Restart the world, I want to get on
What if we were to start the world again? Not going back to the original setting but starting from now. If we could recast all our institutions and organisations as well as the way we live, interact, consume and be in the world, how different would that be from what has gone before?
Of course we can take the view that we’ve done pretty well so far, on some ‘metrics’. We’ve advanced what we know, we’ve raised living standards for many, we’ve had men on the moon, we’ve largely eradicated some of the diseases that killed many, we’ve connected every corner of the world through invention of the computer and the internet.
Trade between nations that relied on extensive sea journeys (and often still does) is conducted for some goods in a fraction of the time via air freight or, in our knowledge economy, at the stroke of a key. Instantaneous.
And yet we’ve lost our way – lost the fundamental connection of our partnership with our planet and its natural cycles provoking climate change. Our progression has perpetuated inequality and division and lately hot-housed populism, protectionism, nationalism. Though we’ve closed the gaps between us and increased connection through technology deeper divisions have opened up. There is a cost here that we hadn’t factored in and will be having to pay for generations to come.
Covid-19, unwelcome as it is, is the greatest disruptor – beyond a market disruptor of the ilk of Uber or Airbnb – or even the financial crash of 2008. And it offers us a once in a generation opportunity to reset.
As leaders we must step up to this opportunity to recast our organisations, not waiting for Governments or others to lead the way, instead striking out on our own new direction and taking a lead that others may follow.
What would this mean? It will certainly be about orienting our organisations to contribute to building a better world for all. Thankfully with such an ambition we have the UN’s Sustainable Sustainable-Development goals to help guide our thinking and action.
It will almost certainly involve listening deeply to what our employees have to say about the world and the future, and how we best fulfil stakeholder expectations.
It will need courageous and heartful leadership where we operate from a positive regard for every individual within the business and without, and a deep respect for all life. And, as part of this, we’ll be giving our people greater freedom to decide how they do the work that’s needed and paying greater attention to their ideas and criticisms. These people are very often at the critical interface with the world we serve so why would we turn a blind ear to what they have to share?
Even if we make these changes we’ll just be getting started on what’s needed to thrive in the future. We will, though, be starting to restore the trust that has been progressively eroded over the past few decades. Reducing or eliminating this deficit is the road to healing some of the divisions that have opened up.