The title is a quote from one of Dr. Patrick Allit, Ph.D.’s lectures on the DVD, “Best Practices of a Master Teacher.” He used the term in describing his challenge to have his history students realize that the present should not be taken for granted – that if any one of a myriad of decisions taken in the past “turned out differently,” our current state of affairs might be very different indeed. In a video clip, Professor Allit reminded the students that each of the leaders of the day believed their decisions were right at the time they made them. He challenged the students to put themselves in the mindset of Adolph Hitler and the post WWI German people to understand the context in which those (with perfect 20/20 hindsight) horrible decisions were made.
The “ecosystem” component of our Complexity Space Framework is designed to make the nuances of context explicit – “to help the fish become aware of the water it swims in.” It invites reflection and discussion around seven dimensions of context:
- History – Tradition; significant historical milestones
- Strategy – Our mission. What are we trying to accomplish in the short- and long term?
- Values – What is most important; how we do what we do?
- Culture – “The way we do things around here”
- Identity – The labels we give ourselves and others
- Engagement – How involved or committed are we?
- Surroundings – The larger context in which we operate.
With a more precise understanding of our past and current situation, we gain a better appreciation for the stance; the perspective in which we are currently operating. Our decisions and world-view make sense to us (unless we’re psychotic) given our ecosystem. The opportunity comes in recognizing that others have a different ecosystem; a different past; different stories that color their ideas about what makes sense.
By changing our perspective, “by changing the prescription in our eyeglass lenses,” we can’t help but see the world in a different way. Instead of looking backward to say, “it could have turned out differently,” we can say, “it can turn out differently – in the present and the future.”