Relational Learning in a Volatile and Hyper-Fast World

It’s no small statement that the impact of globalization and technology on the way we work, learn and live is profound. The world we live in today is vastly different than the one to which we’ve been accustomed. However, most every generation in history has faced monumental upheaval. The world has been interconnected for as long as history can recount, the difference today, is the speed at which information flows and the overwhelming amount of information that is at our fingertips in a moment’s notice.

To use a military analogy, the world is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, but it’s also full of hope, promise and potential. And it’s through this lens that we need our leaders to operate. Globalization is a man-made construct, we control the inputs and although it doesn’t always feel like it, we also have control over the outputs. The challenge that lies ahead of us, is teaching leaders to understand and learn how to operate in this world in a way that offers hope, promise and compassion for those around us.

Our belief is that we need to slow down the ways in which we learn and create systems and processes that allow us the space to learn, to grow and to prepare us for working and living in a complex but beautiful world. We recognize the paradoxical nature of this request. And we hear the response all too often, “my people don’t have the time,” “I can’t be gone for that long,” etc. But the reality is, for most of us to truly be effective and to meet the challenges ahead of us, we need to better prepare ourselves mentally, spiritually and physically for what lies ahead.

The skills required to operate in our current environment; collaboration and communication, critical thinking and problem solving, innovation and imagination require us to fundamentally slow down our thinking in order to truly master any of these skills, yet we continue to fall into the trap outlined by Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow:

“A puzzling limitation of our mind: our excessive confidence in what we believe we know, and our apparent inability to acknowledge the full extent of our ignorance and the uncertainty of the world we live in.” (Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow (pp. 13-14). Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

The world we live in today is uncertain, it’s hard for leaders to fully grasp the monumental nature of the challenges that lie ahead. But that shouldn’t prevent us as leaders to take a stand and learn how to navigate the world ahead of us.

We need leaders that understand complexity, adaptive systems and aren’t afraid to experiment and try new things. But most importantly, we need leaders to understand that the answer to our challenges is not an individualistic pursuit. We learn best alongside of others and through experience. It’s very tempting to jump head first into the challenges we face and fearlessly push through with sheer will and endurance. Yet, with constant change and turmoil, we can’t keep up and fatigue sets in.

We don’t have the capacity to go at this alone. We never have…throughout all of our history. Humans didn’t evolve because we were the most prolific hunters in the ecosystem, we thrived because as a tribe we were able to outlast the prey, we worked together to wear them down and we used ingenuity to survive even when the odds were stacked against us.
We’re social beings. We exist in a relational context. But in order to effectively be a part of the tribe, we need the to spend time with one another. We need to slow down and engage in the moment with those around us. We need to learn from one another, we need to grow with one another. In order to do that, we need time and space- two resources that feel really scarce at the moment. But we have the capacity to make that happen, because when we do it right, we actually learn to how to better handle all that this beautifully chaotic world throws at us.

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