Change happens on the margins
Build back better?
You hear a lot about change at the moment. We’ve been disrupted into new ways of being and the changes still seem to come. We’re being pulled across thresholds into new places to grow, new thinking, new feeling, no going back.
Build back better? Who knows? What’s better? Where’s back?
If you think new is going to be normal then you are probably wrong. Only change is normal, always has been.
With that in mind it is worth reflecting on how nature does change. 3.8bn years of constant innovation based on everyday disruption has lead us to where we are at this moment in time. In nature there is no new normal other than constant change — tides rise and tides fall.
The Edge Effect
In a natural system change happens on the margins. The edge effect is one of life’s design principles. The edge is a zone of the greatest diversity of life where two adjacent ecosystems overlap. Where the two systems meet you find species from both of these ecosystems, as well as unique species that aren’t found in either ecosystem but are specially adapted to the conditions of the transition zone between the two edges.
Maximum diversity = optimal conditions for thriving life.
This is where natural change happens. Where new life emerges. The crucible of innovation.
It flourishes because of diversity, constant change, the exchange of resources and energy as a constant flow.
Think about the inter-tidal zone — twice a day a new world emerges like clockwork and a few hours later it vanishes, a constant flux. The remix zone, the wild edge of change.
Tides rise, tides fall.
If we want to learn about how to work with change, and most of us are with disrupted lives and disrupted business models — this is precisely where we need to be looking for inspiration. These are the metaphors we need to be applying to our human systems, our innovation processes and the way create meaningful change.
But to do that it is time to quit the illusion of safety and control. Time to drop the promise of a new normal, it wasn’t that normal after all. It’s time to learn to embrace our edges and welcome them into our work and our lives.
I’ve been playing with a manifesto style idea to champion the wild edge of change to articulate how we can apply the edge effect into our work and our lives. It feels important to me now because of our quest for the new normal. Because we are perpetually pulled back to ‘safety’ and obsession with business as usual.
I write it as much for myself as anyone else, a challenge to myself as I get pulled back to my own places of comfort.
The Wild Edge
Whenever we find ourselves adapting to change we find ourselves being pulled back to the safe ground of the middle. We hang with people who think like us, act like us, work like us, look like us.
Change doesn’t work like that.
Just like in a natural system, human change happens in the places where ideas and experiences get thrown together and out of that melting pot of possibility beautiful things appear.
So in order to change, we need to celebrate the people, places and ideas that live out ‘there’ — on the edge.
We need to ditch the usual suspects and embrace the remix, the rehash and the mash-up. Seek out the pirates, the misfits, the rebel cells, the contrarians and the wounded, broken and angry ones.
Go to the edge of your comfort zone…
…and take one more step.
And there you are…
— Wisdom from the hedge
— The crossroads between the woods and the village
— The right kind of trouble
— Tides rise and tides fall
The wild edge might not always make sense.
But it’ll help galvanise you to take action.
And lead in places where there are no maps.
Because that is where we are and where we are staying.