Manage in a world without order

I have given up on the idea that life will settle down and become predictable or calm. I don’t necessarily enjoy the constant change and hectic pace, but I’m trying to learn coping strategies.

That’s why Andrew Zolli’s interview on Public Radio International’s On Being Program was so captivating. Zolli, author of Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back talked about his work on resilience, which is based on the reality that disruption abounds in our world and will not go away. Here’s an excerpt from Zolli’s blog comments:

“Because the ecological system, the economic system, the geopolitical system, the climate system, the food security system are all connected to each other in ways that cause very complex highly unpredictable nonlinear outcomes. So all of those systems being connected leads us to a place where increasingly instead of trying to find an equilibrium in a planet that’s out of balance, we also have to try and manage with the unbalances, the imbalances. We have to manage in a world that’s intrinsically out of order.”

He is studying how people, nature and other systems can better manage in a world without order. Some of the best places to do that study are ones which have faced repeated challenges, like natural disasters.

“Indeed, it’s the failures, when properly understood, that create the context for learning and growth. That’s why some of the most resilient places are, paradoxically, also the places that regularly experience modest disruptions – they carry the shared memory that things can go wrong.

“Resilience” takes this as a given, and is commensurately humble. It doesn’t propose a single, fixed future. It assumes we don’t know exactly how things will unfold, that we’ll be surprised, that we’ll make mistakes along the way.”

Some of my favorite pearls of wisdom from his talk:

Give up the myth that all problems are preventable or at least solvable.

Be adaptable, which means you must learn to fail gracefully.

Build redundancy into all systems, so failure in one part does not bring down the whole.

Build the capacity of your people and systems to sense upcoming disruptions and reorganize quickly. Zolli calls this true wisdom.

Prepare for the emotional and mental impacts of disruption. As Zolli says, “…if you believe that the world is a meaningful place, if you see yourself as having agency within that world, and if you see successes and failures as being placed in your path to teach you things, you are more likely to be psychologically hardy and therefore more resilient in the face of trauma.”

I may not grow to love the disruptive reality. But I do want to increase my ability to (as Zolli says) recover, persist, and even to thrive in the face of change.

 

Need help with resilience in the face of change? Contact Humanergy.

Photo from iStockphoto.


Handwritten notes boost learning and creativity

When was the last time you sat down to compose something on paper, rather than the computer or your iPad? In fact, writing by hand boosts neural activity that can help you learn faster and be more creative.

An article in the Wall Street Journal Online cites research that shows that both adults and children learn more effectively by hand writing versus keyboarding. What are the implications for work?

Take hand-written notes in meetings. You’ll retain more, and the act of handwriting can help you make connections that you otherwise would not. The outcome is more creative brainpower to address problems.

Doodle. A pen in your hand will promote drawing on your paper. Rather than being inattentive, doodlers actually retain 29% more information about what happened in the meetings. Doodling actually gives you just enough cognitive stimulation to prevent you from zoning out completely.

Start with hand-writing. If you’re tasked with writing something at work, don’t just start tapping away at the keyboard. Get out a piece of paper and start writing, drawing pictures and making connections. The beauty of paper is that you can draw arrows to show relationships, and do other non-linear thinking/notations. Once you do sit down at the keyboard, your written work will be a more accurate representation of the complexity and interconnections within your subject.

Journal. Here’s your excuse to invest in an attractive place to keep your work notes and general thoughts. Regular journaling has been shown to have many physical and psychological benefits, including stress reduction and a strengthened immune system. Written expression of your feelings, perspectives and thoughts can help you understand yourself better, solve problems and resolve long-standing issues.

The pen may be mightier than the sword.  It’s also a powerful weapon in your quest to be productive and healthy!

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