Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to have your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermo-dynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.
Martin Luther King
This sermon made me think a lot last year. In an increasingly complex world, it seems to me that a capacity to understand the “big picture” and to operate in complex systems is a key if we want to make substantial, transformational change. We need to be skilled, fast learners, systems thinkers, able to understand the key “leverage points” (one of my previous posts) and act strategically.
And there is more to this. Such a clear understanding of the system is never going to be enough without a deep connection to the source of our actions. Many have been drawn to understand more about the key factors of success -primarily in our competitive business world in the last years.
When exploring the key factors of success of an intervention -in business, in politics, in sports etc, it has been common in the last years to compare outcomes in similar field and “learn from the best”. It was the era of “benchmarking”. Analyze the product of your competitor, the lawn of your neighbor, the result at the elections of the other party, try to extrapolate the key success factors and tailor them for your situation.
There is value in it. There is a lot we can learn from other organizations’ success. Though, benchmarking alone was not enough, as so many solutions must be relevant for your context, your audience, your market etc. Also, there is such an easy risk to put together a Frankenstein of patches and bends copied somewhere else, that gives a false impression of professionalism while being a primal example of mediocrity (I am sure you have seen such examples).
Analyzing the final product is not enough to learn from it. And it’s relevant to expand the search and look for the processes. The how we/they do it, and learn from it. Focusing on the process instead of the final result is also more open-ended in the possible solution, because the process is informed by high-level principles that are not stuck to a particular situation. If a key success factor is the principle of “Participatory Decision Making”, such how is more general than all the concrete solutions you will find, for it’s on a higher level of abstraction. Analyzing this “how” is a step forward.
But the “how” may be not enough, because it may be not relevant to you. Much more than the final product, the process involves values, beliefs and assumptions around the world that are very personal. If you copy-paste the values of someone else without asking yourself how they relate to you, your story and where do you want to go, likely they will be short-lived. At the essence of your interventions in the world when you want to contribute for a transformational change there is your inner source of motivation. Your “why” do you do it.
Otto Scharmer has been doing lately a fantastic job in exploring such inner source of motivation, and it’s from his work that I have taken the frame of reference Product-Process-Source. The idea of Theory U, and other leadership theories today, is the need to explore this inner source as it has been for so long a blind spot in the leadership discourse.
Back to the great quote at the top. While I still believe the capacity to understand the “big-picture” is so key, and is an important factor of success. (This is why I am so passionate about the FSSD, Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development). And I believe we need that strong connection to the source. I am so inspired by the assumption of MLK that the source of our action must be a place of love.
[…] You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. […]