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Machiavelli and Our New Challenge

Hopefully, many of you are aware of a project Matthew Muñoz and I have undertaken with Leslie In a recent post, one of our readers posted this quote from Machiavelli:

“One should bear in mind that there is nothing more difficult to execute, nor more dubious of success, nor more dangerous to administer than to introduce a new system of things: for he who introduces it has all those who profit from the old system as his enemies, and he has only lukewarm allies in all those who might profit from the new system.

This lukewarmness partly stems from fear of their adversaries, who have custom on their side, and partly from the skepticism of men who do not truly believe in new things unless they have actually had personal experience of them. Therefore, it happens that whenever those who are enemies have the chance to attack, they do so in a partisan manner, and those others defend only hesitantly.” — Niccolo Machiavelli

Amen. The Designer’s dilemma.

But that leaves us with little hope. With little hope, how will we have the heart to compete. As the musical Damn Yankees tells us, “You gotta have heart.” [honestly, did I work too hard to make that connection? of course]

Here’s my response that I thought I’d share with you here….

Machiavelli’s quote is spot on. Afterall, land owners seldom start revolutions.

Evolution is fine when one has thousands or millions of years to change; short-term change is more revolutionary in nature. Machiavelli underscores the risk leaders accept when they begin any short-term transformational endeavor.

What is also true is that design/innovative strategies are more commonly used by more desperate competitors. Necessity is the mother of invention. While power, control and other factors were powerful strategies to employ while competing in the Industrial Age, recent evidence is that they are not sustainable in today’s world. They fail society and the businesses themselves overwhelmingly as we try to compete today.

Now we find our institutions facing greater risk, perhaps, than we ever before. From the US Department of Defense to our entire banking system to the UNC Educational System to companies like WalMart and Microsoft, innovative change is a necessity. We are all more desperate.

And here is a fundamental understanding our society and leaders need to understand quickly: Innovation is a creative endeavor.

If we are to compete, we must innovate. If we are to innovate, we must create.

Competing = creativity. That’s the math.

Creativity demands a culture/climate that differs greatly from what we generally experience in our schools, businesses and public institutions today. These institutions must become more creative cultures.

So, is our resolve to compete in this environment great enough for us to overcome the obstacles Machiavelli predicts?

And, can we take on this challenge in ways that prove the worth of such change iteratively, while we reduce risk, and drive fast, efficient and productive new ways to compete? As we better engage our work forces and citizen populations?

That is the challenge. We believe the answer is yes. We’ll discuss these very issues in the upcoming Change Paper #06.

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