A big percentage of any company’s efforts and resources are devoted to controlling something; whether it’s controlling the risk of accidents in the workplace, investments overseas, possibilities of meeting the next sales goals or the results of our next marketing campaign, in business we all love control, and we can always use a little more of it, can’t we?
It’s not hard to imagine why we love it: we want to be safe, we want to make sure we will survive our next endeavor, and we want to be successful. This seems totally normal for most of us and is highly desirable in business, so by now you’re probably thinking, “I already know all this, and I enjoy having it.” So, how is this an illusion?
Well, let’s begin by saying that the more variables you add to a system the less control you eventually have over it, right? Of course you can improve your controlling systems, procedures, policies or skills in order to respond to that change, but still, in the mean time, while you are heading towards unknown territory (where the money is) you will eventually find yourself with a lack of the illusion of control, and once you get to increase it, you will be pushed either by your boss or your competitors to move beyond that, and you’ll find yourself with a lack of control once again, right?
But why would you want to go where the illusion of control is weaker? Well, the answer is simple: the uncertain is where the money is. Think of the business world as the forest and we business people as the log men. Resources today are beyond the trail next door; we have to explore mountains and go a longer distance in order to get what we are looking for.
Our ancestors may had experienced a time where the illusion of control was much stronger; they could go to work from 8 to 6 and expect a paycheck for a lifetime, nothing seemed to really change. Indeed it was a time when companies could live from just one invention, a whole organization living a hundred years out of one patent. Of course comfort is highly appreciated by most humans though, so they soon found themselves “in control” of their lives.
Nowadays the story is a little different – no matter what you do, the industry you work for or the position you play, you will get paid by how good you are at those times when things seem out of control, by how good you are at coping with change. Change is all over the place and we can’t hide from it.
These are the times when Darwin’s famous words should resonate in every executive’s head: Is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
In a complex system of systems interacting and evolving at almost the speed of light, if there’s anyone who feels in total control of what’s happening out there, they may very well be either confused or becoming an endangered species (probably both) because I’m pretty sure that a modern business Darwin would say: It is not the biggest company that survives, nor the one with the best ideas, but the one willing to deal with the uncomfortable low sense of control that comes with exploring the uncertain territories where new success is found. So, if you think you are in control, you may be missing very good business.
In today’s business world we are not in control, and that’s ok – we just need to keep moving forward towards that mirage of control. That’s the goal of the new generation, the challenge of inventing and re-inventing themselves at a higher speed, preparing for careers that still don’t exist, breaking paradigms as a way of living, the challenge of dealing with the unknown.
They will never be in control, and that’s ok.