In an otherwise interconnected world, one of the most recalcitrant distinctions we draw is between thinking and action. We see thinkers and doers in different camps. But in a world of rapid change this is a false distinction and a disabling one. We need to redesign the plane whilst flying it.
Redesigning the plane
The capacity to make sensible judgements leading to wise action in conditions of complexity, uncertainty and rapid change does not depend on data and information, or even a set of scenarios. It depends on shifting the model we have in our heads of how the world works closer to reality. We call this insight.
It is the nature of powerful insight that it is hard won, but appears obvious once seen. It reconfigures the world, such that action on the old view becomes intolerable. The more inclusive the view of the operating environment it derives from, the more powerful it is likely to prove in focussing effective action. The ideal is to provide the depth of perception and clarity enjoyed by the martial artist, enabling an exquisite economy of effort about where and when to strike with maximum effect.
Insight is not an abstract idea: it is a way of perceiving the world and it lives in individuals. It cannot be ‘transferred’ in the way we pretend we can transfer knowledge. But it can be shared. Participative processes generate insight; and subsequent iterations of the process can allow others to experience the moment of insight, sometimes with even greater force.
Insight is not a one off. Insight demands action, which in turn will bring something new into the world and provide the source for new scanning and fresh insight. This is a learning cycle. We cannot plan but will learn our way into the future.