Most of us possess some degree of the belief that a quick, miraculous fix is on its way. That it’s only a matter of time before some new technology makes our complex problems go away.
It’s not too difficult to see how and why this belief is perpetuated and reinforced by marketing campaigns, driving the consumer lifestyle.
Yet more often than not (and on some level, always) this hope leads to disappointment. The product didn’t deliver the results it promised. Or, even if some small challenge is overcome, another unexpectedly pops up in its place.
Building solutions to these types of problems is relatively easy — it’s also very lucrative, as it produces an endless supply of customer needs. A clear example is the ‘health’ industry with its ever-expanding volumes of diseases and drugs.
Yet how many of us truly believe that a magic pill will come along and make us genuinely healthy — a pill that will allow us to go on with our unhealthy lifestyles?
Clearly health is not achieved with a purchase. It is a process in which decisions are made differently and ways of thinking are changed. Ultimately, it is a learning process — we create small experiments and adjust as we begin to receive feedback from our bodies.
The same is true for organizational health. As with an individual, the change begins when we start listening and responding to what the system is telling us. It is fundamentally the engagement in dialogue that drives the system’s evolution toward greater states of well being.
We can see our complex challenges as products of unhealthy relationships, or relationships that lack healthy dialogue. Physicist David Bohm writes of the type of dialogue that’s needed:
“Dialogue is really aimed at going into the whole thought process and changing the way the thought process occurs collectively. We haven’t really paid much attention to thought as a process. we have engaged in thoughts, but we have only paid attention to the content, not to the process.”
The shift that is underway in learning, and must be accelerated, is away from one-way exchanges of content and toward the facilitation of dialogue in which the thinking on both sides is transformed.
Away from a magical information dump that will suddenly give employees what they need to solve problems, toward a continuous process of thinking and seeing problems differently.
Like the individual making the decision to live a healthy lifestyle, turning their attention to listening, experimenting and learning, so does the organization looking to thrive in the 21st century.