#1 Countdown to Social Transformation

Image of the numbers "2014" and "2015" written in the sand

I am known to anyone close to me both personally and professionally as the countdown Guru! For as long as I can remember I have always counted down to an event or special moment. When challenged about this behaviour being simply a way of wishing my life and time away I refute such accusations by reaffirming that in reality I am celebrating life over and over again!

Having just started a new year I spent enjoyable time counting down to my holidays, then Christmas and of course the ‘Mecca’ of all counting events New Year’s Eve. As I counted down to 2015 I spent some time reflecting on 2014 as it had been a very special milestone year for me, full of even more counting down opportunities. It was also a year that I celebrate being most lucky to be alive as a result of tragic car accident in 1987. For now I would like to focus on the concept of COUNTDOWN.

As defined by Google countdown is…

the act of counting numerals in reverse order to zero, especially before the launching of a rocket or missile. Another way of explaining it is…

the period of time leading up to a significant event and the procedures carried out during this time.

I note that to me the important point of difference is counting down rather than up – which supports my theory of being able to celebrate the many experiences rather than the final endpoint. Another possibility (by default) is to slow things down.

Interestingly in 2014 the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) also celebrated its own milestone recognising that forty years earlier in 1974 it launched Australia’s music show ‘COUNTDOWN’. Most recently a documentary about this TV program was produced where it not only captured the iconic mix of international artists pop and rock but the awakening of a country to the world. Similarly this timeline coincides with the political time line of Gough Whitlam who at Countdown’s inception from a political stance was making many waves throughout Australia. In future thoughts about the consequences I plan to link these political changes with the positive disruption that I propose future Australia must consider – in particular the emergence of the Not For profit sector to the For Social Purpose sector = Social Transformation. Staying with the theme of Countdown and away from my personal (healthy) obsession and the music revolution of Australia I would like to focus more on social transformation and share a recent thought from my RSA Fellows in London and an article by Mark C Taylor This article aptly titled ‘Speed Traps’ provides a conceptual link and supports my approach to life being of course the ‘countdown’. Taylor emphasises more the need to be pro-active in slowing it down which I wholeheartedly agree (something worth counting down about!).
The article highlights how…

“the values that have allowed western capitalism to thrive now threaten its future”.

These values include the…

“ideology of competitive individualism, which encourages competition at the expense of cooperation”

In considering such values and ideology around social transformation Stanford recently produced a series about the form of transformation that organisations need to take to survive the brave new world of social business. They explain this as a ‘field centric approach’ more than an ‘organisation centric approach’. This means looking to scale from impact rather than looking to scale from an organisation perspective.

In considering warnings of organisation centric approaches and Taylor’s ‘Speed Alert’ I agree that…

“We have been conned into the addiction to speed by a financial system that creates endless desire where there is no need”

Taylor argues that paradoxically speed must be arrested quickly. I am left to ponder whether the ability to countdown could be one way to navigate such a paradoxical line and in Taylor’s concluding words he states that…

“Complex systems are not infinitely adaptive; when they collapse, it happens suddenly and usually unexpectedly.”

I propose the idea of a countdown provides a moment of reflection before the next adaptive state appears. It has provided me with a life-time of successes and failures that together have enabled opportunities to simply pause.

It is not possible to be in business today using yesterday’s business approaches. I realise now that my method of counting down has not only been one of celebrating but of slowing things down!


“It is now necessary either to slow down or face systemic collapse” Looking forward to 2015!!


Bradach, J, Grindle A (2014) Emerging Pathways to transformative scale SSIR 1 Spring

Taylor, M.C (2014) Speed Traps. RSA 21st Century Enlightenment Issue 3 2014

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