We live and work in a world that is increasingly complex, multi-layered, full of uncertainty, and in a state of constant change. This world makes extraordinary demands on us and our organizations. The challenge is to find a balance between effectiveness in producing results and developing future capability, while maintaining a sense of well-being.

I work with individual leaders and organizations who respond to the challenge by asking themselves: What do we need to learn or change to ensure that we are functioning optimally? They recognize that the answer to this question is not simply about effectiveness. Rather, it is about creating a context that allows everyone to develop and thrive - professionally and personally.

Through executive and leadership development coaching, transition and personal growth coaching, and through creating programs and learning experiences for groups, I help individuals and organizations reach more of their potential for optimal functioning.

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Melinda Sinclair and Dorothy Greenaway are internationally recognized and sought after coaches and workshop leaders, who bring a special kind of magic to their leadership development work. They share some of this magic in The Leadership Coach’s Advantage™: A Guide for Practice.

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“When businesspeople search for the right forecast—the road map and model that will define the next era—no credible long-term picture emerges. There is one certainty, however. The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any new, settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is no pattern. The most valuable insight is that we are, in a critical sense, in a time of chaos.”

Robert Safian, 2012 (Fast Company)

melinda flux waveOne of the defining features of our current reality and the future we’re stepping into is change: constant, fast, accelerating, disruptive, often chaotic change. Multiple interacting forces – mostly beyond our control – are at play to create this state of change: social, economic, demographic, technological, political, and climate.

This change poses a major challenge as we move into the future – from the individual level through to organizations to society to the whole globe. Dealing with such extreme change is not easy, as we’ve all experienced personally and witnessed second-hand. The refugee crisis sparked by the Syrian war and the struggle for individuals, organizations and countries around the world to deal with the fall-out of this crisis a good case in point. And yet, there is little doubt that thriving in the future will depend to a significant extent on our ability to adapt fast enough to the ongoing and sometimes dramatic changes in our context.

But is the way we think about change helping or hindering us with this adaptive challenge? As I’ve been thinking about this and having conversations with clients and colleagues about our experience of and stories about change, I’ve been starting to wonder to what extent our use of the word “change” might actually be hindering this adaptation. We tend to think of “change” as something to deal with, to manage so that we get through it to “the other end”.  And what do we expect to be there? At some level I believe we expect “not change”. Of course, the reality increasingly is that after one change there is just another change followed by yet another change. The problem, as I started to see, is that the undertone when we talk about “change” is always the idea that change is the deviation from a somewhat desired baseline of stability – maybe punctuated by a change here and there. We’re thinking of change as ideally like a series of beads on a string – but with lots of string of stability between the beads. In reality, what we have is just one bead piled on top of another, with little or no open string in between.

Maybe then our use of the word “change” might help create part of our anxiety about the future, leaving us frustrated when we experience change after change with little to no string of stability in between. In short, thinking “change” might leave us stuck in a mindset that is not particularly helpful as we move into the future.

So I’ve started to experiment a few years ago with shifting away from talking about dealing with change to talking about accepting that we’re living in a flux world. “Flux” essentially means “constant change”; yet, somehow, the word evokes something different in us than the word “change”. I continue to be surprised by the sense of relief, even acceptance, that people experience when they think about their world as a flux world. Making sense of our experience in terms of flux seems to evoke a different story about what’s happening – and words like “fluid”, “flow”, flexibility”  often come forward in the conversation.

It’s as if we’ve been standing on a rock pounded by waves, desperately bracing to retain our footing as wave after wave comes at us, leaving us with no time to rest or even breathe between waves. And then we realise that we could let go and float along with the movement of the water, that this might in fact be the smarter, saner option.

As with all metaphors, this idea of letting go of clinging to the rock and letting ourselves float through our flux world is not perfect.  But it does seem to spark some mindset shift that allows us to engage differently with the reality of change.

Once I started to use the “flux” word, I came across the word and concept in other contexts.  Maybe the most interesting to consider is Robert Safian’s thinking about what he calls “generation flux” – a group (non-chronologically defined) that have the attitudes and skills to help them thrive in our fast changing, chaotic world. You can read more about “generation flux” here http://www.fastcompany.com/section/generation-flux – also check out this video of Safian talk about his ideas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOWrOUsUoC4 (We will come back later to the defining characteristic of generation flux.)

[I also learned that the Dutch are using the idea of “accepting flux” to deal with the impact of rising water levels due to climate change:  houses designed to float and shift along with the water level. http://www.dw.com/en/floating-houses-to-fight-climate-change-in-holland/a-17532376. Certainly an interesting contrast to attempts to build defenses against rising sea levels.]

My invitation to you is to experiment with shifting from thinking and talking about dealing with constant change to thinking and talking about living in a flux world. Then notice the impact of that shift in language. How does it change the way you feel about the future? What different images does it evoke in you? How does it change your thinking, the stories you tell yourself about change ahead?


Thinking through our relationship to the future

Future: time regarded as still to come It starts with imagining the future Remember the past. Notice the present. And… the future? In the previous two posts we looked at how these are the two fundamental relationships we have with the past and the present – and we looked at some ways in which these […]

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Being future smart includes remembering the past and noticing the present (2)

Noticing the present Present: the period of time now occurring In the previous post I asked how our relationship with the past might relate to being future smart. The key is remembering the past – through the study of history (at least in a few areas that matter to us) and through crafting our life […]

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Being future smart includes remembering the past and noticing the present (1)

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My questions for 2016

What might it mean for us to become more “future smart”? How might we gain a deeper understanding of the qualities and attributes we need to develop to be capable of dealing with the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow? What fresh perspectives emerge when we use the lens of the future to look at personal […]

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Focus on the benefits of having constructive conversations around disagreements and conflicts

The power of disagreement and conflict – Part 3 Be unwilling to accept the opportunity costs associated with not having these conversations skillfully. Even while most of us are uncomfortable with the challenge of conversations involving disagreement and conflict, we also recognize the potential benefit of having such conversations skilfully. Quite simply: some conversations involving […]

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Discomfort with disagreement is not a character flaw!

The power of disagreement and conflict – Part 2 Accept that your discomfort with disagreement is not a character flaw – it is just your brain doing its thing. Rather learn to use the discomfort as energy to hone your ability to engage skillfully in such conversations. It is easy to explain why conversations involving […]

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Conversations that leverage the creative power of disagreements

The power of disagreement & conflict – Part 1 “In great teams conflict becomes productive. The free flow of conflicting ideas and feelings is crucial; for creative thinking, for discovering new solutions no one individual would have come to on its own.” Peter Senge. How do you feel about conversations that involve disagreements, difference of […]

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Making sense of feedback requires both effort and context

Making meaning of feedback data – transforming it into insights that can support good decisions and actions – is hard work. In doing this work we often get caught up in limited perspectives and emotional reactions. We hastily jump to conclusions. We get triggered by a particular phrase that hooks our attention, and in the […]

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The power of a simple image

Source: KickStart.org/Tim Brown Tim Brown of IDEO posted this very simple image that is incredibly powerful. The image clearly communicates the potential of more irrigation to help meet Africa’s need for food. What’s a message you want to get across? What’s the simplest image you can use to communicate this message in a provocative and […]

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