Leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation. Simon Sinek
I imagine the outlines of what I think would be a useful approach to the dilemma that our disability community faces are fairly obvious. But it is easy to say that we need to create something new when our fears and habits are telling us constantly that we need to use the same old tired practices to stop this new threat.
If we are to create a genuinely new response, we will have to begin it locally, and the response will have to be conditioned by what we find locally, not by some larger political vision. If we don’t create what we need locally, using values that represent the best we can build, we will continue to thrash around “solving” for the short term only to have it bite us on the ass down the line.
Additionally, we don’t have the option of simply ignoring the current system, for all its problems. Like the freeway system, we have to keep using it until we actually have a viable replacement operating. We have to fade our dependence on the existing system through building our vision.
So our response to the question of what we do next does not have an answer that is either universal or easily predicted. But we can point to overarching ways of thinking about what we do, that can provide guidance as we wrestle with making our new path.
In the same way that the original insurgency was a surprise, so too must the counterstroke be unexpected.
The counterstroke must be many places at once and in many forms since one of its strengths is that the insurgent is overcommitted to their plan of success and has lost flexibility, resources, and creativity as a result.
Each part of the counterstroke must be able to adjust its actions on the basis of what it finds in reality and not according to some uber-plan, like the one of the insurgent. It is the growing and unavoidable commitment of the insurgent to their preconceived plan and its evolving flaws and weaknesses that increase the possibility of the success of the counterstroke.
After a long resisted insurgency effort, the insurgent loses redundancy, becoming increasingly brittle and subject to catastrophic failure in places if hit hard enough.
The pressure of the counterstroke must be continued until all parts of the insurgent plan assumptions have been countered.
Brittle systems experience rapid performance collapses, or failures, when events challenge boundaries- David D. Woods
“Even if the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.” –Yogi Berra
No plan survives contact with a disaster-in-the-making.- General Law
“Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth”. -Mike Tyson
The first response of a community to an insurgency is to resist. This resistance has the effect of blunting the insurgency. In this context, blunting means stuff like the following:
Forcing the insurgent to alter their plan in small ways.
Making them expend resources and energy correcting their mistakes.
Wearing out the people who actually conduct the insurgency.
Forcing them to reveal their plans prematurely.
Forcing large-scale changes in plans that no longer are consistent with available resources or skills.
Forcing them to use equipment and approaches that are generally maladaptive.
Successful resistance has the same effect as all chronic stress. As the stress continues, it provokes a chronic maladaptive response pattern from the insurgent. The longer the stress continues, the more maladaptive the response.
But this doesn’t mean much if blunting is all that happens. It is an illusion that resistance can actually restore what was before if the original insurgency was significant.
A strategy is not an operational plan, like the one you might put together for a grant using a logic model. Instead, a strategy is a way to deal with two unavoidable realities:
The inherent unpredictability of the future
The universal scarcity of resources for what we wish to do
The further we attempt to see into the future, the more uncertainty we face, and the more our decisions to commit resources will be wrong. We try in various ways to work around this reality.
One way is to reduce the scope of the changes we try to make, using such tools as logic models.
When we create an outcome that is easy to measure, we are contracting the possibilities of change, and undermining our ability to create change that is truly strategic, that won’t be washed out by changes and trends in the larger system.
Another way is to describe in some detail the changes we want to seek over the short term while using delusional thinking to describe the ones we hope for further into the future.
A third way is to ignore some or all the larger forces we already know are out there, but which we can’t quantify or parse effectively, or that we believe we can’t change.
And there are many more non-strategic assumptions we make to help us get through our day-to-day life.