In a New York Times op-ed piece, Thomas Friedman examined two different viewpoints on the future. One is that we are in the midst of the “Great Disruption,” as coined by environmentalist Paul Gilding. As Gilding describes it, “Our system of economic growth, of ineffective democracy, of overloading planet earth . . . is eating itself alive. Occupy Wall Street is like the kid in the fairy story saying what everyone knows but is afraid to say: the emperor has no clothes. The system is broken.”
The other viewpoint, called the “Big Shift” by John Hagel III, co-chair of the Center for the Edge at Deloitte, but described by many others using various terms, the “Great Transition,” the “Great Shift,” and so on, is that we are in the growing pains stage of “the merging of globalization and the Information Technology Revolution.”
As Friedman describes it, “In the early stages, we experience this Big Shift as mounting pressure, deteriorating performance and growing stress because we continue to operate with institutions and practices that are increasingly dysfunctional—so the eruption of protest movements is no surprise. Yet, the Big Shift also unleashes a huge global flow of ideas, innovations, new collaborative possibilities and new market opportunities. This flow is constantly getting richer and faster. Today, . . . tapping the global flow becomes the key to productivity, growth and prosperity. But to tap this flow effectively, every country, company and individual needs to be constantly growing their talents.”
I don’t believe these are really opposing viewpoints at all. The system is quite obviously broken, and not just the economy. The culture of our corporations and even our own businesses, the merit system in which working hard inevitably leads to success, the ecological system, the political system . . . I could go on and on with examples of dysfunction that will only get worse until we each decide to make it better. The Occupy Wall Street movement is one example of individuals stepping up to do so, but when you consider just how much is broken, you can see clearly that this movement alone is not enough.
To lead the way into the Big Shift, the Great Transition, or as I call it, the Age of Greatness, we must recognize that all these systems interconnect. To fix one and leave the others broken is like buying new tires without fixing a busted engine. Those shiny new tires may look great, but without all systems working together, we aren’t going to get anywhere.
But even if you fix everything wrong with your “vehicle,” if you don’t have the key, you may feel as though you can’t even get started. Economically, some of the top 1% are holding our keys hostage. Even if you are in, or recently were in, that 1%, you might feel as though you’ve lost your keys in the Great Recession.
So what do you do now?
Those who lead great lives have learned to bypass the systems they are in to effect change for the good of all. When they don’t have the old key, they bypass the ignition, pulling out the wires to create a new connection, to essentially hotwire their lives.
When you look back at your life, will you be able to say that you lived your potential for greatness, knowing when to take the risk to step outside the system, to create new connections?
Sustainability is all about bypassing the status quo, getting conscious, and going beyond the rules, morphing the ordinary into the extraordinary. This is today’s new call to action.
To start reinventing your life and the rules, take these initial steps:
- Get clear about what you value and what your truth is.
- Compare and contrast your beliefs, intentions, and expectations with those of the system in which you are working. Especially if you’re the boss!
- Evaluate how you currently show up in your way within the systems you are part of, at home, at work, in the economy, in your community, politically. . . . How can you be even truer to yourself?
- Start taking steps to live your truth and bypass the rules of the game, whenever it’s necessary, so you are bringing your great values and leadership to what you do and how you are in your world.
- If your organization or partnership will not tolerate your way of doing things, it is time to think about how you might bypass that system for good by creating your own business or finding a position with another company in greater harmony with your values. If you own the place, then now is the time for a new business model.
I would love to hear your results in the comments. Are you creating your greater future today? What are you doing to change the rules of the game?