How to adapt business and ourselves to forge a sustainable future
Every leader is exposed to the fast-changing environment and the triple threat. Fortunately, each of us was born with the brain networks we need to transform ourselves and our organisations. We must rediscover these capacities in order to engage in the intense process of ‘Radical Adaptation’. By changing ourselves we can then change the businesses and systems we touch and are part of. As we step powerfully into our role as forgers of the future - ‘FutureMakers’ - we can harness our creative capacities to rise to the challenges and find our way to thriving selves and systems.
But what does radical adaptation look like?
1. Adaptation of our economic models
We need to recalibrate capitalism to adapt it to fully engage with the existential global risks facing us all. As Kate Raworth calls for through her proposed economic model ‘Doughnut Economics’ we need to stop focusing on endless GDP growth and instead focus on thriving in balance. This has to happen through the #radicaladaptation of economic models at both macro and localised scales, and crucially, there is a pivotal role for business in driving a new approach. It will mean #radicaladaptation of products and processes, which can be delivered through a shift to a net positive approach. This will require traditional businesses to radically adapt to become thriving organisations that deliver benefits that extend far beyond traditional organisational boundaries.
2. Adaptation of ourselves
But in order to deliver this shift in economic models and business approaches we need #radicaladaptation of people. We must master how we think and feel in our consciousness and how we act on the world on our material problems in order to survive and thrive in our VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world. This means that we cannot use Neolithic neurons to deal with the anxieties and angst of the Anthropocene age. We must upgrade our capacity to think and feel in new ways inside if we want to act in new ways and enact new business models and business processes. Our inner game must change if we want to excel in the outer game of business success and the long-term sustainability of our species.
It is easy to sink into fear or to cover that fear with anger. Biologically, these emotions trigger us into what we call Control & Protect Mode. We fight this emerging reality with rage and frustration or attempt to flee from it by ignoring, withdrawing, or minimising the risks. Instead, we have to find our way to what we call Create & Connect Mode. With this mindset and leadership stance we embrace reality and go “through, up, and out”: grappling transformations in our products and processes from the jaws of climate chaos, intense overwhelm, and the stress of business as usual. In other words, as Future Makers, we metabolise despair and despondency about the existential dangers and a pervading and paralysing sense of loss, whether of polar icecaps or coral reefs, into a renewed purpose, vision, and ambition.
3. Adaptation with urgency
History tells us that the natural world is incredible at adapting and evolving. But the pressures we’ve placed on it are now asking too much. And this means our pace of adaptation - for people, processes and products - needs to be faster than ever before, so that we can solve the pressing societal issues facing us while we still have an opportunity. One of those issues being climate change, which poses the biggest threat society has ever seen, and as climate scientists tell us, we only have 11 years til the point of no return.
And this means is that we are at one of those unique point in history, where we need create a vision for change, come together, and move quickly to deliver. And this will mean in throwing those long trusted rule books out the window so we can shift from incremental change and increased efficiency to a model of change which delivers breakthroughs. And not just breakthrough in one particular area of society - technology, politics, the economy, social change, or the environment. Given the urgency, we need breakthroughs that hit upon transformation in as many of these areas as possible simultaneously. And yes … thats a systemic shift. An unprecedented change management project that not even the best team of consultants in the world can deliver for us.
There are no silver bullets that will work for all companies, all sectors, all regions: but there is a process for #radicaladaptation that works in all places and at all times to metabolize changes in our external world into concrete value within our organizations. By following this process, stepping up and switching on as the transformational leaders we need, you become a Futuremaker for yourself, your community and the organizations you lead.