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The Great Systemic Collapse and Opportunity

Has the stock market bottomed yet? When the unemployment rate stop going up? We are in the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Most economists recognize these days that it’s not just a matter of balancing the incomes of the major participants in our economy as typical recessions are. We are dealing with re-structuring the balance sheet of our whole economy, writing off assets that have grown superfluous and creating new ones that never existed before. Run-of-the-mill Republicans have their arms in the air that the Obama administration is not dealing with the immediate job loss and income issues in the traditional way. The left-wing Democrats criticize him for promoting stocks from the White House.

What we are witnessing is a great collapse of the capitalistic system under its own weight, years of irresponsible consumer spending and business practices. The cure can no longer come from within the system simply by shoring up short-term income statements of consumers and businesses. On the other hand, you don’t cure a heart-patient by choking off all medicines at once – the patient will die before ever getting into an operating room. The key challenge for Obama is how to balance such long and short-term needs and straddle a course of “easing” the patient into rehabilitation of past addictions, recovery and, eventually, growth of healthier and more sustainable life styles. This is clearly not easy and calls for some unconventional tactics such as promoting stocks from the White House and passing the biggest spending bill in history. Unusual time calls for unusual measures.

What does this mean for us ordinary office workers? To begin with, stop acting scared and find meaningful and productive ways of making a difference at what we do. Exciting opportunities always arise with such great upheavals. The only question is if we are aware and prepared for them. It is all too easy to blame our misfortunes on others and deprive ourselves the opportunity of acting on behalf of the whole. What have you done lately to position and prepare yourself to make a difference, at work and in life? That’s the subject of a conversation that I and a few colleagues of mine at Abbott are having tomorrow night. We are going to leverage the “chaordic journey and stepping stones” You-Tube video to facilitate our conversation. I find this Art-of-Hosting platform a happy middle ground between more structured systems based approaches such as Theory U and purely social networking ones such as World Café, especially for people not yet used to thinking systemically. The key, it appears to me, is to touch on what’s happening for people involved in the dialogue, avoid action-less minds on one hand and mindless actions on the other. In a way, we, too, must straddle a middle course as Obama does to succeed in our endeavors. In other words, you don’t have to be the President of the United States to experience life’s challenges and opportunities. Does that give a new wrinkle to the meaning of fairness and justice?

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