You don’t need me to tell you that the world is facing some pretty significant challenges right now. The economy continues to sputter. Wars and violence plague countries and communities large and small. Here in the United States, the problems with our healthcare and education systems don’t seem like they will ever improve. You don’t have to go far to find extreme poverty, religious intolerance, ethnic conflict, and more. People are scared about what the future will hold.
Traditionally, we have put our faith in institutions like government, the media or even business that they will come up with solutions and help lead us to better times. Filling in the gaps are nonprofit organizations or faith-based institutions. I know I am over-generalizing here, but the point is, there has been someone to look to, someone we believed had our best interests at heart. I’m not sure that is the case right now. I am not sure anyone has unwavering confidence in the institutions who have always led us, to do so again now.
The point is this post is not to be all doom and gloom — quite the opposite. I am optimistic about the future (and if you know me at all, that’s saying something). Our society has changed – dramatically – over the past few decades. We talk about it all the time, in the context of business (flattening), media (speeding up), community (connecting) — but we don’t often take a more macro view. The fact that everything has changed means that we have the tools and understanding needed to not only meet the challenges that exist today, but thrive going forward. Individuals are empowered as never before, and all of us have the tools, the connections and that access at our fingertips to do something incredible.
What do we need to succeed? We need a reset. A total, complete, top-to-bottom, reset. We don’t need a plan – that’s too short-term, we need to think bigger/broader. We don’t need a model – we have never done what we need to do now, so there isn’t anything to emulate. We don’t need a strategy – this isn’t about developing some roadmap and acting on it. We need to change the way we think, act, organize. We need to change the way we talk, and listen. Everything we know, and how it is applied, must be reconsidered and re-applied.
A reset doesn’t necessarily mean starting over from scratch. There are elements of what we have been doing, across all sectors, that have been successful and can apply in the future. We need to find those good things and understand why they worked, or how they can be re-purposed. There is nothing about how one organization operates that can’t help another one learn how to be more successful. There is so much than individuals, or a community of people, can contribute if those in power are willing to truly listen.
My personal believe is that no organizations are doing everything right, and especially not the ones that we often hold up on pedestals as examples. Even those who are successful aren’t necessarily in a position to take what they do and adapt it to meet the new challenges that we will face in the future. There is too much focus on activity (how big your email list is, or how much money you give to charity) and not enough on impact (whether you are really serving a need, or changing things for the better). There is too much emphasis placed on brand (i.e. what groups call themselves, or say they are doing) and not enough on experience (what is really happening, whether expectatinos are being met). There is too much energy put into growth (how big can we be, how many people can we reach) and not enough commitment to sustainability (can we maintain the quality of what we do no matter how many things are choose to do).
The concept of a reset is not about abandoning the things in our society – like the marketplace, or even the institutions that currently operate and lead. We don’t need to ‘throw all the bums out’ if you will. But we have a lot of room for improvement. We have an opprotunity to do things differently and see a better result.
A reset will be difficult, and it will take time. There will be people who don’t have the patience to wait and will suggest we look at short-term gains instead of long-term shifts in the way we behave and function as a society. I say in response, without a total reset, we’ll miss some major opportunities – to build better cities, to create more innovative and successful companies, educate and engage people more fully, and mobilize to address serious social issues in a meaningful and measurable way. Or worse, we’ll continue to operate as we have, despite massive changes taking place in all aspects of our lives, and find ourselves quickly in a place from which we can’t return.
Why would we wait? Time to reset.