Friday, January 23, 2009

Summits and Base camps

Since the mid 90’s most cities and organisations have grown exponentially. Year in and year out last years summit of success became next years base camp for future conquest. As time went on we lost sight of the idea that there was anything in the world but the next peak. Sure from time to time we heard that someone had experienced a trough - a retreat from last years base camp - and we either pitied or punished those thus affected. However for the most part standing still, or going backwards, never entered our collective consciousness. What a rude awakening we have had.

Now we can clearly see that the drive for growth or ‘summit mania’ pushed many into a world of reckless, amoral and sometimes immoral folly. Why did we think the model of this summit being next years base camp could last when any kind of future extrapolation at a collective level clearly pushes us into impossible mathematical and physical equations? Thus its all the more surprising that we are still having conversations about how fast we can get back to a world where summit mania rules.

What if the rules for success need to change? What if our future will be forever one of summits and troughs that on balance leave us - at least in the material sense - standing still? Would we be any the less happy? What if this is the new normal? How would we reinvent our organisations and cities to cope with such a world?

Above all what if we discover that in a world of peaks and troughs, the troughs are the well spring of the innovations we so desperately need to ensure our crowded humanity can coexist with the planet it lives on? As we suffer through the transitions of the next little while would such a future really be so bad? After all where is there to go after Everest?