Ancient Greeks had two concepts of time, chronos and kairos. The former referring to the sequential progress of time; and, the latter, opportune moments - pockets of exceptional time, rare instants, seasons when people tuned towards change seize opportunity.
Today we are living in a period of kairos time. A rare moment of exceptional opportunities and perils is upon us. People look around and they realise we are experiencing what is essentially revolutionary times, but very few are ready or prepared for journeying during this extraordinary moment. Point in case, this century should be rather exceptional; technical advances herald the dawning of a golden age of discovery, a new renaissance. But, rising populism indicates that for an increasing portion the world feels anything but exceptional. This is somewhat puzzling because for the most part when measured against nearly any indicator you care to, we live lives better than anyone, anywhere at any time in history. Here is the puzzling question, we are living in an remarkable time in human history, but, it does not feel remarkable. Why?
This paper suggest it is because we have given up on doing remarkable things. This is of grave concern because the greatest danger is that we fall short, failing to think big enough to make this century great for everyone. A vanguard of companies are recognising shifts in competitive advantage and getting closer to the idea that by achieving remarkable things; doing what seemed impossible or inconceivable just a few years ago, by thinking and dreaming big, delivering meaningful benefits to society and shareholders, they are going to improve their business. A lot more needs to and can be done. Kairos is a moment to seize opportunity.
The word kairos actually has its roots in archery where it was expressed as an “aperture” or “penetrable opening.” As a forest of shields and armour advanced opportunities through which Greek archer’s arrow had to pass in order to “hit the mark” presented themselves fleetingly. The marksman had to react with swiftness and accuracy in order to take advantage of shifting and dynamic gaps that appeared and disappeared. Like Greek Archers we too have fleeting opportunities to make our mark, we need to be ready. The term was revived during the Renaissance where the idea of seizing occasion and serving the time pervaded the then worldview, and it had a significant effect on developments in philosophy, politics, art and literature
For the most part people and organisations are entrenched in the dogmas of chronos time - an incremental drudgery, a never-ending groundhog day of sameness and parity. There is little innovation to get excited about, find meaningfulness or happiness in. We’ve been conned into thinking that innovation and progress is the next iteration of a Samsung or Apple smartphone, hopefully one that does not explode on impact. But does your life really improve because you get a new product that is marginally better than the last one? This is not innovation that moves our world to higher levels.
We’ve stopped doing meaningful innovations, we’ve given up on doing remarkable things and traded them off for marginal gains, product/service uniformity and low risk ventures that are safe. We’ve given up investing in science, health, education and engineering. Studies show that the reluctance of the C-Suite to raise capital investment and invest in new innovations have left companies in developed nations with the oldest plants and equipment in 60 years.
This century is feeling increasingly unremarkable because most remain tethered an incremental mindset that is failing to see the opening apertures of opportunity which appear suddenly and then shut fast, like the shields of armour against which Greek archers sought to hit their mark.
Kairos runs alongside chronos time, you still have to get the basics right, but if you want to thrive then kairos requires proponents to committedly venture against current paradigms because, as Joanne Paul a historian explains: “All of a sudden the universal rules that govern success in chronos time no longer apply.” This paper is about understanding, shaping and driving these new universal rules in a manner that achieves remarkable things.