Renaissance or Restoration?

The premise of this blog is that we are in a state of transition.  It is a commonly held belief as one hears politicians, business leaders and others talk about how we need to embrace change.  Take what we have learned from the past, acknowledge the present, and head for a glorious future (or something similarly dramatic).

Everyone uses the language of Renaissance when describing the future.  Beware of those who are really looking for a Restoration.

A Renaissance is a rebirth – something new will be created using the past and present.  A Restoration is the maintenance or re-establishment of constructs that existed or still exist.

So how can one tell the difference between the two if they use the same language?

At the heart of the matter is control.

A true Renaissance cannot be made, only the conditions to allow it to happen can be created.  The end result of a Renaissance is not known, so one cannot guide it to a specific conclusion.  In short, it cannot be planned.  It is organic, messy and riddled with more failures than successes.  Organizations that operate in a Renaissance mode will constantly change, seeking an optimal equilibrium all the while knowing it can never be achieved as it is a constantly moving target.

For those with a stake in the status quo, while the imagery of Renaissance is used, what is really sought a Restoration – the preservation of the conditions that put them on top.  All effort is to adopt the minimum amount of change required to stay on top. Restoration mode organizations operate under the belief a perceived optimal equilibrium can be achieved and indefinitely maintained.

A Renaissance requires little resources to happen.  Simply leave people with the means and incentive to do so, and the future will be continuously remade.  A Restoration requires a lot of resources to be poured into the maintenance of the status quo resulting in stagnation.

He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.
Francis Bacon

In the end, all Restoration modes fail.  The cumulative effects of minimal changes may create a critical mass for failure.  The complete collapse of the Soviet bloc is an excellent example of how quickly and suddenly Restoration efforts can fail.  Sometimes before critical mass is reached, the resources required to maintain the status quo eventually dry up resulting in collapse.  The current debate over Medicare and Social Security is an example of diminishing resources.  The assumption the population will increase at a greater rate than the replacement rate is proving to be untrue resulting in increasing demand and shrinking resources.

No one can control what happens, but these opposing views of the future will influence what will happen and the ensuing struggle may create some undesirable results.  Some of humanity’s creations born out of Renaissance have been terrifying.  But those born out of Restoration are generally more so.

The future will come, whether you want it or not.

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