A few highly trained and perceptive economists did predict the financial crisis of 2008, drawing attention wherever they could to the rapidly expanding debt bubble that they could see was unsustainable (Rajan, Schiff, Baker, Pettifor, Roubini, Keen….)
There have been ‘simple’ crashes and longer, deeper ‘bear crashes’ – perhaps we are in one now – but despite studying the patterns and cycles, economists still have little clear eyed predictive confidence.
Students of the psycho-social forces that contributed to the 2008/9 run-away-train-of-greed crash draw our attention to a non-economic component of this ‘predicting trouble’ business.
It is … human memory.
(The previous generation had moved on as 2008 came to the boil)
Regulation and legislation swinging from tough to weak is clearly crucial.
But human recollection of previous trouble, of the full horrible impact of risk-taking and over-heating, acts as an amazingly powerful brake on greed, excitement, and flying too near to the sun.
And this is lived out too inside organisations.
A new ambitious change programme! Chop-chop!
Remembering is out of fashion.
‘Didn’t we try that once?’ sounds very uncool.
Little attention is paid to ‘corporate memory’, systems to capture memory and experience are rare, and a style of discussion that begins ‘what happened last time’ rarer still.
Change is the thing. Change with enthusiasm is the bigger and better thing.
Unsurprisingly, most change initiatives crash.
Without memory, poor stuff is endlessly repeated.
‘Change fatigue’ is probably a sort of ‘repetitive strain injury’ of everyone’s morale.
So how do we elevate this idea of remembering?
How do we slow down what is essentially … corporate dementia?
Think of tree rings. Think of visible traces of what has been lived through.
Each ring is a story.
Rather than ‘didn’t we try that once?’, why don’t we all reclaim that known gentle story technique to pass on previous experience.
It begins ‘Once upon a time…’.