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Does the economic crisis create an opening?

The economic crisis is disrupting the big systems we depend on, and we have a long way to go before most of us can be reassured about how things will turn out. The market crisis is rooted in badly warped and out-of-control financial systems, but we are also at a moment of potential transformational change in our recognition of high energy costs, and the importance of addressing environmental issues. For Americans, a series of natural disasters, including Hurricane Ike, only add to the sense we face enormous challenges.

These joined crises represent a re-setting of things on a global scale. What was normal three weeks ago, is changed. Conventional wisdom has been shown up and made wrong. Our assumptions about the world, the market, and so on, have to be re-thought. So let’s get some value out of that. What’s bad in our immediate view can be good for driving new futures thinking.

It is time to take up a serious, but positive question: “now what?” We should restart our thinking and look at:

  • The fundamentals: is our business model or organizational mission sound? Should we change it? How?
  • Our strengths and resiliency facing change: not what have we lost, but what have we got that is valuable and strong as we face the future? Put the focus on strengths and opportunities, not just on weaknesses and threats.
  • What do we want? If things are going to change, how would we like the future to turn out? Let’s assume we can’t have precisely what we wanted to have a few weeks ago. But what can we have, and what do we want?
  • What should we do differently? Since “everything” is changing, let’s be sure to not hang on to old ways and old systems by accident. Let’s revisit things we’ve been doing and change them if they need changing.

Being able to ask and consider these questions is an opportunity to make changes as we move into the next few years and decades. This is a way to take a longer-term view and a positive perspective on what’s happening, instead of a bunker mentality, and a false hope that everything will go back to normal.

As the economic crisis continues, we need to be sure all our energy doesn’t go to worrying, fretting, and taking stop-gap action. We must do what we must do, but it’s powerful and valuable to also give energy to the future. Now is the perfect moment to say “what’s next?” and to give answering that question our best thoughts and ideas.  

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Kristin Alford September 30, 2008, 7:16 pm

    Agreed- this is absolutely a perfect time to rethink the fundamentals. In Australia, a significant report on future action for climate change was pushed to second-tier news after yesterday’s falls on Wall St. I realize these two things are not related, but surely crises in both environmental and economic spheres warrant a more holistic look at solutions for the future.

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