Glenda Eoyang is the Founding Executive Director at the Human Systems Dynamics Institute. Glenda first published this piece on her own blog on LinkedIn, but she gave us permission to republish it here.
McKinsey is at it again. The permanently privileged and perpetually powerful voices want to “crush uncertainty” so they and their buddies can be back in control. The world has been turned upside down from COVID-19. They argue for detailed regulations, massive data bases, artificial intelligence, and a willingness to let others die to bring certainty back into the world (to shore up their $10 billion annual consulting fees of course.) Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
Except . . .
It’s a sham. The world we live in is uncertain, whether the power brokers like it or not. Today’s world is composed of complex systems, which by nature are unpredictable. You can control them over a short time or small space, but the control will not last. You set a narrow scope, and outside forces mess you up. You focus on a dashboard of data, and unintended consequences emerge. Not only is it impossible to predict how a system will respond to your efforts to control, you don’t know when that response will erupt. If you focus on the reality you control, you will be blindsided by the one that you cannot control.
The quest for stability through control is not only a fool’s errand, it is costly. This strategy requires massive investments in infrastructure, personal constraints, human resources to monitor and provide feedback, time, lost opportunity, inflexibility, waste, and obsolescence. The examples of “near zero” successes cited by McKinsey demonstrate some of the long-term costs of the control required to obtain short-term certainty. No one yet knows what the long-term costs will be of the pandemic or of the radical political and economic efforts to control it.
|The quest for stability through control is not only a fool’s errand, it is costly|
Neither the benefits of control, nor its costs, are distributed equally. McKinsey and their rich, empowered friends and clients reap the benefits—as they have for decades. The costs are borne by others. Who pays the price? The middle class professionals who see their parents die alone; lose their health insurance when they’re unemployed; and watch their retirement savings disappear when the market tanks. Even more of the costs are dumped on people of color who have lived with the ravages of institutional racism and health inequities for generations. Workers in nursing homes, supermarkets, prisons, meat packing plants who must choose among deadly options. Do I go to work and risk infecting my family, or do I stay home and leave them hungry? Do I share my geolocation every moment, or do I retain the right of free movement? Do I follow the laws that label me as unfit, or do I fight for laws that benefit me and my community? Do I seek help and risk deportation? Do I call my doctor (if I have one) for anything less than COVID-19? Do I vote? Do I worship? Do I help my aging parents? It’s a recipe for millions living in despair, frustration and very possibly blind rage.
|It is time for us to leverage the intelligence of complex systems, learn from unpredictable patterns in nature, and give up the dangerous delusion that we can control the future.|
We do not have to be powerless in the face of unpredictability. We can indeed lead through it. We need the humility and curiosity to engage sensitively with things beyond our control. People without privilege have thrived in such a world for a very long time. Until the rest of us learn to live in uncertainty, we will be victim to it. Worse than that, we will victimize others. It is time for us to leverage the intelligence of complex systems, learn from unpredictable patterns in nature, and give up the dangerous delusion that we can control the future.
There is one thing I can be certain of. McKinsey has a recovery plan: Sell the silver bullet of certainty. We’ll see how well that works out for their clients.
Metagraphic taken from : https://pixabay.com/photos/hammer-sledgehammer-mallet-tool-682767/ free for commercial use, no attribution required.