2020 is going will be remembered as a pivotal point in history. It knocked the majority of humanity out of our comfort zones, pushed us into trying new things, new routines, new experiences - with one thought in mind: survival. Survival is a powerful, yet fearful incentive. Finding yourself out of the zone of comfort starts with inconveniences, that could go either way. One leads to stress and anxiety. Another is fostering innovation and creativity never known before.
There are three things that we can do to lean in to the path of creation and innovation and steer away from the path of anxiety - the three A’s to ace in times of change.
I stumbled upon this office meme recently. A manager tells the employee to do this simple task and write, and I quote: “two zero two four”. Go ahead and write it yourself? Did you write 2024, or 0044, or 0024 or 2044? Many if you, fluent English speakers, will straighten this up by making the zeroes and the fours properly singular or plural. But we need to acknowledge that we all live in a world that speaks broken English. A colleague recently asked me via instant messenger: Do you want to proof-read my article or shall I send it to everyone? I responded: Go ahead. And ahead she went, she sent it to everyone. Well, I meant to read it. There is only one solution to avoid those and much more serious situations. And this solution is to ask. Ask questions, ask clarifications, ask advise, ask for help. According to studies people are surprisingly willing to lend a hand if the request is clearly explained and with team spirit in mind.
The drawback of the otherwise inspiring concept of free will is illustrated at its best in the philosophical paradox Buridan’s ass. The paradox is named by the name of the 14th century French philosopher Jean Buridan. It refers to a situation in which a donkey is put in the middle between a stack of hay and a pail of water, while equally hungry and thirsty. The donkey needs to make a choice and act. And since it keeps hesitating what to do, it dies of hunger and thirst. What we learn from this paradox is that doing something is better than sitting paralysed with indecision.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
This quote of Spencer Johnson, the author of “Who moved my cheese?” is also attributed to the COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg, who put it as a poster on the walls of Facebook’s headquarters. Take fear away, make a step and just do something. Even a small move gives a new perspective.
From the theory of evolution we know:
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change” (Darwin, C., 1809).
Adapting requires to be open to the possibility of change. Accepting change with a positive mindset is one of the soft skills of the future in the workplace. In 2020 future came faster than expected. It felt scary and confusing. But as people we have an instrument that helps.
For millions of years, writes in 1993 the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen. Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.
Ask, act and adapt. And talk to people, as Hawking advised.