I’ve just finished reading Getting to Maybe. This is a book about social innovation in complex environments (our world). It covers the stories of many social innovators and discusses the various parts of a common path that many take. This is a path with no map and no destination. Getting to maybe, or “if only ..”, starts with the first step of realising that here and now is the best and only place to start. A chapter is dedicated to each identified step, but these are more like checkpoints than actual steps in a process.
Next is standing still, which is the requirement to reflect and listen, now that you’ve got the fire burning for some decisive action. The tension between reflection and action is a major theme of the book. Powerful strangers are those who can suddenly help you and your cause, now that you have started the journey and have opened your mind. Some time during the journey you get into the groove and “let it find you”, playing part of a cast, as in a jazz ensemble. The worst point is cold heaven, when you feel hopeless, as the authors say:
Those who struggle to make a difference have to face two paradoxes. The first is that success is not a fixed address. The second is that failure can open the way to success.
From cold heaven may come a chance to have hope as well as a pragmatic understanding of the realities of the world, or to “catch the moment when hope and history rhyme”. This is the time to ensure that whatever has been created does not stagnate and may even call for creative destruction as the environmental landscape changes. Finally, the door opens and the end of one social innovation can lead to the beginning of another.
There are no answers in this book but I think that it may be an inspiration for many who are on the journey of social innovation and need to know that they are not alone.