We’re living through tumultuous times with the stakes high and volatility certain. Given the intensity and speed of the changes taking place with technology, the economy, the environment, and within our society, standing still and worse going backwards are not productive options. We must progress. My favorite analogy from Thomas Friedman’s recent book, “Thank You for Being Late,” is one he references from Canadian Olympic kayaker, Anna Levesque. Friedman shares that Levesque wrote about how beginners often misinterpret advice to keep their paddles in the water, turning the paddle into a rudder which braces them against the movement and momentum of the water. Unfortunately, this has the exact opposite result they expect. It doesn’t stabilize them, rather the oar’s anchoring against the movement makes the kayak unstable and can force the kayak to flip over. What’s better is to paddle with the rapids and move with or faster than the current, which counter-intuitively provides more stability.
It’s a great analogy for this time, as Friedman suggests. The world order is clearly not in state of homeostasis. Our environment is turbulent, and many of our global leaders, along with our societies, are operating in ways that breed additional uncertainty. Also consider the fact that we need a strong shake-up of current theories, practices, and power structures to address the changes and challenges we’re facing. In short, we are that kayaker in the rapids, and we’ll capsize if we push against current forces, hold onto solutions from times past, focus on short-term results instead of considering the long view, and think of narrow vs. holistic systems-based answers. Rather, we need to start paddling fast and get moving faster than these mass forces.
So, it is utterly frustrating to watch some leaders today thwart progress or worse pass off dated policies and narrow-viewed solutions as progress. Enough with progress for the sake of short-term gains and glossing over to make everything seem okay. Enough with politicians being concerned only about themselves and not the people who elected them. Enough with haters, trolls, and personal attacks veiled behind impersonal social media and technology. Enough with corporations and billionaires being focused solely on the quarterly bottom line, only caring about accumulating more, and not taking the high road to benefit humankind. Enough of solutions that don’t consider long-term outcomes and consequences, that don’t play through the extensive, interconnected implications of policies.
We don’t just need veiled attempts at progress. It’s time for Better Progress. We need progress that is bold. Progress for the long-term. Progress for the benefit of those less fortunate. Progress to make positive change in the world that solves big problems and sets us all up for a better life in the future. We need to embrace the turbulence and paddle rapidly, together, and go with the flow.
Luckily, there are glimmers of hope. There are people and organizations showing the way. Here on Weathervane Forum, we’re starting a series to demonstrate how Better Progress is coming to life and will feature examples we come across that are good representations of this movement. Read our first two installments on “Positive Political Will” and “Choosing to Do Better Business.”