Governor Jerry Brown of California spoke at the Vatican on November 4 at a symposium on the environment. He stated that “faith must join technical, scientific and political approaches to limit environmental devastation.” He expanded his thinking by saying “going forward, we’re going to have to find the pathway to awaken the world, to get done what needs to be done,” he said. “We’re not going to get there with just science and technology. There’s no technical fix adequate to the challenge we face.”
“No technical fix adequate to fix the challenge we face”; now there is a invitation to think differently. Certainly, there are areas where technical fixes will solve challenges. Yet for climate change, Brown challenges us to take a different path than “technical fixes”. He invites us to look at it through the adaptive challenge lens. He encourages us to take a path where we tap into the best thinking from the worlds of faith, politics, science, and technology.
His persuasive and well informed speech, is also an invitation to think differently about other community, organizational and regional challenges.
Do any of these sound familiar? Affordable housing. Homelessness and Hunger. Affordable Education. Open space preservation. Safety in our communities and workplaces. Access to clean drinking water. Others? All of these are adaptive challenges that all too often we try to solve with technical fixes and are often surprised when they do not work. Imagine if the faith, science, political and technical worlds united around any one of these topics. What might be different?
Ron Heifetz, writes about adaptive challenges. He provides scholarly research along with strategies for navigating these complex challenges. In his book the Practice of Adaptive Leadership, Heifetz gives us tools for navigating adaptive challenges. His work is in alignment with Brown’s thinking on “awakening the world” to approach things differently.
What complex challenges are you facing in your community? organization? When people talk about the challenge do they narrow in on quick and easy solutions with a small group of people? Or do they step back and hold inclusive conversations that assess the values and beliefs of many perspectives and voices? I often use this handout to help groups think beyond technical fixes. The tools helps us to see that adaptive challenges take time and often result in new pathways with sustainable solutions.
Take a look around you. What adaptive challenge are you facing? How can you leverage the thinking of Brown and Heifetz to take a “new pathway and awaken your world”?