On Sunday night, 15 March 2020, the South African State President appeared on our TV screens to tell us that the country was at war.
At war not with another human army enemy, but rather at war against the outbreak of the coronavirus in South Africa.
Because of it - the state had suddenly mobilised itself into a government with plans. The president appointed himself the commander in chief of the effort and a series of televised broadcasts, featuring banks of serious looking cabinet ministers with lanyards and clipboards was scheduled, and has since manifested as promised.
War looks great in South Africa. All of a sudden politicians are being transparent and have action plans; command centres are set up and funding is magically being made available.
Understandably the situation is serious. The reality of the present moment is not one to take lightly. The truth of the present time is worrying - and the future that we are all trying to work towards looks in serious jeopardy.
The irony is that South Africa's 'present reality' didn't exactly look any rosier before the outbreak of the virus, but there is something about infection rates rising exponentially across multiple global regions being broadcast hourly on satellite news channels that really gets the fire light under the arses of political leaders.
In the work that I do facilitating strategic thinking and visions of preferred organisational futures, you can often get lured into spending a lot of time creativity imagining 'a time yet to come.' This process is exciting, it's filled with optimism and inspirational images of 'what could be'.
But the energy required to propel an organisation from the reality of where they are today - towards the image of where they want / need to be in the future ...is immense.
To generate the right amount of energy to make this transition possible, you need to build up considerable creative tension. To do that, there are two clear steps you need to take.
[STEP 1] The pain and collective dissatisfaction of the present needs to be focused on intently; and [STEP 2] the pleasure and bliss on the future needs to envisioned and fantasised about. The gap between the two is then the urgency you can then tap into to energise the profound change.
All too often however we can neglect to tell the honest truth of what's really happening in the present and miss the boat on [Step 1].
Leaders can be ashamed of the opportunities that they may have missed. They can fool themselves into believing that because 'this year's numbers are better than last year's numbers - the company is doing okay'; so there's nothing to really worry about. They can deceive themselves, and massage their egos at the same time and sadly miss a perfectly good opportunity to 'declare a state of emergency' on the present.
The vital tension needed to unlock a future vision must be created in these two key ways. An intense dissatisfaction with the present and a strong desire for the future; fail to focus on both and you either create a miserable team that just want to resign immediately, or you've entertained them with a nice fairy tale.
The current health emergency in South Africa is a disaster of epic proportions, but could just be the launching catalyst we need to honestly focus on the shortcomings of our present society, band together as a nation and really start working towards the future we all desire.