Built to “SURVOLVE”

This blog post is for leaders only. Anyone reading this who doesn’t lead something is excused. So, if you lead a large organization, stick around. If you lead a small team, stand by. If you lead a LIFE, read on!

I wonder if anyone stopped reading this after the first paragraph. Say a prayer for them if they did.

Okay, the point: you must build your system (e.g., organization, team, life) to SURVOLVE. That means a.) Survive, as in persist as a relatively stable entity and b.) Evolve, as in learn, adapt, and grow.

If you presume to lead, you must accept this responsibility. Otherwise you are not leading. So stop fooling yourself that you’re a leader if you can’t or won’t do BOTH.

If you prefer stability, that’s okay. Lots of us do. Most of us are intimidated by and anxious about change. These days, with so much changing, stability seems comforting. Stability allows us to predict, reasonably, that what we were doing or working on yesterday has a fair chance of presenting itself again today as our task. Stability, along with order and predictability, is essential to mental health, well being, and mastery. Mastery requires an investment over many years. Research that we often cite in this blog suggests strongly that about 10,00 hours of  practice and stretch are required to approach mastery. Imagine trying to dedicate your life to mastery of a discipline, craft, or field that experienced fundamental change every month or so. Traditions are the outward manifestation of memory which is, in essence, identity. No system can survive without a sense of identity. So, if you lead, remember it is your responsibility to design an efficient and effective system that is reasonably stable. Otherwise, give up any hope of achieving excellence or mastery in your field.

On the other hand, excessive stability is death. A closed system (e.g., organization, team, life) that resists input from its environment and makes no response to outside influences and clings to traditional modes of operating without forward movement can be described as dead, or dying. Clinical death is often determined along these lines. Stable leaders beware: excessive procedural order and predictability in your system kills off inspiration, involvement, and hope. You must honor the past without worshipping it. It is slow death to do otherwise.

If you prefer change, that’s okay. Most of us are bored and confined by stability. These days, with so much changing, it is invigorating to embrace change with flexibility. Flexibility allows us to adapt, reasonably, to changing conditions in our environment, keeping us fresh and up-to-date. Flexibility, along with curiosity and our innate need to explore, is essential to cognitive development, engagement, and happiness. Happiness is the state of being that flows from engagement with new and challenging tasks that stretch us just beyond our acquired knowledge and comfort zones. Imagine trying to engage in growth and mastery while chained to a system requiring nothing but rote repetition of tasks and past practice. Exploration of new horizons, capabilities, and fields of knowledge is part of our design as human beings, No system can survive without growth and change. So, if you lead, remember it is your responsibility to equip a system with vision, purpose, and forward direction for the future. Otherwise, give up all hope of achieving relevance and innovation in your field.

On the other hand, constant change is death. An open system (e.g., you get the point) that refuses to consolidate a foundation of accumulated learning, that flits from one thing to another, and never pauses long enough to produce anything, is dead, or dying. Chaos, disorder, and disintegration are symptoms of trauma, a leading cause of death. Flexible leaders beware: excessive adaptation without integration drains your system of competence, confidence, and impact. You must embrace the future without chasing rainbows. It is slow death to do otherwise.

That’s why, if you lead anything, you must make the commitment to “survolve.” You may prefer survival, or evolution. Your make up and natural tendencies may cause you to be better developed in skill and ability in one or the other. But if you sit in the “big chair” of leading, sorry; you must do BOTH or you’re not really leading.

Honor the past. Celebrate the present. Embrace the future.

That’s a culture built to “survolve.”

Are you leading? Really?

How do you feel about “survolvement?”

Are you anxious, or bored? Or both?

How would the people you lead answer that?

Give it up: tell us more. Tell us more…

1 thought on “Built to “SURVOLVE”

  1. Sully,

    Keep writing, writing, writing. Good stuff.

    My added clarity from the 8 is…

    Honor the past.

    Celebrate the present.

    Build a vision for the future.

    The greatest teams don’t embrace the future, they create it. Very cool…

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