Mike the futurist architect challenged us to do the hard thinking required to re-frame the role of Organisational Development and position OD to facilitate the development of strategy more aligned to a complex, ambiguous and interconnected world. He asked “is OD ill-suited to supporting this change, are we too wedded to the current state; “is our stewardship to play the game or is it to explore the new paradigm?”
Table groups each took on a role as either:
• Black elephants who cannot face the changing paradigm ( who cannot address the unspeakable)
• Black swans who should have seen change coming but are not open to the new ideas the change presents.
• Black jellyfish who see connections where there have been none before
Mike used examples of organisations like Ethereum and Naked Angel Wines, where transaction costs are near zero and reputation is everything. These organisations do not need performance reviews; rather they capture information in real time and rely on communicating directly with their market. The lower costs associated with doing business opens markets to disruptors and this changes the structure of business, so that even companies like Uber risk loss of market share to organisations more willing to distribute profits to stakeholders.
Organisational Development should be’ in the room’ to facilitate discussion about the future of organisations, to challenge mechanistic models of organisation, and encourage people to create stories that find meaning in change.
OD can facilitate transformational conversations that challenge our core assumptions and disrupt our brain patterns, so that we can immerse ourselves in the patterns of the future. Mike outlined a strategy to design a pathway to the future, he said a number of times “that this is hard”, and it did indeed feel hard. Real change is hard.