Turning Discord Into Harmony

The Journal of the Medinge Group, vol. 3, no. 1, 2009.

Erika Uffindell

Seeing the real opportunities in troubled times

Pick up any business article at the moment and most will tell you that ‘we are living in unparalleled times of change’. But are we really? Are we living through times of unparalleled change or is it just business as usual? As Buddha said – change is the only constant. Change means we move forward. It signals new opportunities and growth. So why are organisations so paralysed by fear?

There’s a strong general feeling that our situation is systemic. That things will never be the same. But what do we really mean by systemic? That it has touched us deeply? So affected our consciousness, that we may change our behaviours, actions or value systems? If so, then surely this unparalleled, systemic change has been good for us as individuals, organisations, the environment and society as a whole…

Fear and faith
The change has rocked many businesses and individuals to the core – forcing us to question how organisations should operate. It’s broken our trust in organisations and people who we held in high esteem. But it has also challenged us to take responsibility for our actions, to reconsider our belief in, and definition of, success, prosperity and growth.

Businesses and individuals have experienced deep fear – many perhaps for the first time in the way that this crisis has affected them. They have contracted their visions and ambitions alongside their workforce. Many are still paralysed, unable to make decisions about their future or trust themselves to step outside their comfort zone and challenge business practice and industry thinking. There’s meeting after meeting about vision, values and common purpose but nothing eventuates. They can’t make a leap of faith as faith has lost its meaning. Fear has stopped them trusting their intuition.

“Life can be compared to a battle field where one must face both visible and invisible enemies. You can fight the visible ones, but the invisible enemies are difficult to conquer because it is almost impossible to fight what one cannot see.

Not only do you need to know your enemies but you also need intuition. Most of us hardly use our intuition because we have not been trained to listen and use our inner ear. Intuition is the guidance of the soul. It is the soul talking to us and guiding us through this jungle and chaos. A person without intuition or inner hearing has neither direction nor command. He or she is tossed around by external factors and sooner or later suffers the consequences of foolish acts.”
Joseph Michael Levry

Ultimately, change is simply what happens to us all, all of the time. The lesson is not in the amount of change we can handle, but in the way we manage that change.

Growth and renewal
We needed this chaos and pain to alert us to what was really important. Many have seen this period as a negative – their way of life and happiness have been badly affected. But we thought we could build , and grow, a society on money, greed and competition without any consequences. Many thought bigger was better. But amidst the chaos a renewal has begun to take place. People have learnt lessons. Things are shifting. Lets hope the lessons learnt are greater than the changes we’ve experienced.

Pain and suffering is a way to grow and become more conscious. Listen to people talking about the future. Most do not want to go back to the old ways of excess and mass consumerism. Instead they’re looking for other means of fulfilment. People still need to feel secure, but many are searching for greater simplicity in their lives as they become more conscious of the role they play in their work place, home life, environment and society. Businesses and brands that fail to recognise this shift in human consciousness simply won’t survive because they won’t be serving the needs of society.

“In 1998 I asked Jack Walsh what it took to have a great company and he said ‘it takes major setbacks and overcoming those’. Then in 2001 we had a near death experience. We went from the most successful company in the world to a company where they questioned the leadership. In 2003 Jack called me up and said ‘John, now you have a great company’. I said ‘Jack, it doesn’t feel like it’. But he was right.”
John T Chambers
Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems

Through the catharsis of pain people have rediscovered the meaning of – and need for – interdependence and co-creation. They have had to explore the meaning of communication. Heads of state and CEOs around the world have had some difficult lessons to learn and none more than the lesson of humility. Their ego-based approach to building businesses has been challenged. The old way of doing business is no longer appropriate. Humanity has built its own safety net and sent a shock wave of reflection across businesses and nations.

But a new way of working and of being has started to evolve. By sharing their painful experiences, and working together to find a way forward, they’ve let go of their fear. They are realising that once they do this, anything is possible. Creativity is reborn and expansion is possible – not in fiscal terms, but in perspectives, values and future visions.

Dark before the light
Many sages and business gurus did forecast this. Some called it the dark years, a period before the shift in human consciousness can take place. We are in a period where all our karmic lessons that we have been running away from will come back to seek balance. It is a time of far reaching inner transformation and renewal where all our destructive habits must be replaced by new, healthy ones.

Many speak about sustainability and the green agenda shaping the future of our planet but that is only part of it. Our ability to develop our human consciousness in such a way that we do not self-destruct will be the reality of our future. Doing the right thing has never been more important. And this understanding of what is right and wrong for humanity lies deep within in each of us; intuitively our soul has the answer. We just need to take the time to listen. Businesses and brands that understand this and help shape the future will be part of the future. They will reflect the word sustainable in a new way.

Green is the colour
It can be no coincidence that Green is the colour of prosperity – that we’ve labelled our need to heal our planet and provide a sustainable future for generations to come as ‘the green agenda’. For our prosperity is in our ability to live consciously. Our wealth and prosperity will come from this life not from fiscal wealth.

A sense of identity
Most of what has been written above comes down to a simple fact: That organisations and individuals need to have a clear sense of their identity, what they stand for and their intentions in life. Sat Nam is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘the truth of my identity’ (Sat – the truth, Nam – my identity). In Eastern philosophy this mantra is used as the basis for self-actualization and renewal. Leaders now more than ever, need to spend time working out the truth of their brand – what their name will mean to people in the future and how they will live that truth. Employees and customers alike are seeking honesty, transparency, responsibility and respect. We need organisations around the world to lead in a new world order. To recognise that they have a responsibility for how people develop and grow.

“Now is the time for extraordinary leadership”
Dr Rajendra Pachuri IPCC

Branding, at its very foundation, is about creating a clear sense of identity and a strong value system. Values guide and shape an organisation. Organisations do not shape values. And, now more than ever, people are seeking to work for value-based organisations.

It seems inevitable, for those of us that work with brands every day, that they will now support evolution. By their nature brands are evolution. Like living embryos, the ones that flourish are the ones that listen, learn and evolve. The ones that have grown in this crisis have learnt the lesson of humility, of character, of grace. They have also learnt to have confidence in who they are. They have reminded themselves of their core purpose over and above monetary gain. They have sought to find ways to retain their people above delivering profits and economic growth alone.

Where to from here?
We are currently working with a number of global organisations who are exploring their sense of identity, values systems and their vision of the future. It is clear from the conversations that times are changing. That, whilst change is constant, it seems there are moments in history where events have challenged us to rethink our beliefs, our view of ourselves and our role within it. Individuals and organisations are doing just that right now, and they believe that new ways of approaching this work are key. That now is the opportunity to make the right decisions – conscious decisions – that are right for society and humanity as a whole.

“The future is being worked out now, in real time. We are creating a new world order brick by brick”.
Prof George Lakoff

Erika UffindellTurning Discord Into Harmony

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