Savoring the slow

Perhaps its my stage of life…or maybe nothing more than having learned to embrace my curiosity and allow it to breathe. I find myself reexamining thought patterns and unchallenged assumptions, curious to observe whether I can see beyond the barriers of my knowing.

So it is with speed. 

The presumption that speed matters most may be trapping us in a vicious cycle. If you’re trying to provide leadership of any kind—to the future “you” that is trying to emerge, to another person, to a team, a company or organization, or to a community of any size—you’re being bombarded with both subtle and explicit directives to “get moving.”

  • “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” Archimedes
  • “Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.” Thoreau
  • “The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades.” John P. Kotter

With this thinking so deeply ingrained in us, it’s predictable that our response is to do what’s always worked for us (or, we convince ourselves, do whatever is the best practice that we can identify and emulate). Otto Scharmer calls this “downloading the past”—defaulting to our known, familiar, tried-and-true ways of seeing and doing. 

Could it be that our predisposition toward speed of action may be getting in the way of learning how to adapt better and act bigger for the long haul? 

If so, we could find value in unlearning (or, at least, loosening our hold on) this default mindset—especially if our goal is to create more collective coherence, unified purpose, and lasting impact for good. 

The drawing below suggests Scharmer’s alternative path to the straight-line approach to which most of us are accustomed. By traversing the U in getting from A to B, we are required to open ourselves in many new dimensions of our awareness. We open our minds, hearts, and our will/resolve as we work to let go of many habits of thinking and doing. We are traveling a path toward clarity, insight, and breakthrough thinking—to a deeper awareness of our personal leadership.

The Typical approach linear.png

What if our journey down the left leg of the U was fueled by a choice to focus on the root causes of success, the life-giving forces, the signature strengths? From that awareness, we can more clearly recognize everything that’s already present and available to explore and harness in pursuit of our greatest possibilities. Traveling the right leg of the U Scharmer refers to as “letting come”—an odd expression, perhaps, in our common parlance, but powerful in the suggestion of the comparative ease with which leading from this posture becomes. Imagine what could be possible if our strengths and root causes of success could be amplified, expanded, scaled? Even better, imagine exploring those possibilities in community—at the scale of the whole?

Perhaps it is counter-intuitive to slow down in order to speed up. Sure seems to me that there’s so much more to be gained by “slowing down” to let go of the distracting many so you can focus on amplifying the robust few. 

Time to savor the slow. Will you join me?