What was Machiavelli talking about?
Friday, 4 February, 2011 Leave a comment
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Or is it really important to know? Because many of his words are so profound that they transcend disciplines, scenarios and centuries!
“…in its beginning it is easy to cure, but hard to recognise; whereas, after a time, not having been detected and treated at the first, it becomes easy to recognise but impossible to cure.”
– Niccolo Machiavelli
If I had attributed the statement to: a respected Economist on the subject of sources of the global banking crisis or sovereign debt; an experienced Political commentator about the situation in Egypt; a GP, talking about Cholesterol; an Oncologist, talking about cancer; an ecologist on global warming; an accident investigator identifying the cause of a man-made disaster; or one of my colleagues referring to business complexity, there may be some scope to debate the finer points but not the “essence” of the message!
Prevention is better than cure!
But to prevent something that is not visible from the normal perspective requires closer investigation. As we can see from each of the above such investigation requires specialist equipment and knowledge.
Outward appearance can indeed be deceptive.
Asking the right questions can, quite literally mean the difference between survival and collapse: life and death.
But don’t just take my word for it! Look around you. Pick up a newspaper or history book. Turn on the radio or television.
Why am I telling you this?
Because, what should be obvious by now, is that despite the availability of the ability to ask new questions and the technology to analyse the answers to determine the “state of health” most people – and I include Political, Financial and Corporate leaders – are content to satisfy themselves with “how things look rather than how things are”. Then, when things don’t happen as they had predicted (guessed) cast around for excuses and cite expressions like “having the benefit of 20/20 hindsight”! Not good enough…
More wisdom required
It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.
– Niccolo Machiavelli
In my work to communicate the benefits of what we, at Ontonix, have developed I have come to understand these words. If you have (as I suggested above) looked around, you will see evidence – current and ancient – of people to whom new OR BETTER “things” are a threat to the seat of their current position with associated power and wealth!
I make no apology for feeling that this is not suitable justification.
The sad truth is that it is as relevant now as it was in 15th century Italy. The main difference now is that, due to global inter-connectedness “survival or collapse” no longer has, purely localised implications.
Economic, Geo-Political, Environmental events in Australia, Egypt, USA, Ireland, Iceland, Pakistan… whether man-made or forces of nature can and do impact Social and Cultural domains across the globe.
With societal resilience weakened by the financial crisis and individual resilience impaired by our own lifestyles we NEED to start asking and answering the “hard” questions.
My research has led me to a new way of viewing (much more than just) business. The, relatively short history of Chaos Theory, the emergence of Complexity Theory and “systems-thinking” have opened my eyes in a way that I never anticipated when I started on a journey, that has culminated in setting up Ontonix UK.
If you want more information about complexity follow this link: Complexity Facts
For an understanding of WHY I can be bothered spelling out the opportunities and risks associated with complexity I would recommend you read Our Mission. This should convey why I am so passionate!