The Enlightenment Paradox & The “New Normal”

Utopian Views of enlightenment envisioned an empowered and knowledge-proliferated society that would become problem free. It turned out that the opposite is the case. Whether our post modern society is enlightened or not is arguable but what is clear is that a whole new set of difficult and complex problems have emerged. Problems that quickly mutate and then go viral.

In a globalized inter-dependent and interconnected world, problems are not resolved – they multiply and morph into greater complexity. Like a virus that shape-shifts its form and strategy by the time vaccination is produced – even if  the epicenter of its appearance finds a solution and recovery procedures are put into place the resolution strategy must continue to evolve with the changing dynamics.

This is the butterfly ricochet syndrome where every movement reverberates in everything else and every fractal cell is not merely a holographic reflection of the whole but a potential point of issuance and change that can trigger a chain-reaction that transforms the whole. Hence the idea that in an enlightened complex system, progress is measured not by the elimination of problems but by changing the nature of the problems in which you engage.

What is the leadership imperative in this?  What competency is needed to handle the behavioral and social ricochet syndrome? There is a shift of focus. Problem solving is no longer sufficient. Leaders are called to be transformational, to help us transform ourselves as we engage in evolving solutions. The strategy imperative is to embrace the unknown and the uncertainties it brings.

Long periods of equilibrium interspersed with short intervals of change are no longer the norm.  This has been replaced by “the new normal”: intense volatility and transformation with rare and short periods of equilibrium.

“What’s the good news?”
The “new normal” creates opportunities for transformational leaders and agents. It forces us to constantly develop, learn and be adaptive. Enlightenment is not a “point of arrival” theater. It is a dynamic process of change and evolution. It is the answer to the prayer: “may you live in interesting times.” Enjoy!

© Aviv Shahar

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