“If you are renewed by grace, and were to meet your old self, I am sure you would be very anxious to get out of his company.”
We remember renewing our health insurance policy, vehicle license, PUC certificate, passport, business license if any but we have never thought of renewing the self and renewing our organisation.
We are what were for years and decades. Any change is not only unwelcomed we fight to kick it out of our system.
I completed reading one of the finest books Self Renewal by John Gardener last week. Usually, I read a print book with a highlighter to highlight important points. Kindle has an easy highlighter to highlight important texts in the book. Perhaps I have used the Kindle highlighter the highest time while reading this book.
This book is about the self-renewal of individuals, organisation, and society. We age and decay because we don’t self-renew.
The author writes, “Rome falling to the barbarians, an old family firm going into bankruptcy, and a government agency quietly strangling in its own red tape have more in common than one might suppose.”
When an individual or institution age it becomes more rigid. We all know and have experienced the rigidity of our older generations. We call ourselves practical and flexible. But we are also subject to rigidity and fixed mindset without our knowledge.
He further writes,” When organisations and societies are young, they are flexible, fluid not yet paralysed by rigid specialisation and willing to try anything once. As the organisation or society ages, vitality diminishes, flexibility gives way to rigidity, creativity fades and there is a loss of capacity to meet challenges from unexpected directions.”
What is true for organisations and society is true for individuals. Our flexibility and willingness to try new things diminishes under the burden of tradition and history. The author states this with an example of an infant.
“The infant is a model of openness to new experience, – receptive, curious, eager, unafraid, willing to try anything and above all not inhibited by fixed habits and attitudes. S the years pass he loses these priceless qualities. Inevitably he accumulates habits, attitudes, opinions…. Each acquired attitude or habit useful though it may be, makes him a little less receptive to alternative ways of thinking and acting.”
We all want to remain young. But the author says youth implies immaturity. Though everyone wants to be young, no one wants to be immature. Maturing is important but it reduces potentialities and reduces adaptability.
The author says,” If maturing is about knowing fixed ways of doing things, it is a way headed to the graveyard. Maturity should be about a system within which continues innovation and renewal can occur.”
As we mature, we progressively narrow our scope and variety of our lives… As the years go by we view our familiar surroundings with less and less freshness of perception. … The individual who has become a stranger to himself has lost the capacity for genuine self-renewal.”
We have seen Kodak and Motorola like organisations could not renew in time and suffered collateral damage. Technology is bringing new disruptions daily. The youth of today is bringing a new paradigm shift in the market.
An example of 22 years old Ritesh Agarwal of Oyo Rooms is one such example. What stalwarts of the hospitality industry could not think and do, he could do it that too so swiftly.
Our maturity is so limiting that we are willing to take less risk as we mature. Learning is a risky business and they do not like failure. When an infant is he is experiencing a shattering number of failures. See the innumerable things he tries and fails. Failures do not discourage him. With each year that passes he will be less blithe about failure. By adolescence, the willingness of young people to risk failure has diminished greatly.
This shows how we gradually become rigid from flexible. How we are willing to take less risk as we age and mature.
“We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure. It is a powerful obstacle to growth. It assures the progressive narrowing of the personality and prevents exploration of experimentation.”
His writings clearly show how we become inflexible, rigid, fearful as we age. These are the reasons for our gradual and confirmed decaying – individuals, organisations and society.
The author writes,” The new organisation is loose in the procedure, unclear in organisational lines, variable in policies. It is willing to experiment with a variety of ways to solve its problems. It is not bound by traditions. It rushes in where angels fear to tread.
As it matures it develops settled ways of doing things and becomes more orderly, more efficient, more systematic. But it also becomes less flexible, less innovative, less willing to look freshly at each day’s experience.”
This is how organisation matures but also starts to decay.
“There comes to be an accepted way to do everything. Eccentric experimentation and radical departures from past practices are ruled out.”
We all talk about freedom. But we are completely ignorant about the limitations imposed by one’s own compulsions, habits, and fixed ideas.
The flower of competence carries the seeds of rigidity just as the flower of virtue carries the seeds of complacency. There is a road to hell even from the gates of heaven.”
The aging society or organisation may have superb confidence in the matter of procedures, technique, and style but serious doubt concerning its ability to won. In contrast, the society or organisation that is young inexperienced and full of undisciplined energy may have great confidence in its vigor, drive, and fitness to win, but a sense of inferiority about procedures, manners, and style.”
This book is written about 56 years ago but it is so relevant today. You can make it from a book written 2019. In the book, Non-Bullshit Innovation author David Rowan writes, “Eliminate the fear of failure. If staff feel they can’t risk, they won’t do exceptional work. … Where culture is weak you need an abundance of heavy precise rules and procedures…. In the book, Dower, the owner of one of the innovating companies says to the author,” The biggest risk is gravity. The bigger we get, the higher the risk that gravity will pull us to a more traditional style. Maybe the biggest risk is if we stop challenging and questioning ourselves.”
You can relate everything written in 2019 with what was written in 1963.
The need for renewal is vital. Every organisation suffers from diseases. The most powerful forces in the organisation produce rigidity and diminishing capacity for change. And there are the diseases of which organisation and societies die.
In the book Rethinking the Future, CK Prahalad, in 1996 wrote,” The future will not be an extrapolation of the past. Like a space rocket on the way to the moon, a company has to be willing to jettison the parts of its past which no longer contain fuel for the journey and which are becoming, in effect, excess baggage.”
The most organisation embraces the past and tradition. Decaying starts then and the need for the self-renewal becomes imminent. Either its proactive renewal or reactive renewal with several previous notices ignored.
The author John Gardener suggests every organisation needs a department of continues renewal that would view the whole organisation as a system in need of continues innovation.
Flexibility in thoughts, risk-taking culture, non-rigid approach, no weight of tradition. These are some of the ingredients of a self-renewing organisation. Bring youth to your organisation, in age, and in thinking.
The author has very eye-opening thinking about the waste of youth energy in our society. He writes,” Alexander might conquer half the known world in his early twenties…but our age lays enormous stress on long training and experience. We have designed our society in such a way that most possibilities open to the adolescent today are either bookish or frivolous…. What an incredibly dull task for the restless minds and willing hearts of young people.”
This book is required reading for everyone. Not only once but every few years to keep the rigidity of the mind at bay. This helps us renewing ourselves with our expanded capacity to accept new ideas, enhance the capability of seeing things with a new perception.
Decaying and aging of the body and organisation is non-active happening. Self-renewal is mandatory and active acts. The first step is to know the self and our rigid mindset.
This is the reason investing in startups is a mandatary process for aging and family organisations, whether they are political parties or business empires. New mindest and new vigor of the new age entrepreneurs are necessary for the longterm survival of the organisations.
We have seen the fate of many family businesses and political parties dwindling after 2 to 3 generations. Moghul empire did not survive more than 6 generations. Merit and talent are vital assets for any organisations and empires. They can’t service without it.
“Renewal requires opening yourself up to new ways of thinking and feeling.”
This hugely valuable book will help you in a great way to execute the goal of your self-renewal, self-renewal of your business, and organisation. The New You (forever).