No matter what part of the world you live in, it is clear that the current systems and structures are changing. Long established patterns of thinking and being are breaking down – with massive repercussions for the systems that were built upon them.
In Europe right now we are witnessing huge tremors in the fabric of a Union that was on a certain trajectory for the past few decades, and now seems destined for another. The global financial system continues to defy expectations and move in new and unusual ways. As analysts try to predict the future, many of us are left scratching our heads, and wondering – what will come next?
A quick recourse to Innovation Theory reveals the opportunity that this change might bring. In the ‘Design of Business’, Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, breaks down innovation into three distinct stages:
1. Elaboration of a ‘Central Mystery‘ – a problem to be solved;
2. Discovery of a ‘Heuristic‘ – a loose rule of thumb, that narrows down the field of enquiry;
3. Creation of an ‘Algorithm‘ – an explicit step-by-step guiding to solving the problem, that guarantees success.
In Martin’s mind, this three step process of a gradual narrowing of the ‘knowledge funnel’ has been used in the discovery of nearly every major innovation – from gravity to multinational corporate success.
The challenges facing us today….
So where does all this leave us with the challenges we face today? Applying Martin’s logic to the tremors we are witnessing in global systems and structures , it would appear as if – for the first time in a long time – the established ‘algorithms’ of how to run and execute a state / economy / financial system etc, are beginning to falter. Long-held ideas and beliefs about how things should be run in order to guarantee specific outcomes seem under question. The shakes and tremors we are experiencing feel like a call to return to the ‘Knowledge Funnel’, to step out of the existing algorithms, and head back into a creative space. In pondering the central mystery of what a successful future looks like, it appears time for us to innovate.
A note on the feminine…
In returning to the central problem, Martin’s model shows us clearly that the next stage in uncovering a solution is not to jump to another algorithm – the logical, rational, linear process so representative of a ‘masculine’ way of doing things, but rather to search for the loose, inchoate structure of the next level understanding – our heuristic. Here we find ourselves gently drifting into the realm of the ‘feminine’.
So what do I mean by this? Setting gender differences aside, and returning solely to the archetypal constructs of masculine and feminine, the feminine represents the ‘unseen’ elements of the known universe. The masculine energy is that of expansion – the universe that we can see around us; and the feminine the unseen forces such as contraction – gravity for example. Bringing this down to the level of human experience, the feminine represents being as opposed to doing, inner experience as opposed to outer. It represents feeling, creativity, spirituality, the space of our ‘invisible’ human experiences, which have a powerful logic of their own.
Psychologists specializing in creativity, give us plenty of insight of how this feminine process works. Anton Ehrenzweig (in ‘The Hidden Order of Art’) talks about how during the creative process, we make meaning out of chaos. We bring together material that has not yet been organized, and structure it in a new and logical way. In order to this, we must – he says – drop out of the conscious, rational mind that governs so much of our waking life, and instead make recourse to a different type of vision. One that is able to see in the dark, and find order in the chaos. This vision he calls our ‘primary’ faculty, and is the eye of the feminine mind. It is the ‘being’ quality within us that is able to sit with uncertainty, that feels its way through chaotic territory, and is able to hold competing and conflicting theories all at once.
So where does all this leave us..?
If you accept that the changes we are seeing in the world reflect a need to return to Martin’s ‘innovation funnel’, and revisit our core assumptions in the worlds of business, politics, society and culture – then Innovation Theory gives us a powerful insight into the next stage of our evolution. Not only can we reframe the disruptions to the current system as simply an opportunity to return to the creative drawing board – as opposed to a finite breakdown and apocalyptic Doomsday – but also, we see in it a need to return to those invisible feminine processes that constitute an essential component of the first stage of the innovation journey.
For all the change and uncertainty this disruption might bring, what better outcome could there be than a return to the heart of the feminine process – to the joy, magic and passion that is most nourishing to the human spirit? In a world that has begun to exhaust itself with the ceaseless pursuit of execution, and quantifiable output, what better solution than a return to creativity, and its mystical portal into the unknown?
So – to the potential of 2012, and all that it might bring.
In love and service -