Ebbs, Flows and the Intertidal
It’s a curious time at the moment. Last week, I found myself writing about the importance of seasons, and this week, it’s the intertidal that is on my mind.
The Economist this week is full of articles about the emerging age for workers (paywall); even as we are spending more on state aid, companies are cutting costs and hoarding cash, and the government is on the one hand, making statements about increased funding for a variety of essential public services whilst at the same time cutting current costs and increasing taxes. Jam tomorrow, after the election, no doubt.
I’ve used the metaphor before, but more than ever, this feels like the intertidal, as the old goes out and the new arrives, and that we’re at the turn. Traditional organisations seeking efficiency through scale, processes and technology that rely heavily on tomorrow being much like yesterday are increasingly stranded. A huge shortage of creative ideas, estranged workforces, more expensive money and ever-hungry investors, like cuckoos in the nest. Frantic activities ensue as profit margins are protected through the ever more desperate and opaque use of temporary power that increases margins by shaving input prices and increasing output prices whilst not bringing any additional value into the system, as anyone listening to Farming Today will know. AI will not rescue them. It’s part of the incoming tide, but a long way from high tide.
In his book “Facilitating Breakthrough” he brings together his previous work on resolving conflict through balancing power and love. This is not some spiritual piece; he has been a hands-on conflict resolution negotiator sitting between some very determined, very committed, and, where needed, very unpleasant people.
At the heart of his thinking is that conflict resolution does not need the addition of something new, but the removal of qualities already present but disabled. Reducing conflict means replacing extraction with contribution, isolation with connection, and partiality with equity. Creating the space for people's voices and allowing them to be heard as the individuals and communities they are. What gets in the way is our addiction to processes, automation, and efficiency and an assumption that the tide will come in forever.
Between the tide going out and coming in is a pause, and we are in it.
We need to use it well.