My partner in practice, Hazel Tiffany and I, were in Austria recently – a land full of trees – and for some unknown reason everyone referred to it as Hansel & Gretel country. No idea. Well apart from the trees.
It was an interesting few days and within this mystical context we took the opportunity to imagine a fresh way to describe what we are doing in our work.
Like H&G we had to find our way home avoiding all the challenges on the way, leaving many white pebbles lying around, eating fattening ‘cake’ and other sweet things. There was certainly the odd witch involved – it set us thinking about similar quests.
A Quest For Value.
Achieving anything demands resolve – resolve to achieve a particular purpose. Purpose ensures that there’s a strong and wholehearted belief in achieving that ‘something’.
The Quest In Context
You’ve had a dream – identified a cause, a burning ambition – you are impatient. Things need to happen. You set yourself a goal to go somewhere new, be something different. You know there is somewhere out there that’s better than where you are right now. You’ve decided. You’re determined.
You know it’s going to be one of the biggest challenges of your life.
We need to gird our loins. The resulting ‘armour’ will rest on our deep understanding of the coming mission. Knowing all the moving parts of your challenge the ‘system’ – deeply – our trust that we will find the right insights to keep it all working when we most need them.
A quest is always a mixture of excitement trepidation and challenge – a daunting thought – going somewhere you have never been before, doing something different. Coming across the forbidden, the dangerous, the mystical and the frustrating – everything that challenges our ability to fulfil our purpose.
We know that without that purpose – one that inspires and motivates – there is no chance of successfully tackling what lies ahead. We know that any meaningful quest requires fundamental values, capabilities and principles.
Real Authenticity and Fellowship At Every Step
An Eyes Wide Open Mentality
Hindsight And – Foresight – It’s All About Insight
Being In Touch With All Our Worlds
Thinking About The Whole Journey – For The Long Term
“A team who would follow Frodo to Mordor and back if needed.”
Going to a new ‘place’ that may hold risk, forcing you to experience things you’ve never seen and having you do things you’ve never done. It’s a true voyage of discovery. A quest.
In order to progress in life you have to push yourself. Make a move. You often have to seek out the collective energy of others to help you.
To make that next step to achieve additional value you almost always have to inspire that band of fellow travellers to help you as you seek, prod and poke about for the ‘inevitable’ riches that live at the edges of your experience.
“Definitions will explain that the objects of quests require great exertion on the part of the traveller. Overcoming many obstacles, typically including much travel, meeting and dealing with many cultures, danger and curiosity.”
OK we need to get going.
Let’s imagine that our Quest relates to a social cause. It doesn’t really matter which one at this stage.
The mission for this quest is to raise genuine awareness and interest to a degree that something fundamental changes. We are not simply talking about 5 minutes of fame and attention that creates short-term improvement for a few; we are talking about wholesale and lasting change.
We’ve decided that it has become ‘job one’!
“The idea of “Job” comes from a time when we needed standard people for standard processes (i.e. 1900′s). We now return to tasks, missions and adventures.”
21st Century Wizardry
What follows are the fundamental elements. They are what will make the Quest successful.
Authenticity and Fellowship -
We have a picture in our mind’s eye that’s covered in paths and mountains, rivers and bridges, dragons and storms.
We also have a clear vision of what can and will be different at the end of the quest. A vision that will be shared with many and stand the test of being told to the folk along the way. That of multiple value systems, mental models and world views.
The players in this saga – the followers, ambassadors and supporters – have to be joining this journey with the very purest of intentions. This collective has to put aside perceptions, myths and media hype, be willing not to take sides or pass early judgment on those who may appear ‘the enemy’ of the cause.
This is a band of souls who would follow Frodo to Mordor and back if needed – for the sole reason of doing the right thing, whatever that turns out to be.
A shared sense of what the right thing might be is a vital first step.
Eyes Wide Open -
There’s no point expecting to make a big difference (create fundamental change in opinion) if you don’t really understand the reality of the challenge. That doesn’t simply mean focusing on the superficial. It’s simply not enough to create a message – the ‘face’ that generally gets displayed to the public during those 5 minutes of fame, no matter how well intentioned and championed or how emotive and heart wrenching.
What it means is knowing the reality within the context that lives under the bridge that lurks behind the problem.
This (at the very least) means understanding the forest and the trees and the myriad rivers and streams along the way. Knowing who the folks are. Who the important stakeholders are, identifying the eco-system that underpins this and where that ‘system’ is failing – where it is really failing.
That assumes that we know – or can acquire the answer to – all of these things.
It’s all about that magical Insight -
There is always a wise old man or mountain in every quest. In this century the new pretender is made of data and shines out from a digital castle in the clouds.
It is only possible to truly understand the living systems we collaborate in through wise use of the raw materials that litter every crevice (data and information).
There is no lack of either but they all too often hide the real insights because the wrong questions are asked or the people providing the data have their own motives – good,bad or evil.
Others may just simply not be seeing the complete picture or have very different agendas – not everyone you meet on this quest has the same end goal in mind as you.
The seeking of insight will be a constant and devilish aspect along this journey. An insight can show up in the most unexpected places from the most unexpected sources.
In touch with our worlds -
Parallel universes, subterranean and lost continents. Conscious and subconscious lands and cultures – strange and distant geographies galore. Each one a whirl of opportunity and wonder.
Mindfulness and awareness are going to be primary tools but provide no more than useful snapshots in time in many instances. We live in dynamic and chaotic times and we won’t have the luxury of a firm map – a fixed plan of logical steps and challenges as we progress on this journey.
Any part of this quest can – and probably will – change over time, including the cause itself. Our ‘armour’ will be our deep understanding of the moving parts of this system, our faith will be in our trust that we will find the right insights when we most need them. And our belief in the purpose as a collective will see that we overcome the challenges that we will face and knock backs that we’ll experience.
Every success and failure will teach us more about the system and its complexity.
From all of this we will make the best decisions and find the best solutions possible.
The Long Term -
Making our quest something that becomes folklore is not in our gift. Those who have benefited from it will have to give their permission for that. We know that our crusade has taken us through many lands and affected many people. The impact of our journey has been felt by many folk and in many ways.
We know that lasting solutions to the most of social problems only come about when the root causes are meaningfully addressed. We know that the people most affected (and therefore the most in tune with the system dynamics) must be engaged in it – securing a better future and given ownership of it.
The necessary changes will have been identified along the way and final conclusions will have led to many interconnected smaller solutions – this quest will not magically end when the One Ring falls into the fire.
A new and better future will not be our perfect vision of nirvana, it will still need to deal with the harsh realities of life but it will be more in tune with those realities. It will be a future where more people are more empowered and better equipped to deal with adversity and challenge and with more ‘champions’ ready to support the cause where and when needed.
There’s no perfect Alchemy
Of course there have been many journeys where the traveller travels alone but there are always key moments where meeting fellow travellers or situations that transform the direction.
Wise men setting out along their different paths based on their own experience and insight.
Journeys like this are all about dealing with the new. A fresh decision to make all the time – every minute. Choices coming at you thick and fast. A bigger dragon, a more complex puzzle – so on what basis do you choose from all this newness.
There are some incredible lessons from such exertions.
Those who push themselves to undertake such journeys reap many benefits. The lessons learned turn us into leaders. We have decisions to make at every turn so our senses are increasingly better prepared as we go. However we must remember that in reality nothing can prepare us fully.
Becoming ready and better prepared involves adopting a wholly different way of thinking – a whole new mentality equipped to deal with uncertainty, ambiguity and threat.
Pushing yourself to be the best you can be, ready and able to deal with whatever happens, laying out the ever shifting plan, making as sure as you can that the road ahead is the least risky – the most likely to get you where you’re headed. Many critical questions will be called for along the way – some that apply to each individual and others that depend on the strength of the collective
- Integrity - doing what is right and in keeping with core values, no matter what pressure is being applied to the contrary
- Authenticity - always being yourself and striving to be the person you want to become.
- Determination - wholehearted in the following up of intention and promises and completely focused on the challenge
- Persistence - never giving up, willing to keep going even through particularly hard times
- Courage - to make hard decisions, and to face fear and uncertainty
- Openness - honest and transparent in dealings with others
- Humility - to know when to seek advice, to listen generously to others
Business – The Team Quest
No single individual can reach the end of a quest without needing to call on others along the way. Many Quests are a group endeavour from start to finish. And the best teams are made of of a unique but highly complementary set of skills and capabilities. Combining those strengths so that the various contributions achieve the best outcome possible requires everyone in the group to appreciate each others contribution and ability and to embrace difference – or at least respect the value in it.
The mark of a true band of souls is the ability to work for one another to make up for gaps or shortcomings so that overall the team moves forward.
Any setback or seemingly impossible task will open the door to doubt – a force ever present in the majority of people. Lack of confidence especially at the beginning besets everybody.
Doubt can be managed – it may never be realistic to hope that it will never present itself but it is possible to deal with doubt when it arises – to build belief in the capability of yourself and those around you to find a way to overcome the challenges that invited doubt in the first place. And then to remember the moments of achievement along the way to build confidence so that the next challenge is met with a difference mindset and attitude.