Continuous participatory change

This morning I’m sitting on the tiny, south-facing balcony of our flat with a coffee-filled mug with red letters that say “niet normaal”. Even though the balcony is overwhelmed by vines, I somehow haven’t managed to keep our mint alive. This is the third attempt to complete this update, trying to find a narrative thread through the last 12 months. While the phrase “continuous participatory change” is used as an approach to organisational transformation, I think it a powerful way to approach all of life. For most, change is difficult, uncomfortable and disorienting. More than ever, it’s also the only constant. Over the last year, I have been learning new ways to thrive in these conditions and navigate change.

A habit I adopted last year is to ask myself questions from Changing on the Job, such as:

“What assumptions about the world underpin my or others actions and opinions?”

It has helped me reframe many challenging situations and identify some of my own blind spots. For example, I strongly believe that creating more connections within a network makes it more resilient and that the network effects benefit everyone involved. I don’t make a habit of asking for permission to make these connections from anyone. However, I have come to appreciate that not everyone is comfortable with this and some perceive my actions as an imposition or even a threat. Finding common ground through understanding intent has helped to bridge these types of gaps.

In January, my team was given the remit to organise ourselves. It’s part of a larger effort by Anthemis’ founders to resist growing the company using old organisational models. I won’t sugar coat it, the shift has been tough for many. Some of the many tools we have built habits around are the OS Canvasretrospectives, and integrative decision making. Building a team that learns together has been incredibly gratifying. We are quick to create experiments we want to try and shed processes that don’t serve us. If anyone is interested, happy to share more details about our journey.

Another set of tools I’m exploring to help navigate change are mental models. Few of them are used outside of their domain, and mostly for the purpose of making investment decisions. This spring I learned 113 of the most common models using method of loci and spaced repetition techniques. What does this look like practically? Imagine you pictured a baby with little devil horns overlaid on the steps of the Taj Mahal and immediately thought, “of course, regression to the mean – the 13th numeracy mental model.” It’s amazing how easy it is to recall information that you learn this way. I find myself noticing references to and uses of mental models on a daily basis now that my mind has been primed to spot them. If you want to get a taste, you can try it out here.