Coherency in contradiction
Report 5 in the 2013 Shift Index series
Embracing the contradictions and apparent incoherency of our present condition may induce institutional change that better enables learning, innovation and sustained performance improvement.
This report examines life in the Big Shift by exploring some of the tensions and intrinsic contradictions arising from the accelerated pace of technology and information flows. We’ll examine the conditions that are amplifying these contradictions and suggest ways to find opportunity within them. By reframing contradictions as complementary, rather than mutually exclusive, leaders may discover a greater ability to adapt and innovate in a complex, dynamic world.
Although each contradiction impacts systems of all sizes, we’ll constrain our examination to three distinct levels: people, organizations, and ecosystems. For example, we explore the cooperation and competition between humans and machines as a people-centered tension, but organizations and ecosystems are also affected. Similarly, we consider only a subset of meaningful contradictions while overlooking many others, such as the growing divide between prosperous Americans and the 49.7 million living in poverty.
For better or worse, the stability we have come to expect—a world of reasonable predictability, linear graphs and dependable s-curves—is unlikely to return. Rather, we should expect continuous change, turbulence, non-linearity, and spiky graphs of outliers and disruptors. Embracing the contradictions and apparent incoherency of our present condition, rather than struggling to resolve them, may induce institutional change that better enables learning, innovation, and sustained performance improvement.
Organizational self-assessment tutorial
Our 2013 Shift Index findings indicate that US firm performance has declined over the past four decades. In such an environment, organizations need the ability to adapt as rapidly as the world is changing around them, continuously learning from each challenge. Understand how well your organization is ready for the Big Shift by taking this 20-minute tutorial.