, renewed belief, your own humanity and other people’s stories.

The circle takes on a different symbolism for the 200 in their ongoing recovery from difficulty, they agree to meet regularly as a large group and make contact with where they are, each time taking up their positions in the circle and speaking from that place without judgement or fear. It becomes a virtual gathering ‘around the campfire’ where the battle-weary can recuperate, create their myths and sharpen their swords before returning to the fray.

In the Connected Age we need to allow ourselves to feel and to allow ourselves to do so together. There is nothing to be done in the most turbulent times other than feel our way through and yet that is the very thing we often stop ourselves doing. It seems far easier to get on with the work in hand or create a drama about the situation. But a departure, or any other ending, without feeling suggests there was no intimacy in the first place; that we have not invested our whole selves in the work. We only invested the part of ourselves that is a machine and so the ending is simply a case of switching off that part of ourselves and going home for our supper. (See Figure 44)

• Can you think of all the things that are ending now in your work life?

• How do you defend against ‘feeling’ their ending?

• What would it be like to just let all the feelings come, what is the fear that holds you back?

• Name all the feelings, write them down if you want to, but then go back and feel them; naming, capturing, writing is different to feeling.

• Now try saying them out loud starting with ‘I feel....’

• How might you gather people together for a conversation about this?

I know, I know, I’m sorry; this is starting to sound like some kind of self-help manual for the emotionally-repressed in the Industrial Age.

Maybe it is self-help, and if that is what one of the reviews says, maybe it is no bad thing.

Don’t be put off by cringing, just have a go and see what happens.

HAND, BUCKET, WATER

He puts down the phone at home and catches his reflection in the mirror: slightly dazed with an inane, fixed smile on his face. One member of his team has just handed in their resignation, it came out of the blue, he thought things were going so well - or at least better than they had been. Just before Christmas, he had seen this team member at his best, the two of them held a meeting with an important client and it felt as if a corner had been turned. Then, two months later, there was the resignation.

In the days that followed, he experienced a range of emotions that began with an initial state of what he thought was acceptance. “Yes of course you must go,” he said, having heard the rationale for the departure. “It makes a lot of sense, I think it is the right thing to do, both for you as an individual and for us as an organization.” They talked more about how it had come to this point and then moved on to the work to be done: “We’ll work it out so there is a smooth transition here.” There was goodwill on both sides, and it would be done well: “We need to manage all of this with your stakeholders in the business and plan your transition, we want to make sure you leave with the best chance of success in your next role.”

However, at the team meeting a few days later, he was saying the same sort of thing when, all of a sudden, other stuff started coming out. There was a small opportunity to punish the leaver, an issue of detail over a current project that wasn’t up to scratch, and he took it. It was messy, clumsy, ineffective and dramatic and others in the team started to react to what they were seeing and hearing. Then the conversation was shut down quickly as they needed to move on to the next agenda item.

There is an oft-quoted metaphor in our line of work that says “a person leaving an organization is like a hand being removed from a bucket of water”. The instant the hand is removed, the water closes over the space and it is as if there had never been anyone there. There is the part of me that belongs to Industrial Age organizations that can relate to this. It is also a powerful way of defending against the thought that we may have invested emotion in our work. I don’t believe this holds true where we have worked in real communities and developed an intimacy of relationship. It won’t hold true in the Age of Connection, the container needs something different.

WHY THIS, WHY ME, WHY NOW?

I have just finished my pain au chocolat in a hurry, jamming the last piece into my mouth and chewing fast so I can answer the phone before it reaches the eighth ring and goes to voicemail. I leave the noisy cafe and step into the cold pedestrian area outside it, pulling on my winter coat as I go. It is one of my colleagues, he is responsible for a significant competitive pitch the following day for a recently-merged organization. What this business requires is very much within our area of expertise and we are all excited by the prospect of the work.

What I hear on the other end of the line is a voice full of anxiety, describing a series of difficulties, misunderstandings and mishaps that have led to neither member of the two-person team doing the pitch being able to attend. I am scrolling through my diary on the phone. Ok, I can move some things around and go in their place, I will have to beg the forgiveness of those I am letting down. It starts in less than 24 hours, It is more than 200 miles away, and I have no understanding of the pitch or any relationship with the prospective clients.

Somehow, and somewhat unexpectedly, what comes out of my mouth in response to the story is: “How exciting”! It is the first time I have experienced this response. Typically, I would have been particularly concerned with finding out how on earth we had ended up in this situation and confirming just how difficult it was going to be to do anything about it.

“Why is he unwell now?”
“What will the client expect?”
“Is there any point?”
“How on earth will we schedule the other work I would have to move?”
“Why does it have to be so far away?”
“Why this? Why me? Why now?”

You can ask the same questions with a very different mindset. In the Industrial Age we would be asking them with a view to persecution, victim-hood and complaint. Answers that build defences and reduce potential vulnerability, answers that explain how we got here and who is responsible.

In the Age of Connection we may have to get used to these situations cropping up much more regularly. What will come of this? What is the mystery with which we can engage? What will we learn? What is the chance to build or deepen another connection? What is being tested? (See Figure 45)

This is a mystery with which to engage and a call to adventure. I don’t mean this as a pretence, self-hypnosis or deceit - I mean it as a way of working to which we will all relate positively in the future. Those of you already great at ‘winging it’, and suffering from a perception that you are doing it because you are lazy, rejoice! Your time has come.

WORKING WITH OUR RELUCTANCE

We are playing a game. It comes from the world of theatre but we are using it here to help understand the dynamics in a team that defaults to something particularly ‘bi-polar’. The leader moves to make something happen, the team opposes. The team moves to make something happen, the leader opposes. I am exhausted just dipping into this dynamic from time-to-time; I can’t imagine how tiring it must be to be in it permanently.

I am reminded of an old cycle that starts with stillness and ends with completion and letting go. In between, there is connection and action. Here there is connection of sorts, lots of action but it doesn’t go anywhere, no completion, no letting go, no stillness. The result is a team stuck, lacking creativity or cut through, deeply frustrated or (in the event that something is forced through) resentful.

So the game goes like this: we play it in pairs; person A makes an imaginary suggestion accompanied by actions, person B follows that suggestion saying “yes, let’s!” until they determine, for some reason, that they don’t want to say yes anymore and say “no”.

“Let’s go for a walk!”
“Yes, let’s!”
“Let’s follow this path down to the beach.”
“Yes, let’s!”
“Let’s take off our shoes and socks!”
“Yes, let’s!”
“Let’s go for a paddle.”

At the point that person B says “No”, person A has to respond with “OK, so what comes next?” Which means the responsibility for suggestions rests with person B.

“No.”
“Ok so what comes next?”
“let’s go and buy some ice cream.”
“yes let’s!

Repeat ad infinitum.

The game, in itself, is a lot of fun and there is a magic ingredient. When you say “no” or “ok, what comes next?” you have to say it with a smile on your face. It changes the whole dynamic. Try it out in any situation, at home or work, you will see what I mean. It is such a simple challenge to the habit of accompanying every “no” with a frown or stern face. That is what we do in the Industrial Age isn’t it?

The power of a “no” back then was a full stop to something, usually quite a stern one. And it stopped the energy flowing through the people, through the idea, through the organization, through the market. I am not suggesting for a moment that we say “yes” to everything, but I am suggesting that, in order to stay connected and flowing in the next age, we accompany our “no” with a smile and an “ok, what comes next?”

A few weeks later we are together again, this time in a business meeting. It is a difficult moment, a presentation has just finished, the tension is palpable, and she has got it completely wrong, I think. Her proposal, in response to the customer situation, is poorly thought through and had little impact. and then she surprises us all and we learn something about moving gently with pace. when everyone says “no”, she doesn’t justify it, defend it, and make the other party wrong she just says, “ok so what comes next?” with a smile on her face.

If we conceptualize a “no” as resistance in the Industrial Age it means, in our leadership response, that ‘they’ have to be overcome. (See Figure 46)

If we conceptualize a “no” as reluctance in the Connected Age it means they don’t understand yet or do understand and don’t want to play. Or they have some other priorities that mean they can’t attend to this immediately. “Ok, what comes next?” can keep us going with heart and a lightness of touch.

NINE(C)

Practices for across us all

OFF THE GRID 8

“Working for a large global company, as I do, has its pros and cons. On the one hand, you get to interact with as many smart people as you could possibly imagine, you have the resources to get things done and, above all, there is a good chance of doing things that really matter, like solving problems for big customers; even, occasionally, changing the world for the better. On the other hand, mostly, due to our sheer size, we have a large number of policies telling us what we can do.

Often the policies are helpful, explaining how to do what you want to do while staying out of trouble. It would be impossible to operate without them in such a large organization. Yet, the longer I am here, the more I have begun to feel their limitations, to the point where they can become stifling showstoppers if you let them.

It would be very easy for me to hide behind the rules. No one could criticize me for doing so, but I know i just couldn’t get the things done that I needed to do. So, having spent the early part of my career learning the rules and understanding them, I have spent the latter part learning how to break the rules responsibly when I feel i need to.

For example, in my role as a research architect, it is crucial to gain early

feedback from customers on the value of the solutions we develop. This involves lots of early-stage demos at customer events, as well as spreading the word through various means, including social networks.

It became apparent that one of the best ways of doing this was by posting short, compelling videos on the web. The official policy requires me to gain approval from the global communications team before making a video available publicly.

Some of the feedback I have received after submitting videos for approval have ranged from requests to “remove the Firefox logo from the demo of a web application”, (which would entail a huge amount of additional work), to “asking Google for permission to use their logo in a Google Maps product”, (which would slow down our progress to an absolute crawl).

I am frequently left with a choice - to follow the advice, stay absolutely legally safe and make no progress, or ignore it and take some risk. My decision has been to take the risk. I have produced many videos; I blog; I share frequently on Twitter; and the best thing is that I still work here.

On one occasion, someone from the department setting the policy reached out to me and - in a friendly way - informed me that my ignoring policy rules could get me fired. My only response was that, if the company decided to fire me for what I was doing, then it was the wrong company for me to work for anyway so I was fine with it. At that point, I realised it is too convenient to use ‘business risk’ as a reason for not innovating, whereas it is actually the risk to ourselves that we are not willing to accept. I fully accept the risk to myself and I delight in finding new ways to develop great products quickly whether or not I break the rules.”

This is a common story among those determined not to be defeated by the restrictions of the Industrial Age culture in which they are operating. The Challenger in me loves hearing them and being part of them and, at the same time, there is a new version of them emerging. It is one that benefits from the same spirit of persistence, but does it in a way that finds and builds connection.

WIGGLING TO INDEPENDENCE

It was dead, the orders from corporate headquarters were clear; the project was dead in the water. It was as clear as the rather curt email he had in front of him, printed out on a piece of paper. For some reason, he still printed certain emails, maybe it wasn’t quite believable until he held the paper in his hand.

We had all been at the launch at an excellent, media-friendly venue in town, with just enough ‘razzmatazz’, without overdoing it in this age of austerity. Would anyone there have believed him if he said, just two weeks later, that the project was no more?

So, in his own way, with a grim determination and not very much thought, he chose not to listen and to do what he thought was necessary. He believed in this product, it had everything that was needed to compete more fully with the dominant competitor and every instinct he had, informed by years of working in this industry, said not to stop now.

He started writing, it didn’t take much thought, just allowing the keyboard to spew out what he believed. There wasn’t much on the paper in the way of numbers but plenty of faith and as he sat back after 20 minutes of pounding away on the tired keyboard, he saw it for what it was. A manifesto, a call to gather across the whole organization, from whichever discipline you hailed, if you wanted to keep going. It was an exercise in engaging his imagination rather than his business school education.

He typed in a few names he knew would share his opinion and pressed send. Two days later, as he waded through emails, he started to notice responses from people who weren’t on the original distribution list and felt a flutter of fear inside. What had he done? This would be just the thing to get him fired after all these years of solid service.

And then, about half-way through the list, there was a mail that said an independent discussion forum had been set up, outside of the organization’s formal mechanisms: if you were interested in the initiative, please join the conversation.

During the forum, magic had started to happen. Maybe it was just that something was needed after all the lay-offs and disappointments, colleagues leaving, competitors succeeding, promotions delayed and bonuses reduced. People needed something that wasn’t about ‘death by a thousand cuts’, but about a source of new life. There were connections being made between all parts of the globe, initiatives that he had never heard of, individuals with highly-specialist jobs talking to others in other specialisms.

There was a life here beyond the silos and selfishness that dominated the day-to-day formal culture. It was more curious, challenging, there was belief, hope and ambition. Most of all, in the face of being told “no”, there was determination to carry on regardless. Together, they cobbled together resources from a range of budgets and bought an exhibition space at the global conference. They were going to take the next stage of their work there and see what their customers thought of it.

I asked him afterwards how he summarized what happened here.

“I think I realise now that when there is nowhere for my insights and energy to go, if they are blocked by the organization, I kind of ‘wiggle’ my way to independence. That first time, I just acted and wasn’t sure what was happening, now I do it a bit more deliberately, it keeps me connected to my hope even when the situation may look hopeless.”

These ‘wiggling’, connected local efforts are wonderfully resilient. The thing that stands out about this new way of operating in the Age of Connection is the way it taps into already existing communities of interest and passion. It is tempting to believe, in the new age, that you have to build new communities before you can do anything meaningful. Another way of thinking may simply be that the community you need already exists and your role is to recognize it so that it can be found. (See Figure 47)

They typically gather around initiatives, processes or solutions that cut across functional boundaries. Search for those that have been fighting for a cause without hierarchy to back them up, they are your starting point. They are counting more on their passion and persistence as a source of power than their organizational position.

Those who are beginning to operate in this way are not looking to destroy the hierarchy of the Industrial Age; this will change in its own time. While they wait, they find and develop communities that can act as a lubricating force, rendering the hierarchy more persistent, fluid, flexible and purposeful in the face of change. (See Figure 48)