I love the ancient story about hope in the tale about Pandora and her box.
In the story, the box had been given to her as a wedding gift. When she first opened it, all the worst things you might imagine flew out into the world. But right at the bottom of the box was hope.
I know some think of hope as a kind of vain, desperate thing. As something to cling to. In our world of business, very many of us have an inheritance that tells us we need to plan things to within an inch of their lives as we seek to leave nothing to chance. There’s a sense in which hope is that thing beyond that which might be planned for. It’s that thing beyond the horizon and out of reach. Something to be striven for. I understand this inheritance.
Pandora and her box have more to teach us about the root of hope. I mentioned that her famous box was a wedding gift. She’d faced a decision about whom to marry. There were two brothers. One had a name meaning hindsight and the other a name meaning foresight. Pandora chose to marry the man whose name meant hindsight.
Let me ask you to put yourself in Pandoras’ shoes for a moment. Which one would you marry: Hindsight, with all that might suggest about a focus on the known world or Foresight, with a focus on the future and what might be?
It seems to me that in our current circumstances, planning a way through the coronavirus, our companion of choice should be Foresight.
Disappointingly, many of our choices, our approach to business and our leadership method is overly dependent on Hindsight. It’s dependent on the known world. Even the language of strategic planning, familiar to very many of us is restricted to the known world. That’s what planning is, it’s always based upon the known world, where we or others have been before.
Get the vast majority of business leaders, consultants and academics to open their particular tool boxes, they’ll find plenty of well used tools good for planning. I wonder how many will find tools necessary as we look to and look through the uncertainties many of us now face and beyond the horizon, to a post Covid world.
If most of us are used to tried and tested tools of planning in the known world, what might be needed in the unknown world?
Certainly, I think hope is a fundamental value, a particular ‘quality’ and ‘worth’. It would be good to know that hope is there in abundance in all our leadership tool boxes. But that presumes also foresight. For hope and foresight must travel together. And for hope to be anything more than vanity it must be about action.
For me that action in leadership has to be not so much about the skills of planning, but rather the skills of navigation.
In a post Covid 19 world, we are navigating new spaces with, as we know all their uncertainties. I am not suggesting that we should abandon all our planning tools, but we need to take up new and unfamiliar tools for navigating these new spaces. It is these tools that will be of the greatest value, ensuring our hopes are not merely vanities that melt away like the morning mist.
Speaking personally, every job I have ever done in my long career has involved beginning something new. Mostly they’ve worked and been OK. They’ve required developing the qualities of a navigator in uncertain times and places. They’ve enabled a steady hand, seeking foresight and hope for what might be. Thankfully much of that has been realised.
So, I want in this blogpost to advocate and promote the value of hope as a quality and in its potential worth. However I want to counsel that as leaders and businesses move into increasingly uncertain times, they will need to enlist skilled navigators. Many of the old, familiar ways of Hindsight will no longer do. They may help some of us hunker down to weather storms of uncertainty, but really, they will no longer do. We need tool that are the property of Foresight. These are the tools of the navigator.
If you would like to learn more about the tools we have created then take a look at our website, www.spiceframework.com or contact me personally at my main business email address, Michael@innovationpeople.co.uk. We really would like to help you navigate these uncertain times.
Written by Michael Croft
November 18, 2020