12/03/18 | By Tim Ward

by Neil Richardson

Surfing like other complex tasks requires going with the flow and adapting to new situations as they emerge. Letting go and allowing some chaos into your life is essential for growth. In my book co-written with Rick Smyre Preparing For A World That Doesn’t Exist-Yet we explore how communities and organizations can thrive in an era of fantastic…and scary change.


I fell again, hitting the water hard.

What was I doing wrong? I was surfing exactly the way I did yesterday. But the wind had changed.

I was trying to surf yesterday’s waves.

Am I prepared for a world that doesn’t exist-yet? Are we as a society prepared for a world changing as fast as one can read this sentence? Most of us say “yes”, yet many folks resist change and attempt to do things in the same old way they’ve been doing things in the past.

We are living on the edge of a tsunami of change: a new era in human history that will be increasingly fast paced, interconnected, interdependent, and complex. How do we keep our balance in this emerging world?

In an age where so many things regarding the planet seem to hang in the balance, the more of us who become intentional about personal and community transformation the better. We need to learn to do more than one thing at a time and try multiple things when engaging complex issues…the best thing we can do is to fail fast and learn quicker. Some people double down on a failing project because they have only imagined one solution.

The way we did things in the agricultural and industrial ages fit their time in response to seasons for planting and harvesting or factory line predictability. The Internet age we are currently living in is a transitional one. It will give way to a longer epoch bringing production and design closer to consumers and communities. Change is no longer linear; it is not even exponential. It’s going to be technologically fractal: markets, trends, investments, currencies- even the climate veering swiftly along trajectories that will seem frighteningly unpredictable. Yesterday’s answers won’t solve tomorrow’s crises. What will be the market equivalent of a bomb cyclone? We have to learn how to recognize and respond to unfolding complex patterns in real time.

Most of the people I know embrace the notion that we are connected, by working in concert together we help each other succeed. Scratch my back and I’ll get yours- this is nice but it is small minded. A world that is increasingly complex and interdependent requires that we see ever larger non-linear connections. If a dam is built in one state creating a thriving community but reduces the flow in another- drying up towns and farmlands downriver, we have solved one problem and created multiple others.

Chaos is not necessarily a negative thing; it is a sign that something different is percolating, waiting to emerge. For example, just as technology speeds our pace of change, it also offers new paths of convergence and interconnection. Our ability to adapt and co-evolve with the tools we have created will make the crucial difference. We will have to meet this new world differently than we did in the past.

A new wave is already rising under us, I am ready to go.

Neil Richardson is a strategist and a public servant who specializes in smart government advocacy and integral thinking. He has worked on civil society building in Ghana and across the United States including organizing large scale voter observation initiatives, civic engagement and strategic planning processes. He has served as a policy adviser for three Mayors in the District of Columbia. Neil currently serves as Director of Advancement, Partnerships and Continuing Education at the University of the District of Columbia where he is a founding member of the team that launched the District’s first community college. Rick and Neil have been collaborating for more than 15 years as part of Communities of the Future network. Neil is also the founder of www.waltwhitmanmeditation.com that advocates for a unique secular meditation that is based on his original research about Whitman’s practice that led to his transcendent insight.


Preparing for a World that Doesn't Exist - Yet - Framing a Second Enlightenment to Create Communities of the Future 

Neil Richardson and Rick Smyre

Paperback £12.99 || $20.95

e-book £5.99 || $9.99




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