History as-we-know-it is now ending because the dominator culture has led the human species into a blind alley and lost its vitality. As the inevitable chaos approaches, people are now looking for metaphors and answers to their societal and personal quandaries including the type of future their children are likely to inherit. We were reminded by The Prince’s Trust recently in regard to rising youth unemployment and youth poverty which has crossed more than twenty percent in the United Kingdom and more than fifty percent in Spain. The Geneva-based International Labour Organisation (ILO) is also projecting global youth unemployment to worsen with the spill over of the euro crisis spreading from advanced to emerging economies. However, when we try to isolate any challenge to resolve it on its own, we find it interlinked with everything else. The crux is no longer about finding the answer; it is to face the answer which already exists courageously, and with full awareness of its interconnectivity with the rest of the whole. The key re-discoveries of the new Conceptual Age — now unfolding — are Creativity and Empathy.
Harnessing Creativity and Empathy in Complexity
Chief executives amongst the ATCA 5000 distinguished members are increasingly saying in one-to-one conversations with us that Creativity and Empathy are proving to be the hidden keys to help them unlock and capitalise on the complexity of this new unfolding age. The effects of rising complexity mean that avant garde leaders and their teams lead with bold Creativity, connect with stakeholders in imaginative and empathetic ways, and design their operations for agility, speed and flexibility to position their innovative organisations for 21st century success in this new Conceptual Age. In other words, Creativity and Empathy provide a much needed competitive advantage by adding value to their service or product, and differentiate their businesses from their competition.
Rise of the Conceptual Age
Over the last few centuries, we have moved from the Agricultural Age underpinned by farmers to the Industrial Age underpinned by factory workers. The last few decades were a transit lounge out of the Industrial Age and were essentially about the consolidation of the new Information Age underpinned by knowledge workers. The next wave is going to be characterised by the Conceptual Age underpinned by creators, imagineers and empathisers. To arrive at the end is to arrive at the beginning, because evolution is not strictly linear, but circular and cyclical. Humanity is coming back to revisit what we’ve learned in the past and see how our past affects our present and shapes our future. As civilisation grows more complex, it is simultaneously becoming increasingly interrelated. We are converging upon ourselves, and this is forcing us to relate to each other more than ever before. For the first time in human history, we have the technology to feed and to clothe everyone and to educate and look after humanity, but what appears to be lacking is the boldness of vision and the incentive to carry out this monumental change in this Culture-of-Confrontation for the benefit of humanity.
What Is Creativity About?
Creativity is the process of bringing something new into being and it requires passion and commitment. Out of the creative act are born symbols and narratives. It brings to our awareness what was previously hidden and points to new life. The experience is one of heightened consciousness and satisfaction. As the Information Age gives way to the Conceptual Age, we can see that the excessive focus on analysis, targets and number crunching, and the absence of introspection and imagination, has led to the crisis in leadership and management, which in turn is partially to blame for our current financial and economic paralysis, stagnation and our rising problems in embracing complexity.
In the Conceptual Age, left-brain linear, analytical computer-like thinking are likely to be enhanced by right-brain Empathy, inventiveness, and understanding as skills needed by all and not just organisations. Without harnessing the Creativity and Empathy of their stakeholders — not just their employees but also their customers, partners and shareholders — chief executives of major organisations realise that they are unable to compete in the world of ever shrinking competitive advantage.
Addressing Complex Global Challenges
The period we are in is unlike any other in human history. The problems we are facing are globalised, they are no longer local. The list of asymmetric challenges includes climate chaos, ever decreasing biodiversity, access to fresh natural resources on the planet and overpopulation. Without a new peaceful approach we will not be able to achieve the levels of co-operation, inclusiveness and social equity required to begin solving the interlinked complex global challenges, let alone empower the organisations needed to regulate them. It is impossible to portray accurately the devastating effects that global challenges will have on all of us unless unified global action is taken. Our shared challenges call for global solutions, and those solutions will require co-operation on a global scale unparalleled in human history and this is part of the reason the Conceptual Age cannot begin soon enough because we need to revisit Creativity and Empathy urgently.
Where do we go from Here?
Every time a culture gets into trouble it casts itself back into the past looking for the last sane moment it ever knew! And the last sane moment the human collective psyche ever knew was thousands of years ago before recorded history, before standing armies, before slavery and property, before warfare and complex linguistics, and before organised religion. And this is where the future may be taking us at an accelerating pace because the secret faith of the twenty first century is not ultra-modernism; the secret faith of the 21st century is “Conceptual”. In our hankering for Creativity and Empathy, we have nostalgia for archaic and ancient simplicity, nostalgia for removal of ultra-sophistication. That search for a renaissance is seen in the youth and the culture of our times in body piercing, abstract expressionism, surrealism, fusion cuisine, fusion music and fusion fashion. The unified vision-of-humanity now holds the key to our future. We have to recall the image of the planet from outer space: a single entity in which air, water and continents are interconnected. This is our collective home where Creativity and Empathy dwell in the new Conceptual Age!
What are your thoughts, observations and views? Please join the Socratic dialogue on ATCA 5000 at https://www.yammer.com/atca. We look forward to hearing from you! The ATCA Research & Analysis Wing and the mi2g Intelligence Unit can furnish further details upon request at the ATCA roundtable.