How do we avoid slipping out of our creative best selves into a reactive divisive place as lockdown eases?
There’s an interesting dynamic playing out in our nation right now. If you look at why we succeeded so well at containing the Corona virus in Australia it was because the vast majority became unified around a single focus: making sure we contained the numbers so Covid cases didn’t overwhelm our health system. And our leaders and community united in a common purpose and vision.
Politically, the national cabinet worked well together. The unified, purposeful and visionary orientation they demonstrated resulted in a remarkable outcome. And whilst in many ways this orientation was activated by fear, it created a clear sense of purpose and vision – typical of what we call a creative orientation.
However, this is changing. Now that things are opening up, it’s clear that some people are still fixed on health matters whilst others are focused on other things such as the economy. So we have a split focus – we no longer have a unified vision and a unified sense of purpose. And as a result we’re now seeing a lot of reactivity.
We are seeing state premiers levelling accusations against other premiers – they’re now no longer aligned, they’re in conflict. It has been touted they are now pursuing self-interest or their view of the state’s interests. There is a complex array of interests, all valid. There appears to be a lack of willingness to listen and learn from the other anymore or to understand their different perspectives and what’s driving their point of view. We are seeing people reactively judging, blaming and criticizing. In effect what we’re witnessing is a classic illustration of the reactivity that arises in the face of complexity.
People are acting out of fear rather than a sense of common purpose and vision. And of course there are a lot of things that have caused us to be afraid – there have been deaths and this is extremely serious – and it’s also important to keep it in perspective. There may be an equal number or more from the social consequences of economic hardship. If you put health first and disregard the economy, it’s as damaging as putting the economy first and disregarding health. The question is how do you hold both as equally important? That is a complex challenge worth grappling with.
And this is the trap which organisations may fall into too. People may start thinking they should be leading an organization in a particular direction and stop listening, seeking to understand other viewpoints and bringing everyone into alignment. If we all go into survival mode it will become competitive and combative rather than aspiring to the best outcomes for all.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to continue to listen to learn and to hold all perspectives together. This generates a lot of creative tension – but the challenge is how do we stay in the creative tension because something better will emerge – rather than making one perspective superior over the other or making one right and one wrong. Because this is about ‘both/and’. It’s about harnessing all the good that came out of our response to Covid learning from our success and not slipping back into old reactive tendencies. This is not about who is right, it is about what do we want to create together.
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