The seduction of immediacy

The unintended consequences of an 'on-demand' world

Lately I’ve been thinking about patience – yes that’s right – patience.  So very 20th century of me I know but somehow I think the value of patience has been lost.  Patience used to be considered a virtue, but in this on-demand world we’ve forgotten how to wait.  Immediacy has seduced us into believing that we can have, or do, anything we want, right now.  Well in my line of work, that just doesn’t work.
I live in the world of people changing their behaviour, of unearthing deeply held patterns and programming, systemically building new awareness and the behaviours that go with it.  I live in the world of transforming the people practices of organisations, where an idea might be instantaneous but the real power comes with disciplined execution over time.  I live in the world of shaping culture in large complex organisations where the nuances can never all be known or specified, yet the fruits of conscious (and unconscious) strategies are ultimately revealed down the track.  And in saying this, I’m talking about years down the track, a pretty unpalatable message for time-poor managers and executives who are measured relentlessly by shareholders and investors, every quarter.

Cultivating patience in an ‘on-demand’ world

This has led me to start to explore the Slow movement and Carl Honore’s book In Praise of Slow.  The premise of the philosophy is not that every single thing you do has to be slow, rather it’s about being more conscious and connected with the way you are engaging in the world on a moment by moment basis.  This enables us to make better choices about when to move fast and when to move more slowly.  In writing about Honore’s book The Economist magazine said: “Forget frantic acceleration. Mastering the clock of business is about choosing when to be fast and when to be slow.”
And this makes sense to me for so many reasons:
  • Most of the intractable challenges we face at work are wicked problems, which lend themselves to a unique combination of curiosity, deep thought and rapid experimentation.  Sometimes just the passage of time allows an unraveling or a brief moment of insight that might not have been apparent earlier
  • The return of craftsmanship in our work.  There is an increasing consumer desire globally for highly personalised, crafted products (and services).  Craftsmanship takes time.  As a practitioner who prides herself on her craftsmanship this sits close to home
  • The need for more compassion in our world.  Compassion for others and compassion for ourselves.  Compassion rarely occurs in a crowded mind, it requires mental space.  In a workplace setting it means compassion for a colleague or a leader who is trying to make some changes in their approach, stumbling, learning and growing through this process
  • Mindfulness and the increasing role it is playing in modern western life, and contemporary workplaces.  I’m pleased to say that even at my daughters’ primary school, mindfulness is being taught as a core part of the curriculum
  • The pressing global need to find solutions which are viable over the long term, not just an ill-conceived ‘quick fix’.
All of this, against a backdrop of increasing pace, global 24/7 working and markets which are being disrupted by new entrants, every hour.

Which returns me to the concept of patience.  In my opinion, cultivating patience helps us to develop wisdom, instils gratitude for what we have achieved and develops much needed self-regulation while we get there.  A workplace filled with people displaying these qualities would be a great place to be.  A business, able to harness these talents, consciously choosing which issues to accelerate and which to slow down, is definitely going to make better decisions in an environment of complexity.
About Fiona Stewart
Fiona Stewart is the Managing Director and Co-Founder of LTA People, a specialist Organisation Development consultancy based in Melbourne, Australia.  Fiona defines the critical people levers that drive strategy execution, and translates these into actionable people and culture frameworks, plans and programs that are woven into the fabric of the organisation.
LTA People