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“Once we get into routines we feel comfortable. From comfort comes confidence.“ Judith E. Glaser, author of ‘Creating WE’

Nothing confines us more than an imposed requirement to comply with ‘the system’. In many ways systems serve us, keep us safe, and provide for the creation of consistent results. A properly considered system is a valuable tool. Or we could all decide, every morning, which side of the road we feel like driving on today.

But blind obedience to a system disallows creativity, stifles innovation, and doesn’t allow for the unexpected to be properly challenged. When something arises that is a bit off-the-wall, the system might not work and our slavish adherence won’t change that. A new system is needed, or at least a modification. And don’t we fight that!

Change is the greatest constant. So fighting change is pointless. On the other hand, applying Aikido to take control of change does have a point. (Eh?)

Aikido is a martial art that doesn’t resist attack like the fist- and foot-focused arts; it takes the force used by an attacker and redirects it until we can take over control. For example, as an attacker moves towards us, instead of resisting we step back and take the impetus away from the imposed force and send it where we want it to go until such time as the threat dissipates.

In the same way we can take a proactive step back when a system is challenged, and redirect our thoughts not to resisting the stimulus, but instead to re-identifying it and its likely direction, and then deciding what to do about it so as to achieve a desirable objective. In that stimulus-response gap we can identify whether the system is wholly inappropriate or just needs tweaking.

Which leads me to the repeated realisation that principles apply. They always do. They never change, and they influence the success of a tweaked system more than any other factor.

So the order of events must be:

  1. What is the system for?
  2. What has the new challenge done to affect the system’s ability to achieve that original objective?
  3. Where in the system has that happened?
  4. Can the system change in order to achieve the same result? If so – change it. If not – design a whole new system.
  5. And if a new system needs to be designed – do we have to change the way we see the problem? Because just changing what we ‘do’ might not be enough of an answer. The ‘why we do what we do’ might be what’s changed.

In any event – don’t blindly and repeatedly apply the ‘old’ system and expect it to work. Because it won’t.