Evolution two ways & Rio

I have been trying to get my head around the interrelationship between Teal – that is the practice of self-managing, whole-person teams fulfilling their evolutionary purpose and Evolution;

The first two components I find easier to grasp – self-managing teams comes down to humanism and the belief that people when freed from fear, dependence, pigeonholing, constraint, systematisation and hierarchy can do incredible things, secondly, whole self – that is, living as fully realised people, able to express hopes, fears or anxieties, for whom prejudice and pre-judgment are set aside to allow the inner person to flourish. (This later point may need some explaining – I’ll perhaps elaborate in a later blog)

And, evolution.

I am not specifically talking about the Darwin and Wallace’s ideas, as in reality, this goes beyond theory – essentially to logic; ) for evidence of the evolution that Creationists get upset about, you perhaps have to find some fossils or mitochondrial DNA and extrapolate) – from my perspective, in terms of the Teal Evolution – it is right in front of us every day, all the time.

The first aspect of Teal Evolution (perhaps better to call it this than just ‘evolution’ so as to differentiate), is the ever present desire – perhaps hunger to improve that is within all of us; the frustration with doing the same thing repeatedly and getting similar tenebrous results.

Given a task or a function or action, mostly, if we repeat that task and it becomes a sufficiently inherent part of our lives to become either habit or practice – think, walking the dog, cooking, washing, gardening, even something as subtle as brushing our teeth – the natural human tendency is to start at the beginning as amateurs, learning through mistake, trial and error, repetition, and day by day, getting rid of Bruce Lee’s un-essentials all towards improvement.

Today I am a better dog walker than I was yesterday – it may not be easy to determine the ways in which I am better, even measurement might be tricky, and there may be days when I am less of a good dog walker (you will have to ask Maisie for details as to what ‘good’ means to her) – but overall, the movement is forwards, whether in terms of economy of motion, style or speed of walking, the development of neural habit-pathways in my brain; there is reinforcement and adaptation, some of which may move forward more rapidly than others.

It is perhaps easier to conceptualise this in the world of quality improvement and patient safety that I inhabit at work.

In the hospital we are constantly looking for ways to improve, to speed recovery, reduce harm or inefficiency, remove waste – it is in the words of the American Institute for Healthcare Improvement, everyone’s job – they may be a cleaner, porter or electrician – if they work in healthcare, their roles are twofold – first, cleaning, portering or fixing circuits, secondly, finding ways to improve their role to make the experience of patients better, safer, more efficient and effective.

When you look at life and work through this lens, work become more than a chore, it becomes something – I am not sure if heroic is the word, but far more than the constituent parts.

This is not to say everyone experiences this movement, which is of course a shame, but likely with some realignment, adaptation, or even a change of role, occupation or profession, this aspect of growth can be incorporated into their lives.

The second component of Teal Evolution relates to the speed of change, in a more purist Darwinian sense – ‘we’ that is all life on earth – plant or animal, have been evolving since the Big Bang, which was supposedly four billion years ago. This is a timeframe most of us are unable to conceive or grasp, suffice it to say, the time we have existed on the earth as humans – Homo sapiens, in the region of 400,000 years, which, is a mere flash in the pan of the lifespan of the Universe.

More to the point, the millions of years it took the first gasses to change into single-celled organisms and the subsequent epochs of change into fish, amphibians, mammals and primates, allowed for very slow, meticulous adaptation; as modern humans we are the best of the best – most of us are perhaps not as perfect as the Olympians strutting their stuff at Rio, but, pretty damn good.

Our legs are the right length, shape and structure to allow our movement, our heart, lungs, skin all perfectly attuned to the conditions we inhabit – not by chance do we have five fingers and toes, nor is it luck that complexity of our neural networks allow for the delivery of sophistication, it is all improvement, quality improvement, trial and error, growth.

Yet, the rates of change can be deceiving –

Whilst the evolution or adaptation of our intestines or kidneys is mostly perfect (I say mostly as clearly there is something we call ‘disease’), the water we drink today is by and large the same as that which we drank 10 million years ago – perhaps a little cleaner – fewer bugs or rotting leaves, but pretty much the same, gravity hasn’t changed much, nor the seasons or the solar cycle.

Yet, virtually everything else has changed, in particular the rate and pace of has quickened beyond anything most of us are able to grasp.

Moore’s Law states that the computer processing power will double every two years. I suspect given the rate of change driven by modern technologists, this is old-hat, change is accelerating daily at a pace driven by the unimaginable complexity of a world in motion.

Thus we have the technological pace of change, overlaid with the changes happening in society, mostly good, in relation to reduction in hunger and disease, but much bad – the growing inequality between rich and poor (Has Rio perhaps not been a demonstration of this?)

Within this change we have humans and human systems that evolved not for the incredible novelty of today, the new tomorrow, the developments, ideas, systems, digitalisations that have come to dominate our lives, nor the pressure the continuous flow of information or data, of communication, supply and demand.

The demands, asks, expectations, competition are all accelerating and at a rate that is so far beyond the fragility of our experience, our ability to cope that we struggle to maintain pace.

As another allusion to the Olympics – think Bolt and the rest of the field.

The consequence of this imbalance to many of us, not necessarily the Olympians, is that we become caught in a spiral of struggle, effort to maintain the status quo, let alone move forwards.

Think of drinking pure mountain water from a stream (perhaps in the Highlands of Scotland) and compare that to email, meetings, to-do lists, competition, avarice, consequence and uncertainty.

When Bruce Lee talked about water, ‘Be like water’ he was suggesting that we align with the fluidity, flexibility, strength and adaptability of water – in this instance, I am suggesting the purity of water, its essence, the ‘H2O’ component is our natural state; we need to find ways to allow us to acknowledge the hardships of our 21st Century existence – realise that some need longer to adapt, some struggle with the clutter and noise of acquisition and possession, that is not to say that those people are lesser – we need instead to acknowledge their strengths and perhaps, support one another, remain patient and realise that none of us have things entirely sorted or worked-out, that life for no one is a breeze (although some may attempt to portray tranquillity).

If we are to allow for adaptation, change that is not at the rate of technological and societal evolution, we need to acknowledge these differences which can only be overcome by working together, collaboratively.

I guess it comes back to ego. Not being afraid to tell people, ‘this hurts’ or the pressure is too great or the flow to fast. Once we can overcome this pretence, we can allow ourselves to benefit from the bounty of evolution.

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