2023 – Why we can look to the future with optimism
2022 is over. Much has been written about the underestimated economic recovery after Corona, the Russian war of aggression, Europe’s energy crisis, inflation. And on the surprising resilience of the West and its democratic systems. Even if the last word is far from spoken, Xi Jinping, Erdogan, Khomeini and above all Putin have ventured too far ahead and underestimated the West.
To be more precise, in our networked global society, it is no longer about the West at all, but about what it has produced: Putin and Co. have not taken the potential and resilience of decentralised, self-organised complex systems based on freedom and autonomy of the individual seriously enough.
We remember the 40 km convoy of Russian military equipment moving towards Kiev. And of China’s highly praised zero-covid strategy, which not long ago stood for the superiority of the Chinese state-capitalist system. Putin’s huge hierarchical military machinery was at that point powerless against mission-driven, complex-decentrally organised Ukrainian units in a senseless war. And in China, no matter how perfect, authoritarian isolation and isolation have not been able to prevent social uprisings and have led to an immune deficiency of people, which has all the more caused huge waves of disease to break out. – The nature of complex social systems has struck back.
Modern organisations and systems …
… are one of the most important success factors for all forms of collaboration at the interfaces of our merging world.
An organisation – be it a company, an NGO or a political institution – can fulfil its purpose1) exactly when
- it has (to a certain extent) autonomous business units on site
- common values are lived that all stakeholders are aware of
- someone permanently assumes the function of looking outwards and forwards into the future and reacts to changes in the environment
- and, of course, if someone continuously coordinates and optimises all activities.
It is these four basic conditions that the Ukrainian army fulfils, but not the Russian army, which has made all the difference so far, despite material superiority.
Democratic market economy systems …
… are fundamentally based on such functioning organisations. Companies and organisations that do not meet the above conditions will sooner or later cease to exist.
Most decisions are made in many small decentralised units, there is no single centre of power (even if many conspiracy theories suggest otherwise these days).
With our democratic market-based system and its organisations, we got through the pandemic reasonably well. Vaccines were found quickly (even if they are not perfect) in an unprecedented global collaboration of many decentralised institutions. There was no need for a single powerful ruler. And decision-making on state restrictions on citizens was often messy. But all in all, the measures worked and were – compared to autocratic systems – socially acceptable.
In China, on the other hand, decisions on pandemic policy were made by the party and its leader. Authoritarian and with little opportunity for trial and error and correction. This central decision-making and control system had no chance against the virus that came from nature.
Actually, we should be proud of the resilience of our democratic market-based system and its organisations. And we should be aware that it is modern organisations that allow us to meet the challenges of a world that is growing together.
1) Theoretical foundations for functioning or viable organisations can be found in Peter Drucker, Fredmund Malik and Stafford Beer. The four conditions listed are a highly simplified summary of the six systemic functions of viable systems presented by Stafford Beer.