top of page
  • Writer's pictureSandy Burgham

Transformation, observation & the “Unprecedented x” equation

It is warming to have an alumni still wanting to engage in a conversation around raising the consciousness of leaders. As we head into what we hope to be the last week at Level 4, our intention is to keep you in a place of reflection around systemic transformation because indeed that is the “why” behind our focus on consciousness-raising.

While it is too early to call whether NZ’s bold focus on COVID 19 elimination can be considered a success, we can now reflect on the extraordinary collaboration and cooperation that is possible in a community. Could we have predicted that? – probably not, but now that it has occurred, it has set a benchmark for what is possible in a crisis in the presence of extraordinary leadership.   

In our last three lockdown letters, we have journeyed through the levels of The Leadership Circle as it relates to Kegan’s Stages of Adult Development model. According to Kegan, becoming a consciously mature adult isn’t about learning new things (adding things to the ‘container’ of the mind), it’s about transformation – changing the actual form of our ‘container’,  its complexity and its ability to take perspective on ourselves, others and the world.

Right now, because we are still in the midst of “it”, this is not the best time to plan with knowledge but simply to sit in the not-knowing and notice with curiosity.

So what are you noticing?

Firstly, in your immediate communities: perhaps you are noticing that some people are rather enjoying this enforced pause. Beyond the fear of what happens next and the bills piling up, you might be detecting a bit of relief as people have time to read more books. Perhaps you detect some newfound satisfaction as people start returning to simple pleasures like baking bread or completing some projects around the house. Perhaps, paradoxically, there is actually a greater sense of love and connection as people more deliberately connect with friends and family online.

But it is also time to notice what is going on in the macro world.

It is a natural human longing when faced with a crisis such as this to hope that maybe, just maybe, there might be something “good” that emerges out of the disruption, the fear and the uncertainty.

It seems that if “something” could materialise – “something” that might have a profound effect on humanity for the better – then we could find a way to rationalise our experience; that maybe then it might all have been worth going through. 

This belief of the profound evolving from crisis, is not as naïve as it may seem. A number of scientists believe that extraordinary creativity has been present right from the birth of the cosmos 13 or so billion years ago and that there is a fundamental ordering principle that might account for this surprisingly non-random character and creative play of our universe.

One of the insights to come out of the complexity sciences is the idea that novelty is produced at the edge of chaos – which means novelty doesn’t appear in systems that have too much order and stability.

As Carter Phipps, author of Evolutionaries comments:

“It takes chaos, instability and greater degrees of freedom to produce the conditions for higher forms of order and novelty to occur. A system generally has to be thrown into chaos for new and higher levels of self-organisation to emerge.”

Management systems theorist Peter Senge believes that leadership is about creating new realities. The “something” that so many of us are quietly longing for may lie at the intersection of chaos and the creative impulse to evolve a new world order that strives to better care for each other, our planet and our collective future.

Hence we are thrilled to showcase one of our Play CoLab alumni, designer Helen Milner, who this week created a simple project called UnprecedentedX. She had noticed this new phrase du jour — “Unprecedented Times” and wondered what would happen if people made it an equation – what might it reveal and what might it lead to? 

So here’s the equation:

The idea is to simply fill in the blanks with whatever pops into your head. Record what you have written in your journal – and reflect: what is this saying about you, and what might it say about the world? Then, importantly, how might you activate or perhaps embody your equation? What might that look like? This is less about a sweeping declaration, but about a small step in your own bubble that shifts a habit of being.

If you want to play more collaboratively click here and leave a comment on Helen’s LinkedIn post. (We’ll also be sharing this on Play CoLab socials soon). She has created an Instagram account for this, and will tag those people who are up for playing – do follow @unprecedented_x_.

Finally, we are fully aware that there are people suffering and not all in NZ are in a privileged position to consider what we are calling you to notice. But we are still in the midst of this particular crisis and one where we are also being asked to follow the leadership of our elected government. So aside from your own leadership responsibilities at home or at work, we propose that right now it is not your time to rush to big solutions for the world but simply to notice whilst sitting quietly in the space of possibility.

“Be still, and the world is bound to turn herself inside out to entertain you. Everywhere you look, joyful noise is clanging to drown out quiet desperation”. – Barbara Kingsolver

Thanks for everyone’s contribution to the work we do together.

We are here if you need us.

Best Sandy, Jenny and all at Play CoLab

4 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page