More Pilates

I recently wrote a blog item, Life is Like a Pilates Class, that received intelligent comment. That made my day.  Any day I learn something is a good day.  In response to the idea that we should hold old core values, Avastmick made this comment.

“Many of today’s problems are due to the very fact we cling (insanely) to ideas or values well past their sell by date. For Steinway see Kodak Eastman. For finance see banking systems.

Sure some ideas or values are extremely long-lived, maybe for all time. But all need to be treated like species in Nature, fitness tested against their role and ruthlessly discarded if they come up short or if something else is better suited.”

Of course!  Why did I not see the implications in the original piece?  I’ll give you Kodak, but I think, “new banking” is the one that will go away.  There is an old theme in finance that may come back.  Banking is required, banks are not.  New communication and data technology has already made banking as we old guys think about it, obsolete.

While I had not previously made the distinction, and I should have, the value systems that Mick talks about are more about techniques that express underlying values.  Things like energy, time, skill and imagination affect the implementation but all of these arise from values like service to the others, discipline, perseverance, self-actualization and duty to family.  There are many possible ways to express those values.  Only some will work.

While the deep values may change, become obsolete or more connected to current reality, they do so slowly.  Even within those, as Mick suggests, change is evolutionary.  Adapt or die.  Like the dinosaurs, change occurs to better match conditions in the external environment.  You better notice the change or else.

The duration for change varies.  For technology it is quite short.  For example, Amazon replaced booksellers rather more quickly than social change like gay marriage is being adopted.  I believe shelf life as “Best Cellphone” is less than 90 days.  How would you like to manage that business plan and supply chain?

For most things, the important point is that we adapt or die, not suddenly, but along a time line.  In the adapt or die world this is a period of clarification within which the new idea or condition gradually replaces the old.  In that period, it is not clear which will prevail, if either.  That is why you must evaluate continuously.

My view, and I know it is not the only one or necessarily even the right one,  is that  in the early part of the clarification period it would be better to stay with the historic success than commit to the new possibility.  Be aware and perhaps experiment with the new, but hold back on commitment.  Much Like Mick’s approach. Continual testing of the idea.

Technological change puts pressure on old morality and law.  Technology opens opportunities that our ethics and morality never had to consider before.  We seem incapable of dealing with these in the short run.  For example, it used to be easy to tell if someone was dead.  Not so much now.  Should an insurer pay the widow if she “pulled the plug.” Euthanasia is also a difficult call.  So is abortion.  So is retirement at 65.

A friend of my fathers has been known to say, “A pioneer is a guy with an arrow in his belly.  You don’t need to be first, just be the first to be right”  For things that matter to me, I would prefer the small mistake of changing too late to the big mistake of changing too soon.

Difficulties in the clarification period arise because complex new ideas do not necessarily develop in the right order.  It is similar to having a large pile of intelligence information to analyze.  The movie, Zero Dark Thirty displays an example of the problem.  After the fact, it is clear what was important, but beforehand, it is pretty difficult.

Another example of analytic complexity.  How could a flight instructor in Florida know that it was important that some of his flight students were not interested in learning how to land a large aircraft?  Pretty obvious after 9-11.

I have wondered if the cure for cancer already exists, but is hidden in the vast pile of research.  The right sequence of connections has not yet been made.  Once they connect, they will be self-evident and people will wonder why the fools couldn’t see it sooner.  If you like to be a conspiracy theorist, perhaps they already know, but the Cancer Society and the drug companies collude to hide it.

The problem can be conceptualized like this.  If you have never seen a beach, could you see a single grain of sand and imagine one?  Perhaps some can, but I will bet not many.

Our world is changing so quickly that we need to evolve a new analytic skill.  The ability to choose quickly between old success that is failing and new success.  Submerging versus emerging.  Attached to that will be the new skill to quit obsolete structures sooner.  By the way, quitting well is not an insignificant skill.

There is no question that information technology is coming up with better ways to process the hoard of things we know.  Invest a little time in following these changes.  Look forward to some very valuable outcomes in science, medicine, sociology, finance, psychology and more.

Until we have better tools and more open minds, events in the clarification period will be confusing for many of us.  Be a little patient.

Thanks again Mick.  AvastMick has useful change managing ideas here   Take a look.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.

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