Leading From the Future: The Source Of Game-Changing Ideas That Transform & Regenerate
How leaders and change makers—anywhere in the system—can create the conditions for future-forging insights and ideas to break through future-failing assumptions and habits
Designing For The Ah Ha! Moment
I’ve been designing and running disruptive innovation projects for multinationals—and accelerators for start-ups and scale-ups—for over 20 years. During this time, I have seen time and time again big creative insights and bold imaginative visions arose when a group of passionate people come together. They seem to come out of left field, out of nowhere—yet are also utterly obvious and self-evident once they emerge.
Nothing else in the world…not all the armies…is so powerful as an idea whose time has come. Victor Hugo, The Future of Man
This is a resonant and revebarting chime of the Ah Ha! moment—that brings human hearts into alignment and aliveness—and unlocks a seemingly limitless supply of ideas that can resolve any challenge a human being and organisation must engage with.
For years I wondered about, percolated on, and inquired into this most magical and marvellous of human capabilities: the capacity to solve novel, unprecedented, challenges with brilliant and brave creative solutions that swap out future-failing assumptions for future-forging insights and ideas.
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Following the breadcrumbs, I expanded our work in innovation into leadership and coaching, realizing that leaders can, when they understand what is happening during Ah Ha! moments, create the conditions for future-forging insights and ideas to flow in teams.
On this journey, I ended up creating a methodology and approach to any form of innovation or transformation—individual to systemic—whose entire purpose is to unlock this awesome yet rarely predictable human talent for transformation. It’s called Bio-Transformation®.
Bio-Transformation® has evolved from our relentless search for how to reliable generate Ah Ha! moments that allow more fitting, adaptive, and creative ideas into any space: a family fight, a tired relationship, a leadership challenge, and team that is losing trust, and an organisation that is slow to respond to the relentlessly- and ruthlessly-changing world.
At its heart, is what we believe to be the archetypal blueprint of all and every journey of transformation, in any human endeavor. In this article, I quote extensively from my book Now Lead The Change: Mastering Transformational Leadership–as well as adding in new insights from the recent practical experiences.
Introducing The Transformation Curve
There is no simple, single silver bullet for how to transform a person, product, team, enterprise, or system. No genius, McKinsey constant, or AI can give us a guaranteed solution. We have to solve it for us. Every entrepreneur, leader, and changemaker must live the questions and birth the answers themselves; solutions that are relevant to their unique content, culture, history, and industry.
However, there is a proven pathway that every organization and leader can follow that, so far in my experience, always delivers appropriate, responsive, and fitting transformational solutions to every Transformational Challenge.
Every leader can learn to lead himself/herself, their teams, and entire organizations into and beyond transformation by choice. We call this non-linear, deeply, creative, and profoundly conscious pathway of problem-solving The Transformation Curve.
The Transformation Curve appears to be what German scientist and writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called an ur-phenomenon: a blueprint that underpins all transformative change in organisms and organizations that are reliant on biology—life—for their existence.
Unlike the predictable straight line of continuous improvement and profit growth that ‘good’ management desires and requires, to lead and land lasting, positive change we must instead embrace a J-shaped curve.
Instead of progressing incrementally upward from an initial state, with things getting slowly and safely ‘better’ in a linear and algorithmic way, we first head down: disrupting ourselves by unpacking the problem and embracing the chaos of possibility. Only artificial, man-made machinery works in straight lines.
Bringing Forth The Future Into The Present
As we travel down, through, and up out of the Transformation Curve, transformational leaders can—mysteriously and perhaps mystically—bring the future into the present. By releasing outdated and outclassed assumptions, intense defensive instincts, and pernicious protective patterns—all baggage from a once-successful past—we somehow allow future-forging insights to come ‘through’ our bodymind…and out into the world (where they can set about regenerating our creaking and tired systems).
Brilliant quantum physicist David Bohm came up with a way of understanding how this might occur, in nature, by proposing that in complex, adaptive systems, like our universe, there is an ‘Implicate Order’ and ‘Explicate Order.’
The Explicate Order is everything that is concrete, physical, tangible. It is necessarily based on the past: evolution, biographical history, evidence. We understand this historical reality best through analytical consciousness, data, and science. I call it the Actual World.
In the Implicate Order, everything is possible, potential, so we call this the Possible World. Everything within it is connected together in some way, that is hard to fathom from within Get Stuff Done Mode.
Creative possibilities then ‘unfold’ from the Possible to the Actual World. The transformational leader transmutes or transports potentialities from the Possible World into actualities in the Actual World.
I have witnessed time and time again, in disruptive innovation workshops, leadership development experiences, and coaching sessions with thousands of people, that everyone can feel newness and novelty arise through them, as if from nowhere.
I believe we are, in some way, ‘channelling’ ideas: acting as a conduit for newness to come into being as we consciously and purposefully unfold content from Bohm’s Implicate Order to shape the Explicate Order.
The Awesome Human Channel
Many artists, musicians, writers, and innovators talk about this transmutation or transportation in various ways. Creators can only use metaphors to describe aspects of connective consciousness with analytical consciousness. The celebrated South American novelist Isabel Allende, who has sold over 50 million books, says of her creativity: “I’m not the one who invents the stories; I’m like a radio that picks up the waves. Somehow, if I move the dial very carefully, I’ll pick up the wave and get the story. But the story doesn’t belong to me; it’s somewhere out there floating.”
She’s not alone. Writer after writer, artist after artist, scientist after scientist has claimed they are not the source of their creativity. The great composer J. S. Bach said, “I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.” Legendary French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss said: “I don’t have the feeling that I write my books . . . I have the feeling that my books get written through me.”
It appears that human beings are the only organisms that can consciously and purposefully tap into Possible World to accelerate problem-solving in the material Actual world (although animals from dolphins to crows can creatively solve problems, too): we can choose to open up our minds and our hearts on the Transformation Curve to funnel ideas from the future into present, and execute them brilliantly with entrepreneurial fire and rigorous diligence.
As we allow our egoic patterns—including those crystallized in our socio-political systems as policies and laws—to die, rebirth occurs. The energy that returns in the cycle of life around, and after, death, is what regenerates us and our world.
It is only this “divine spark”, as the Gnostics called it, that can resolve our multi-crises because it imagines and invents from the limitless future, not the conditioned past. We all have it within each cell. It is the part of the non-dual absolute that is within each of our relative, skin-encapsulated, individual selves.
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Which means that we human beings seem to be the only creatures in the universe that can choose to “get out of the way of ourselves” to channel conscious creativity into the world around us. We do this by releasing old patterns and receiving new insights and ideas in their stead.
Homo Ludens: Playing (Purposefully)
We Homo Ludens, playing people, can playfully allow old versions of us to die—that learnt to control the crazy and protect us by being smart, powerful, and right—so our syntropic life-force can buck entropy (at least for a while) and bring life-affirming insights and ideas into the present.
Essentially, we allow ideas and insights “from the future” (the Possible World or Implicit Order), to enter through our body and mind, and become concrete changes in reality (the Actual World or Explicate Order) through our purpose-led, caring, highly-relational work.
We can deliberately channel ideas from the Possible World into the Actual World by allowing old patterns that we developed to control and protect to release, to dissolve, to die.
[T]he future enters into us… in order to transform itself in us long before it happens. And this is why it is so important to be lonely and attentive when one is sad: because the apparently uneventful and stark moment at which our future sets foot in us is so much closer to life than that other noisy and fortuitous point of time at which it happens to us as if from outside. Rainer Maria Rilke
The sensual quicksilver of our potent creativity—that can only arise in connections between people with high degrees of relational intelligence and embodied wisdom—are the only human phenomena that can unlock lasting geopolitical, economic, and ecological transformation. This is because such co-creative shizzle transforms the world “out there” after we have changed how we relate to it “in here”.
From Knowing The Answer To Knowing the Question
However, it is very easy for our notions about what is ‘right’ to cloud up this process and stop the flow of ideas from Possible to Actual Worlds. We have to remain a clear channel for ideas to come through us without the distortions of our protective patterns warping reality. Then we can proactively support what is seeking to emerge from the Possible World and manifest this novelty in the Actual world of projects and processes.
We exchange knowing ‘the answer,’ as if there is a single silver- bullet solution to all our challenges; to knowing the process and practices that will find us every solution we need. We rest in the knowledge that transformational solutions will flow through the channel once we are in the right place/space to receive them.
We have to help our teammates and colleagues do the same, otherwise their cherished but outdated notions will block the channels of team creativity. Likewise, unresolved interpersonal issues, team resentments, traumatic memories of failures in the enterprise, power plays, and status moves by senior managers will all block the flow with heavy, dense sediment that stops creativity and connection.
Regenerative Business: The Ultimate Role of The Transformational Leader
From such insights, the true role of transformational leaders in our time appears to emerge. If my felt senses and intuitions are accurate, a Regenerative
Renaissance is seeking to emerge from our crisis-hit world. Thus our purpose as transformational leaders becomes purified and clarified: to support, encourage, and realize this transformation through our quotidian work in our teams, organizations, and communities.
We don’t have to be at the front and center: just playing our part leaving our part of the system better—less suffering of life; more affirmation of life—than how we found it. All that is important is that we open ourselves up to channel relevant insights and ideas from the Possible World into the Actual World with our entire bodymind; and let nature do the rest.
We must ground this most sacred of mundane processes in ‘purpose’—love-in-action—otherwise we risk implementing breakthroughs like the poison gas Zyklon B (that scaled up mass murder at Auschwitz); or the drug-trafficking innovations of El Chapo.
Without love-fueled purpose to orient us, we will follow the logic of advanced capitalism: galvanizing billions of dollars— and enormous amounts human effort and ingenuity—to solve the supposed ‘unmet needs’ of consumers at scale.
Purpose allows us to see that most of capitalism’s current innovations are designed to solve the desire for more comfort and convenience of the few; rather than alleviate the genuine pain and suffering of the many.
Our crisis-hit world really does not need any more problems solved that are about convenience and comfort as opposed to resolving the vast amount of stress and suffering of the people; and our planet. To lead transformatively means consciously co-creating, with life itself, transformational solutions to our greatest human challenges.
This is a constant dance of problem and possibility, which is the core of all innovation.
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