Leading into the Future IV: Order, Chaos and the Three Societies
The liquid state and the edge are places of leadership and innovation (“the leading edge”). They are settings where things get done—yet often in the context of a very challenging and exhausting whitewater environment. Edges have no substance. They come to a point and then disappear. Perhaps this is what the new postmodern edginess is all about—what Milan Kundera calls “the unbearable lightness of being.”
We need to learn how to live and work in this new environment of edges. If this is the case, then perhaps we need to listen to the architects and prophets of postmodernism, for they may provide some valuable clues as to how this world might best be faced. These architects and prophets come in many different forms: deconstructionists, feminists, chaos theorists, structuralists. This book is devoted, in part, to the examination of these postmodernists as they might help inform and revise our assumptions about the nature, purpose and dynamics of those organizations in which we live and work.
The Tale of Three Societies: Redux
I will now turn again to the second topic in this essay—a topic that is setting the stage for our probing of the challenges inherent in the process of leading into the future. This second topic is critical because it has to do with the organizational and societal structures, problems and opportunities that face us right now as leaders. This is the challenge that I first identified twenty-five years ago (Bergquist, 1993):
Three Societies Living Side-By-Side
As I noted in a previous essay, one of these social structures has been present for many centuries. A vast majority of the people now living reside in this type of social structure. This structure goes by many names: “traditional,” “primitive,” “developing,” “third world,” “agrarian” and “neo-feudal.” I have chosen to use the term premodern in identifying this social structure, in large part because the other terms tend to be value-laden or restricted to non-Western countries. Throughout this book we will identify many positive features of premodern societies and certainly do not wish to consider it less “developed” than other social structures. Furthermore, many social structures that exist in the Western World are clearly premodern. They do not just exist in the “third world” nor are they found only in societies that are dependent on agriculture.