Claudine Perlet

Successful Transformations - Sustainable Results

| 5 min

The Larger Conversation (IV): A New Ecology of Competencies and Skills

The inability to imagine a world in which things are different is evidence only of a poor imagination, not of the impossibility of change. –-Rutger Bregman 

Cracking the code of the incremental change-cycle is important. While the factors explored in Part III are by no means conclusive, they need to be taken into account for what comes next. If not, chances are that the critical contribution business should and must make to solving 21st century challenges simply won’t happen. A scenario we cannot afford. In fact, our inability to transform business would soon be the latest addition to the ever-growing list of existential threats

Further, what happened to the digital companies must serve as a clear warning: If we stick to our mental frameworks and don’t start to question long-held beliefs and default-modes on a deeper level, we will simply produce another „factory“ of the same kind. Applied to the current situation this means, if we build sustainable business models, ESG frameworks, etc., based on our current mindset and without upgrading our own thought-ware and the way we lead, these models and frameworks will be absorbed by the big machine and we will further accelerate our own demise. Looking at the fast-spreading and still largely superficial hype around sustainability and the rapid rise of “greenwashing,” we can already see it happening.

Ultimately, it is up to us. All we need to do is decide, take a different perspective, see the huge potential, put ourselves into the space of possibility rather than doom, and cultivate it as normal. For example, nothing stops us from seeing and leveraging traditional corporations as resources of incredible potential. Just imagine the energy, motivation and creativity that could be unleashed if millions of people working for these companies worldwide had not already mentally resigned because they see no meaning in their work, as is often the case today.  What if they were able to earn a living energized by an appealing future vision that matches their own, in partnership with a company that is contributing to the solution rather than furthering the problem? And why should well-established and well-functioning multinational structures, as well as a wealth of expertise, not be able to be harnessed in the context of sustainability and regeneration? What if existing corporate lobbying structures were used to bring about structural change that orients companies beyond the obsession with quarterly numbers and towards coming up with long-term solutions to humanity’s pressing problems?

Of course, if it was that simple, we may well have already done it. Going down this path requires substantial adjustment and rewiring: Adjustments to established and emerging business models, markets and industries, and substantial rewiring of our own thought-ware. It also means getting serious about acknowledging the systemic flaws that got us here and putting ourselves into the equation – as well as coming to terms with the fact that what is happening around us is nothing that merely happens outside, but that what happens outside is a reflection of what happens inside of us. That it’s a reflection of the mental models we favor, the beliefs we have, the perspectives we take, the behaviors, habits and skills we have developed as a result and which are now dominating our actions and the choices we make. 

Therefore, as much as we need to enhance our capabilities to reinvent business models, markets and industries, as well as advocating structural change, we also need to reinvent ourselves. We need a new ecology of competencies and capabilities, a blend of next-level academic and theoretical know-how along with an upgrade of skills and capabilities having to do with us and our inner abilities. We need to decide what to take along on the journey, what to leave behind, and how to recalibrate the relevance of skills and capabilities and the value we place on them. 

What would such a new ecology of competencies and capabilities entail? Here are some examples that seem most urgent to address:

  • Systems thinking and critical reasoning, as well as big-picture and complexity awareness
  • Holistic approaches to defining and solving problems
  • Replacing short-termism with a healthy interplay of short- and long-term orientation
  • Substituting ever accelerating speed with a good balance between speed and time for contemplation
  • Shifting from an obsession with external growth to a practice of inner growth.
  • Moving on from dogmatism to cultivating perspective-taking skills 
  • Combining strong communication skills with the ability to develop, facilitate and maintain collaborative relationship with diverse stakeholders

In addition, a number of things that have so far had a rather difficult time of being perceived as on par in a business world predominantly concerned with anything rational and measurable need to move right to the top of the up-skilling agenda – namely: self-knowledge, self-reflection, connectedness, humility, the ability to create and maintain trusting, collaborative relationships, a deeply felt sense of responsibility, and awareness of and commitment to one’s own vision and purpose, as well as values and goals that are essential to contributing to the benefit of the whole.

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. — Albert Einstein