Entovation International
The Trapeze Parable
by Debra M. Amidon

It was the PDVSA Knowledge Conference (Caracas, Venezuela) where we outlined the contrast between the traditional and modern management as was outlined in Collaborative Innovation and the Knowledge Economy.

Financial Capital
Human Capital
Performance Measures Financial
$$$ as assets
Relationships as assets
Structure/Culture Competitive
Market Share
Distrust of borders
Sets of alliances
People/Leadership Cost/Expense
Sustained Growth
Cross-Boundary Process Independence
Cause-effect Chains
Computer/Communications Information processing
Knowledge processing
Tacit/explicit knowledge

The message is that this is not an either/or choice. Companies must manage both simultaneously to be flexible enough to capitalize upon the opportunities afforded a Knowledge Economy. However, as Bruce Bond, CEO of PictureTel, told a recent MIT audience,"We are in a transition period between one era to another in which the old rules do not apply and the new ones have yet to be invented."

To reinforce the imagery, I described the trapeze artist who must let go of one bar before catching the other and for a moment is suspended. For many, this described their uncomfortable uncertainty with this future economy that is evolving.

However, to Frances MacCarty (E-mail: mccartyf@pdvsa.com), one of the conference participants, it touched a chord with a book she was reading in Spanish* - Guerreros del Corazon (Spanish), Warriors of the Heart (English)   authored by Danaan Parry. She took the time to translate the short text into English which we provide below for those who seek to reconcile the two managerial worlds:

Converting the fear of transformation into the transformation of fear

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapezes. I find myself swinging on a trapeze, or during a few moments, I fling myself across the space that lies between trapezes.

Most of the time, I spend life holding onto the trapeze bar of the moment. I swing myself at a certain speed and I have the sensation that I control my life. I know the right questions and even some of the answers.

But sometimes when I am happily, or not so happily, swinging, I look ahead and what is it that I see in the distance? I see another trapeze coming towards me. It is empty and I know, in that part of me that knows, that this trapeze has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, life that is searching for me. From the bottom of my heart I know that to grow, I must let go of the old trapeze that I know so well, and grab onto the new one.

Every time that this happens to me I hope (no, I pray) to not have to let go of the old trapeze completely before grasping the new one. But in that place where I know, I know that I must let of the old trapeze completely and, for a moment, cross space before being able to grab onto the new one.

I am always very afraid. It doesn’t matter that in my previous flights between trapezes I have always been successful. I always fear failing, crashing against the rocks that I can’t see at the bottomless chasm below. But I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what mystics call the faith experience. There is no guarantee, no safety net and no insurance policy but you do it anyway, because to continue holding onto the old trapeze just isn’t one of the options anymore. So, during an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lives, I rise above the the dark emptiness of "the past gone by, the future not yet come". This is what is called a "transition". I have come to believe that true change occurs only in these transitions. I mean true change, not the pseudochange that only lasts until the next time the old buttons are pushed.

I have also come to realize that, in our culture, this transition zone is considered to be a "nothing", an empty non-place between places. Of course, the old trapeze was real and I hope the new one coming towards will also be. But what about the emptiness between? Is it simply an empty space that should be crossed as fast and unconsciously as possible? NO!! This would be to lose a great opportunity. On occasions, I suspect that the transition zone is the only real thing and that the trapezes are illusions that we create to avoid the emptiness in which real change, real growth occurs. Whether or not this be true, what is certain is that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, despite all the pain, the fear and the feelings of being out of control that may accompany (though not necessarily) transitions, these are still the most vivid, full of growth, passionate and expansive moments in our lives.

*Publisher, Spanish version: Gaia Ediciones, Madrid, Spain, 1996.


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Reprinted from I3 Update