I am reading Margaret Wheatley’s new book So Far from Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World. I have now reached Chapter 11, Controlling Complexity, which according to Margaret herself was the most difficult one to write because I as a reader might find it too dark to read. And it is really dark, indeed! She traces how the pattern of corruptive and destructive power took hold, why oppositional politics cannot deal intelligently with today’s complex problems, and why the powerful will remain in power, using it for personal gain.
Since I’m particularly interested in how to let people thrive and come alive at their workplaces, it is a very tough message Margaret gives when she writes:
“After all these years, you would think leaders would have learned that distrustful, compliance-enforcing behaviors only lead in one direction – to demotivated, demoralized, disaffected, and disappearing workers and colleagues. People’s motivation … degenerate in direct proportion to the amount of control and distrust in the environment. But this learning hasn’t taken hold because other values are more important to most leaders: the need to be in control and to maintain one’s power at all costs …“1
I think Margaret is right. In my own search for more life-giving ways of working I have realized that people knew how to turn human potential into reality a long time ago and still so little has happened during my lifetime. It’s really discouraging and very serious!
What’s the alternative, then?
Well, I haven’t read the whole book yet, but Margaret invites us to a warriorship for the human spirit. Her message is that complexity cannot be controlled. She reminds us that we are in a world filled with complex systems that through their self-organization create rather than destroy life. As warriors for the human spirit, let’s promote life-affirming values instead of the self-serving, destructive behaviors that are driven by power and greed.
1 Margaret Wheatley, So Far from Home, p. 109.