Complexity is not ‘the new’
What is new is that everyone is forced to accept it, deal with it, build on it and make it our business to bring people’s heads and hearts around it – so that one day we could get there, fair and square.
A hyper connected world with cracks coming from different worldviews could very well look like hell’s kitchen. And I wonder if ‘agreeability’ is really a virtue or even a way to a common, peaceful and progressive future. Let’s first begin by appreciating that complexity is not ‘the new’.
What has impacted us as a world-stitched together into the COVID-19 crisis could be understood easily if we borrow some experiences of wearing knitted garments. If you recall, as I do, woolen garments hand-knitted by our mothers and grandmothers had a typical limitation – if somehow you developed one small hole anywhere, it only grew bigger and bigger, until the whole thing loosened into a lump. And then you have to undo the whole thing before you could put it together again. Complexity for me was in making sure that every movement must be mindful of a scratch or a burn or any other casualty which could lead to that small hole. Imagine. Even leaning on a wall which had a harmless protruding nail could have brought down my favorite sweater into a state of non-existence. Now apply that to the void, a mere piece of your whole existence holding that power to dismantle everything you’ve put together over time which cannot be reclaimed, resources which have to be engaged, invested into and repaid again with interest.
Speaking with a client the other day just reinforced this realization all over again. His situation was simple enough but became so messy because it had impact from things way beyond his consideration set or even influence. Thanks to the dynamic situation with COVID-19 containment policies, port rules, levies, deliveries came out-of-nowhere and put his marketing & sales plans on hold, as the sales season keeps ticking away, eating into his ability to plan and prepare for the future. By now, we are all well acquainted with this ‘unknown’ future situation viewing from a place of ‘uncertainty’ in the present. But this one small piece coming at the whole from any corner like an avalanche and leaving with no choice but to start again, is nightmarish.
Now this complexity existed. In fact, this complexity is what made our lives simple and seamless – until, it became our business to get our head around it so that we can bypass the dependence on what we assumed to be a working, well-oiled machine – which would keep going – all we had to do was adjust our speed on it. This road came to a dead-end. And now it is time to find our own path. Or just wait until someone appears with a map and you could follow. Painful. Frustrating. Restless. But it was always complex, wasn’t it?
Now let’s explore ‘agreeability’ in this context. Where it is coming from is the fact that this situation demands agency which is beyond a single actor to provide or perform. Be it government or a business. Be it a blue collar, white collar or a Nobel laureate. People must sit on the same table to survive this predicament. And no, it is no ‘Squid Game’ – there is no win-lose, one-size-fits-all, follow-me-into-the-light which is going to cut it. And this is a big bite to chew on for most actors. Existence of a flat world, tilted to serve some excluding others is so visible, even in the repeated mutations of the COVID-19 virus, thanks to a population which is unvaccinated, for whatever reason. You feel that the virus is persistent on driving home a point – you can’t wing it by win-lose – you either win together or find another planet to thrive. Accepting this truth needs honesty. Smarts can’t see it. And we know that because most of us are now intimately aware of the existence of a ‘bigger picture’. Seeing it or not seeing it is a personal choice, for as long as we have a choice to postpone the inevitable outcome. Hence, I believe ‘agreeability’ is not a virtue in this situation because all that is convenient to us is behind us. And to confirm our previous comfort zone as the ideal situation is way past drumming up a popular vote. Transformation is already happening. What we are possibly waiting for is to disagree and disclose our own little imperfections, which is very human and adorable – if we agree to work on them just for our sake. Agreeability is a relapse of the nightmare, not a realization of the complexity which we must make our business to begin with.
Now, if agreeability is not a virtue, then how do we begin to work together?
That has a very beautiful trajectory. I promise. Its pulsating with learning and growth for both and all. And we begin by accepting a simple truth – there is nothing to talk about if we are going to tickle each other with ‘similar’. Truth must be tried intensely and intently, as play. Get your questions. Stay on your choice of words. Don’t be in a rush to tango or cha-cha-cha. If we don’t get it right we will not be able to push through the uncertainty into an unknown future. Whether or not we manage to save the planet, whether or not we manage to build lives and livelihoods around us – is important but not the way – it is but an outcome. An outcome which we can test and tune, if only, it is in our heart to get back up on the long journey ahead.
Let’s disagree to agree.
© 2020 Narrativ.Design. All rights reserved. The author is the founder of Narrativ.Design. He has worked in various strategic roles across Asia, on local and global brands for over 15 years. He is fluent in Bengali, Hindi and English. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Image:©TuQuynh