Fast Company Magazine’s 2012 two-part series on Generation Flux was their best – intoxicating and evil at the same time – in the last five years. Robert Safian, an author and the magazine’s editor, challenged every conventional thought left in your brain about how to be a successful and survival in the present state of business and being – chaos.
And no, you will not get a five-step plan. That’s the point. It’s chaos.
Your Primer on Generation Flux:
- Chaos is where we live and work today. Renamed the “Age of Flux,” this is the defining feature of modern business. If you are not dizzy from career choices, leadership challenges, innovation and the sheer velocity of change then you must be backpacking in Mongolia. (Actually, making that choice could put you way ahead of the success curve. More on this later.)
- Generation Flux is described as an attitude, not a demographic that embraces paradox and diversity, sees opportunity in today’s chaos and rejects nostalgia and fear of change. But if that attitude is the irreverent and self-serving one exhibited in the featured successful leaders whose zigzag careers suddenly fused and bloomed , we might all be concerned. One reader called it the I-don’t-give-a- f*** attitude.
Who will thrive best in this Age of Flux? GenFluxers, of course. While there is no age limit and no single model to emulate, a successful GenFlux Leader covets these characteristics:
- Adaptability and nimbleness.
- Open to learning from anywhere.
- Lives inside a blender of failure, success, failure, success. (Got it? You always want the blender on.)
- Decisiveness tempered with knowledge that business life changes in 30-day increments. (Others argue it’s 2-hour change ups)
- Nukes nostalgia and embraces go-go-go into the future. (The past doesn’t work doofus, don’t go there.)
- Enjoys continuous recalibration of careers.
- Loves instability and I mean LOVES it.
Should you strive to join the cult-like GenFlux? Maybe. Good ideas are presented, some of the characteristics are admirable, business environments ARE moving faster than ever and the landscape for navigating success IS ever changing. Still, hold on a minute for two reasons:
Number One. The idea of an ever-changing world ISN’T NEW and some of us have successfully thrived through chaos thanks to great thought leaders (one of whom Safian quotes more than once) of our time.” The bandwagon of GenFlux has wheels in the past so the whole truth is important. No need to think of the past a reprehensible.
Living in chaos, learning from Chaos Theory – it’s all been around:
- By the mid 1970s, the movement toward chaos as a science was underway, and in 1977, the first conference on chaos theory was held in Italy.
- “Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution” by Tom Peters published in 1987 after a significant and sustained economic disarray and the brutal recession of the early ‘80s – marked by unemployment in excel of 10 percent, interest rates in excess of 20 percent and inflation stuck in the mid-teens – rocked the world.
- Margaret Wheatley’s 1992 bestselling book, “Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World” launched a revolution by demonstrating that ideas drawn from quantum physics, chaos theory and molecular biology could improve organization performance.
Number Two. Until the last few paragraphs of the second article, a reader yearning for success may start to consider not taking his ADHD medication to fit in the frenzy. Turns out that future success in the Age of Flux is about adapting a life-and-work style. To really thrive, you have to “get away from your work.”
Does that mean that to be a successful Generation Flux leader you create time “where you do not do WORK?” Marshall time AWAY from the job for more success ON the job?” Revolutionary.
“Leaders need to create times for reflection and ask their staffs to do it individually” argues the mature, well respected Wheatley. How did that get left off the list of characteristics and end up not being brought up until the last three paragraphs of the last article of the series? You can see it’s gotten under my skin – my somewhat wrinkled skin.
Ciscos’s CTO, Padmasree Warrior, agrees that this kind of new leaders will need to make time to clear their brains. Unfortunately his lame example of how he devotes at least four hours each weekend to something not analytical – “I paint, I write haiku” – is not what Margaret Wheatley has in mind when she talks about getting away from your work. She’d not think .08 per cent of Warrior’s weekend adequate for renewal.
Her organization, The Berkana Institute, has shut down for the entire Winter:
“We have decided to “bed down” Berkana for a period of stillness and rest, Winter in the cycle of life. During this quiet season, we’re gathering our energy, preserving our valuable capacities, and listening in for Spring.”
Wheatley also states when it comes to Generation Flux “it may not be healthy to expect everyone to adopt their model.”
So you might be able to thrive after all and not be a part of Generation Flux. Your choice. As for walking around in Mongolia? GenFlux or not – planned time away from work- it’s the kernel of truth for sustained high performance and long term career success.