We live in a time when self-evident, practical truths about life emerge from the mouths of self-proclaimed pundits as genius revelations. They are the kind of truths we know we know already, if we would only pay attention; the kind my friend Cheryl Kiser calls “the cutting edge of common sense”. But somehow we don’t remember them until we see them on the cover of a business book or magazine, and then we act surprised.
For example, a friend just raved about the new book, “The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essentials”, which demonstrates “how to streamline your life by identifying the essential and eliminating the unnecessary, freeing you from everyday clutter and allowing you to focus on accomplishing the goals that can change your life…” No s – – t. Or a new piece of research proving that “food marketing can create a false sense of health”? Or that design should be human-centered (design has always been human-centered – just centered on the humans with the money to commission it.) Perennials on the Times non-fiction best seller list include, “The Power of Habit”, and Susan Cain’s “Quiet”, about the value and productivity of people who don’t yack and socialize all the time. DUH to it all.
It seems that the over-abundance of things we know (facts and information) obfuscate all the things we need to know in order to be happy (intuition, wisdom).
In fairness, we have learned a great deal about how the world works. We no longer fear sailing off the edge of it, we accept the cause and affect relationship between sanitation and health (an unsolved mystery for mankind for thousands of years), and long ago worked up the courage to prove that the tomato is not poisonous. Big stuff.
It’s the part about our own real natures and needs that confuses us.
Two of the most worthy examples of the cutting edge of common sense are showing up in both expected and unexpected places of late. Through these two related methodologies, we are waking up to a 3.5 billion year old idea (life on Earth), and calling it news. The Agile methodology prescribes that we no longer spend years planning and then blindly executing complex programs when the world is changing at warp speed around us and there’s a good likelihood that what we develop will be obsolete by the time it’s done. The related methodology, Holocracy, tells us that we should not put a small number of (mostly white) people in charge of making decisions for the vast majority of people without involving them beyond telling them what to do. What is true genius about both Agile and Holocracy is that they derive their methods from the way the earth creates: no five year plans, o bureaucracy, all rapid prototyping, small steps, fast failure.
I am simplifying shamelessly here, of course, but it’s my post.
I mean to say (quickly) that Agile and Holocracy are so superior to our traditional methodologies for running businesses and communities and for creating anything new, and that the rightness of them is so obvious that they should be adopted everywhere immediately.
Why would we do anything else? Because nowhere is the avoidance of the unknown and the desire for control more evident than in established American institutions, and nowhere are the forces of money and power put to better use upholding it.
With all that humankind has learned, we should know better. Xerxes’ order to have the sea whipped and branded with hot irons when storms derailed his passage of the Dardanelles in 480 BC seems rightly foolish now. Is it any more foolish than our belief that we can maintain regulated, safe and predictable order over the chaos that is life in order to bend it to our will?
These are the last methodologies we’ll ever need to learn in part because they are finally the right ones. And, in part, because the ones we’ve been using have become lethal.
Can you say “Scrum”?