Managing from the Future

Man in business suit holding wooden swordI find the subject of complexity and chaos fascinating, especially in terms of its relevance to management. Consider these lines from the book, Surfing the Edge of Chaos:

Design, don’t engineer
Discover, don’t dictate
Decipher, don’t presuppose

To achieve our goals we have to manage from the future. Managing from the future means standing in the new future and undertaking a series of steps, not in order to get there some day, but as if you are already there (or almost there now). The task therefore involves removing whatever obstacles remain in the way to being there fully. The discipline of managing from the future begins with this mental shift.

Kendo, the ancient tradition of Japanese fencing, was used to train Samurai warriors. Wooden swords, brandished by combatants, are employed in fierce clashes punctuated by screams, and powerful blows. It is all orchestrated to unsettle one’s opponent as a prelude to the coup de grace. As with all Japanese martial arts, the teachings are connected less with victory than with inner calm. Kendo masters require beginners to memorize these verses that are instructive in life as in fencing:

When you focus on winning, you will lose.
When you focus on not losing, you will lose.
Pay attention to your inner balance.
Then perhaps you have a chance to win.

At first glance, these guidelines seem inconsistent with the discipline of managing from future. Isn’t managing from future all about winning? It is not. It is about being open to what unfolds, while feeling confident that the goal you are striving towards is inevitable. You believe that you or someone else will succeed.

Trapeze artists understand the wisdom of the kendo masters. When one concentrates too intently on getting safely across the chasm, the risk of falling increases. Likewise concentrating on not falling increases the risk exponentially. High-wire artists train themselves to be “in the present” and feel sublimely confident that reaching the other side is a foregone conclusion. At stake is the capacity to exhibit poise during crossing. None of these alter the laws of gravity or the physics of human body in free fall. But approaching the wire with the right frame of mind vastly increases the odds of traversing the abyss without mishap.

As this week draws to an end, I’m concentrating on what I want to achieve next week and imagining myself there already. What about you?

About Sunil Garde
President of Pune Operations at Affinity Express, Sunil has more than 26 years of experience, with the last 14 years in senior positions in the IT-enabled/BPO/KPO industries. While not juggling busy days at Affinity Express, he loves reading, jogging and meditation.

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