Let go of the past

So many organizations get stuck by their leaders’ need to tie together the organization’s past, present, and future. They want to see the flow of logic from what they have done in the past to what they will do in the future. As a result, they limit what their future could be.

As Jesus of Nazareth said, “No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.” (Matt. 9:16-17, KJV)

The most disturbing case of this is organizations that define their strategy around the problems they want to solve. As my dear friend Doug Krug likes to say, there are two parts of the human mind: the “intuitive mind” and the “analytical mind.” The “intuitive mind” speaks in images, sees possibilities, and is capable of quantum leaps into the future. The “analytical mind” speaks linearly and follows a cause-and-effect logic that ensures continuity across past, present, and future.

But here’s the rub. “Problems” are logical constructs from which their solutions must logically follow. To the extent that you define strategy around problem-solving, you blind yourself to the quantum leaps into the future that may be possible. In effect you illegitimize any reframing of the situation in which the problem no longer exists.

We live in a world composed of constructs that humans have defined, arranged, and manipulated to overcome the challenges they encountered in earlier times. Together, these constructs make up a coherent reality. If the solutions to the challenges we face today were available within the current coherency in which we live, then the challenges would no longer exist. What we need is a new coherency, and that can only be touched through intuition, imagination, and aspiration.

If we want to leave our problems behind, we must stop defining our strategies around them. Instead, let’s define our strategies around what we want, and then build a new coherency around that.