Home Organizational Psychology Leadership Leading into the Future IX: Fragmented and Inconsistent Images

Leading into the Future IX: Fragmented and Inconsistent Images

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The Truth About Truth: Is It All Still True?

Many of these observations and conclusions were reached during the 1990s. Are they still true? Is there still a complex and often contradictory interweaving of diverse traditions and cultures. Does technology disrupt, distort or (perhaps) at times enhance our sense of truth and reality?  I would suggest that this postmodern condition still exists and that it is actually intensified – leading to something that is widely described as VUCA (volatility, unpredictability, complexity and ambiguity). In several essays, I have recently added the characteristics of both turbulence and inconsistency to VUCA (Bergquist, 1919; Bergquist, 2020). This VUCA-Plus environment leaves us challenged and often uncertain regarding how we should lead. Furthermore, we are left stranded with neither a clear sense of what we might learn from the past and how we might envision the future. Left stranded, we also tend to lose our moral compass. We rely on convenient half-truths and are guided by a certain level of dishonesty—what Dan Ariely (2012), the noted behavioral economist, identifies as the Simple Model of Rational Crime (SMORC). What happens when VUCA and VUCA-Plus meet SMORC. The resulting perfect storm is true postmodernism!

Lets’ pause briefly to ponder this statement about being stranded in a postmodern storm. There is no past history nor much of a future in postmodernism. Little attention is devoted in postmodernism to the lessons that might be learned from the past—from history. The postmodern era is defined primarily by what it isn’t and by what it used to be but can’t again be in the future. According to Gitlin, we are now experiencing our world as an aftermath. In the United State, we labeled our late 20th Century world as a post-Viet Nam, post-New Left, post-Hippie, post-Watergate, post-Marxist and post-Cold War era. We are now post-Twentieth Century and even post-Millennium. We are also about to start living in a post-virus and post-civility era.

Postmodernists are inclined to always see the current world through a rear-view mirror, while at the same time declaring this past world to be irrelevant to our present world. They offer a VUCA-Plus world that is filled with contradictions. We simultaneously revere and cherish the past while tearing it down. The struggle in the United States about our monuments speaks to this ambivalence and contradiction.  Jameson (1991) believes that it goes even deeper. We live in a new world of historicism. This is not based on a careful analysis of past historical events and careful planning for future events based on this analysis. Rather, historicism involves a replication of the past in the nostalgic touches on buildings and furniture, in the proliferation of museums, and in the recreation of past settings (Disneyland and other theme parks).

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