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Where do utopia and dystopia collide?

Can we live at the peak paradox?

Utopia/Dystopia by Dylan Glynn

Peak Paradox is the middlemost point of the model. It is the point where everything has equal weight in terms of policy, priority, resources, commitment, interest, data and consequences. It is the area of a perfect storm. It is a magical (or imaginary) place where you can have everything, everyone else can have everything, no one is fighting for survival, and every work situation thrives. In reality, the converse is probably also true. It is where everyone fights for survival; I cannot get what I want, others have nothing and work is just meaningless. It is in between these two states of euphoria and despair that we spend our time. Never reaching utopia but somehow constantly individual's feeling one step closer to dystopia. In this state, we have to decide how to allocate the limited resources we have to be able to change the situation (for the better.)

Whilst hard to accept, we actually don't have the data, model or ability to allocate resources for better outcomes as we live in a complex system. In our ecosystem and economy, our actions have consequences that we cannot see. In the USA, they reintroduced wolves and have found that Wolves play a crucial role in keeping ecosystems healthy. They help keep deer and elk populations in check, benefiting individual's many other plant and animal species. The carcasses of their prey also help to redistribute nutrients and provide food for other wildlife species, like grizzly bears and scavengers. Scientists are just beginning to fully understand the positive ripple effects that wolves have on ecosystems. The removal of the wolves was forecast to create a more vibrant and healthy ecosystem, but it turns out it collapses without them.

The Ripple Effect is when an initial disturbance to a system propagates outward to disturb an increasingly more significant portion of the system, like ripples expanding across the water when an object is dropped into it. The ripple effect is often used colloquially to mean a multiplier in macroeconomics. For example, an individual's reduction in spending reduces the incomes of others and their ability to spend. Unions negotiating for a pay rise drives prosperity for everyone. In sociology, the ripple effect can be observed in how social interactions can affect situations not directly related to the initial interaction and in charitable activities where information can be disseminated and passed from community to community to broaden its impact. The concept has been applied in computer science within the field of software metrics as a complexity measure.

Living at peak paradox and making decisions at this central point creates ripples. However, we find it easy to predict the positive consequences of ripples we want to see in the direction of the peak purpose we are aiming for on the Peak Paradox model. We are blinded to the adverse effects because we believe we have understood the risks and concluded this is the best action, given where we are and our resources. Equally, we find it near impossible to see any good or bad consequences that can occur in other directions. The point here is that we cannot see how a ripple in a different direction will come back (forward) and change the situation we forecast. This is the complexity of modelling dependent systems that we do not understand, yet believing we have a risk model that does.

The purpose of the Peak Paradox model is to shine a light on the other views, other perspectives, other consequences, other risks - not to change the decision, but to clarify how our decision will affect others and we are affected by theirs. With the same thinking, others acting with their own agency will optimise for a different peak and, in doing so, create ripples in our tank, highlighting why resilience has become such an important but widely misunderstood topic. We must agree on what we are trying to be resilient for, as it is often hidden.

The article on making better decisions using the Peak Pardox framework suggests that we have to move from the Peak Paradox if we can clarify what we are optimising for and bring the team together. However, the further we become aligned to a Purpose, whilst the easier the decision, the more unified the culture, the less resilient we become to others ripples.

Balancing simplicity of decision making with the allocation of resources and understanding risk and consequences is the optimisation model the executive board now has to wrestle with. Decision making has never been more challenging.

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