Did something unexpected ever happen in your life?

Did something unexpected ever happen in your life?

Did something unexpected ever happen in your life? And at work? I bet it did. Didn’t John Lennon say that “life is what happens while you are making other plans”?

I’ve made countless plans, but many impactful things and the biggest changes happened “organically”. They emerged and I could choose to go with the opportunity that presented itself, or not. Because I’m curious, I said yes to a couple of opportunities. I couldn’t have foreseen them or planned what happened next, and looking back, it seems like magic.

Working at the restructuring project of a Dutch government ministry my job ceased to exist after their reorganization was done. I was awarded another position in a different department that was the opposite of the entrepreneurial, change-prone job at the restructuring project.

I felt limited by a phonebook of procedures and stuck with lifetime employment and golden handcuffs because they paid me more than the job justified – a token of appreciation. Even if I decided to sleep on the job, I couldn’t get fired. I know, this sounds absurd for anyone working anywhere nowadays – but this was a Dutch government agency in the 1990s.

I felt stuck and stale. Like water that is no longer flowing. But I was raised on scarcity thinking and prudence. I had had the experience of job-search just after the recession in the late 1980’s and I knew what a lack of money felt like. I was afraid to resign. Yet, I imagined lying on my death bed with regrets. If only I had…

Change comes from saying yes

Around the same time, the Internet emerged in the Netherlands. Even though most people at that time didn’t know and didn’t care about its possibilities – they literally couldn’t see what a website could do for their business or how email would change their communication – the Internet was the unforeseen opportunity that allowed my husband and me to both quit our jobs.

We started our own business in website design and online communication, even though we were dead scared to run out of money. This changed our life beyond imagination, in every way. It was nothing like I could have planned in advance – and you wouldn’t be reading this text if this opportunity had not happened.

There were more emergent happenstances along my journey. How is that for you? Coincidental connections may have led to your first job, or to the assignment that changed the course of your career. An unexpected encounter may have presented your loved one to you, a reorganization turned out to be a blessing in disguise, or an illness may have revealed an important silver lining and your life took a new turn after your recovery.

Coincidental connections may lead you to unexpected changes Click To Tweet

One kind face in a crowd maybe made you change your mood and your mind. Maybe the brutal treatment of your bullied child in school urged you to start meditating and become a compassion coach. Because you and your community started to buy local – the once-withering grocery store in your neighborhood is now thriving. Because you refused to go along with the unethical outsourcing of that project, your boss is taking you more seriously and initiates meaningful conversations instead of just telling you what to do.
What are your examples? Can you share them in the comments below? I look forward to reading the unexpected events that changed the course of your plans…

Complex systems

Science has revealed the existence of complex, non-linear systems where small initial changes can lead to hugely different outcomes. There are so many variables and relationships between those variables that you cannot predict the outcome of any new stimulus to the system with certainty. How will those variables react through their myriad of connections? That is a complex system.

The world is a complex system. That is more visible than before because technological developments connect many actors and factors, often in real time.

Labor prices in East-Asia influence the American job market because they entice companies to outsource manufacturing. Capital streams around the globe toward the highest return on investment and your pension reserve is damaged because your pension fund was hit by the 2008 credit crunch.

There are unexpected connections between the actors of the global system Click To Tweet

Your new Facebook friends live on another continent and you hear new ideas about tolerance and compassion since you joined some online special interest groups. Your coworker is an Asian freelancer with a 9-hour time zone gap whose criteria of democracy are a challenge but whom you feel closer to than to your old school friends.

There are unexpected connections between the actors in this global system – new influences – unexpected actions that take place and that have ripple effects somewhere else.

Complex systems tend to develop emergent features all by themselves and things start happening – one thing organically leading to another that you couldn’t have planned or predicted in advance.
Organizations are complex systems as well, even though they disguise as linear machines by presenting themselves as their organization chart with boxes and straight lines of planning, command, and control. In reality, the people in an organization make up an organic, changing and learning network with the features of a complex system.

This is book post #9 – level: ME

Here’s the earlier post
Here’s the next post.

If you’re confused – please start with post #1 or check the Positive Power overview and read the Positive Agent Manifesto.

Leaders, employees, consultants, citizens – everyone can make a positive difference from any position, without needing permission or resources from others. This blog will help you see positive possibilities and (re)claim your positive agency. Unstuck yourself and engage others via your interaction and actions. Transform into a positive organization where people and performance thrive.

I’m blogging my next book: “Positive Power at Work – How to make a positive difference from any position.” Your feedback is appreciated!

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  1. Anonymous

    This happens all the time in business when some departments change something without consulting or informing of the change. No systemic or lateral thinking done.

    What happens to others when I do this?

    As for unforseen issues, these can be mitigated by risk assessing and preventive action, however when they do happen and they did a lot in the industry I worked in we had a team in place within hours made up of professionals trouble shooters from all spectrums required to find and implement solutions.

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