On June 25, 2020 I hosted a call with three colleagues as part of our Leading Through Disruption series. In these Zoom calls, we use nature’s adaptive cycle to frame the topics. With its 3.8-billion-year history of helping nature adapt to disruptions and change, the adaptive cycle provides an excellent model for organizations as a framework for moving forward.

There are four phases of the adaptive cycle: letting go, exploring, launching, and sustaining. I’ve summarized the themes from our previous two calls that participants have shared on what they’re letting go of, and what they are exploring. In this blog, I will summarize participants’ comments on the experiments they are launching as we evolve from the massive disruptions that life is forcing upon us right now. Here are the key themes from the call.

Rebirth and Learning

People are experimenting with and getting more comfortable with failing forward in response to challenges. For example, teachers are learning how to teach online and experimenting with the best ways to do that. We are finding the experience both exhilarating and scary, but it is giving way to a sense that we are creating new habits and new ways of thinking, not to mention that we’re learning new ways of connecting and communicating.

New Ways of Being and Working are Emerging

Telework is now an option for everyone who is able, and this may become a new norm that disconnects seat time from productivity. COVID-19 has accelerated potential for improvements that has already been under consideration, but may have been met with resistance prior to the pandemic. As a result remote teams have become new normal for many organizations. Working from home is also helping us to experiment with greater balance between work and life as it allows us more time to focus on things outside of work.

Transformation Becomes Possible: A New Paradigm is Coming

Distance is collapsing worldwide. Zoom and other livestream technologies connect us seamlessly to people around the world. It’s generating new connections on virtual platforms as suddenly, we aren’t bounded by our location. There is a lot of stress given the level of change and new ways of working and living. This is generating a combination of great challenges and hope. The hope people are holding is that the larger systems are transforming in front of us. We are becoming more open to have conversations like this–thinking in systems, dramatic transformation, about what truly matters.

Change is Coming, Change is Here!

There are massive changes everywhere we look. Our healthcare, education, economic, political, and social systems are shifting and the fracture lines of old systems that can’t adapt are showing clearly. Individually most of us are also in major stages of change We are exploring how we can use this moment to move beyond sustainability conversations in the energy and utility industry, and introduce the language of regenerative energy.  Utility companies are having deep conversations about what it would look like to be truly regenerative, and this is exciting.

Consciousness is a gift that happens when we pause, look up and see what is happening around us. We need to understand the way we have changed during the shelter in place and based on the changes forced upon us due to the pandemic.  Customers are changing and company work methods are changing. How we view our work, seeing our work as essential, and the way we “do” work is of importance. It is not just about getting it done – things are becoming more integrated and holistic.

For Many Old Habits, It’s Time to Go

Traditional power and power brokers are showing their deep assumptions and world views that have shaped their behavior. The tensions between holding on to the old and the emergence of a new way are becoming clear. This tension is exposing the cracks in the system. People who are resisting the status quo paradigm of power-over are moving toward power-with. The systemic inequities are becoming very clear and many on this call are working hard to create a positive outcome to emerge.

System level patterns are emerging as people in society are either fighting the change, in the middle of it or at the forefront.  There is a growing fear that the rigid reactions will overtake the ‘opportunity’ mindset. The stark, more intense divisions and general “ugliness” are scaring folks who are usually optimistic.

Leadership, at its core is about change. One of the critical aspects of leadership is to have enough hope that the future can be something different. Leaders see the gaps or inequities in the current system and then imagine a better future. This ability to imagine something better is directly tied to hope and intelligent optimism. Part of what is holding the old paradigm in place is fear and scarcity. If we are afraid that there isn’t enough to go around, we can justify our self-interest and greed. As we begin to experiment with new ideas, ways of working, ways of thinking we need hold onto our hope and optimism so we imagine a new more regenerative world.

Don’t miss our next call on August 5th – Leading Through Disruption: Sustaining Frameworks. Learn more and register for the call here.