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Plan to adapt

Welcome to Love Mondays, a weekly newsletter designed as a 3-minute hit to fire up the other 10,077 minutes of your week.

We plan so we can adapt

How good is life at throwing curveballs!? But still, we make plans as though we are in control. Leadership requires us to hold planning and adaptation in tension. We map the future, begin a journey, and navigate as needed. Plans are useful in getting us started. But changing them when the situation, context, or information changes is crucial to getting us where we want to be. The ultimate plan is to plan for no plan.

What plans do you have for 2022? Personal, professional, or pleasurable?

Write them down.

Consider: one important thing that could come along and disrupt these plans

Practice: how you might give up these plans to realign for a greater purpose

Decide to: value the intent that underpins your plans more than the plan itself

The adaptive cycle

In the army, there is a saying that 'the plan stops the moment the battle starts’. Adaptive cycles (Holling, 1986, 2001) represent the journey from exploitation, when resources are used as opportunities, to conservation, when capital is accumulated. This represents the part of our lives where things are going as planned, we may consolidate a routine, a job, a lifestyle that works for us. We have the feeling that we are growing in connectedness and potential.

Around this time, we become over-connected and increasingly rigid in needing control. The curve will only continue in an upward trend for so long, before the curveball swings around the bend. At this point the trick is to know when to let go, leading to the release of resources. If we can achieve this phase, we can build momentum to swing quickly into a reorganisation period, which represents another loop of high potential. This phase has been linked to what Schumpeter (1942) called “creative destruction” in economics, facilitating a new phase of exploitation. If we can’t adapt, we fall out of the adaptive loop. But if we are successful, we hit upon the concept of resilience—which, in addition to potential and connectedness, is a third dimension of the adaptive cycle.

The Adaptive Cycle (Based on Holling, 1986, 2001)

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May the best-laid plans serve you well, and spontaneous creative disruption serve you better!

Love your Mondays.