Diploma in Strategy and Innovation
The end of the year invites us to pause and reflect. To take stock of the joys and challenges of the past year and to prepare for the year ahead. As the results of our final exam were just released, I have been thinking about my time in Oxford, another chapter coming to an end and new possibilities that lie ahead. I have also been thinking about what I learnt about innovation, change, transitions and new beginnings. And how those lessons can be applied in a world which seems not so much to be holding together as splitting apart.
As the UK is preparing to leave the European Union, Parliamentarians will vote this week to accept or reject the Brexit deal. Regardless of the outcome we are in a need of some serious innovation, renewal and rebuilding of so badly fractured relationships. We are in a period of interregnum, great uncertainty and unpredictable change.
William Bridges in “Managing Transitions” (2003) highlights three stages of transition: letting go of the old situation/old identity; going through neutral zone between old and new reality and entering the new beginning and building upon the new orientation/identity that emerged in the neutral zone.
But how can we manage the continuous tension between the old and the new, between the need for stillness and change, between routine activities and crafting big new ideas. How can we hold together so many divergent forces? How can we create a neutral zone, while everything around us is constantly moving forward and changing faster that we can cope with?
During our debate at the Divinity School we argued about the importance of mundane activities versus big ideas. Actually, they are not mutually exclusive – each makes the other possible. The answer is in finding the right balance, an equilibrium and setting boundaries to each, so neither takes off in its own direction to the detriment of the other. Endless trade-offs between exploit and explore.
Holding a central position and managing those complexities and contradictions is not easy nor safe. There is no space for complacency, mediocrity nor sluggishness. It requires passion, a strong sense of purpose, commitment and courage. Grit and grace – qualities so needed as the UK transitions in/out of the EU and explores its new identity.
Transformation, renewal and growth happen in that very place where the contradictions meet and are held together. We all need those sheltered, neutral zones of disorientation, disintegration and discovery where we can find the balance between action and reflection.
My year in Oxford helped me to enter a neutral zone – a space, which allowed me to be still and to move forward at the same time, to connect with my fellow innovators and transition agents and to prepare for another exciting year ahead. And here is to an amazing 2019 – year of the graduation of the best #DipSI cohort ever!
Diploma in Strategy and Innovation 2018
CEO, Centre for Democracy and Peace Building and TEDxStormont curator