Just Doing Our Job

Nora Bateson
5 min readJul 5, 2020

Note: I wrote this piece for Cocoon in November 2019. (http://www.cocoonprojects.com)

The time it takes for change to occur can be quick. The time it takes for the conditions of change to ripen and become ready is a variable. It’s x + 1 minute. You just never know where you are in the timeline of x. Sometimes it’s closer than you think.

Let’s not start at the beginning.

At this point if your organization is at all inclined toward social or ecological responsibility you are already aware of rising levels of cultural and environmental upheaval. I will not use this place to reproduce the digits of destruction of biodiversity, soil degradation, increasing wealth gap, polarizing societies, or rampant political corruption. You know about all of that, and since the speed and direction of change that these numbers take as time goes by is only towards more unthinkable emergencies, I think we can leave it at: This moment is critical.

Right now, in the wealthy parts of the world, there is still some semblance of normalcy. I am speaking about the normalcy of day to day consumerism intertwined with the patterns of domestic life, parenting, athletics, paying taxes, taking holidays and so on. This normalcy is an illusion and it is stolen — but it is a normalcy that offers the fleeting safety within which to reshape the notion of organizational boundaries.

The risk of radical shape-shifting carries the obvious likelihood of becoming obsolete. But not changing shape is also deadly.

There are many more familiar, more gentle, more convincingly possible approaches to what organizations might do to adjust to a changing world, but for now, let’s take this time to work together towards something more courageous.

We are not at the beginning, so we cannot start there anyway. Change has already arrived, it is just unevenly experienced. I am not interested in how to prevent systems crash. There might be a way to postpone it a bit, but most of us here today will be alive to witness the bumps and unravellings of systems change. The complex multiple processes and their tipping points are already well underway. For the sake of this short piece I am going to assume this.

In which case, we are faced with another, perhaps more improvisational opportunity: How to create the alignments that will allow organizations to remain relevant to a world in rapid upheaval?

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Nora Bateson

Filmmaker, writer, educator, lecturer, President of the International Bateson Institute. Books: Small Arcs of Larger Circles 2016, Warm Data *upcoming 2019