I first heard the expression a few weeks ago. It stands for a group of a few 100.000 people who rule and control India: politicians, entrepreneurs, writers, journalists and members of “old” families. Mostly “old” or at least elder people. Living very comfortable in the world they’ve set up for themselves. This is most likely true for any country. What a small group of these people is capable of doing we can currently witness in the US where members of the Tea Party caused the government shutdown.
Within these inner circles you often hear about change.
But change hardly ever comes out of these circles.
The most we usually experience is gradual change.
That might be a very natural things.
Because firstly why would these people drive change if they live so comfortably without it?
And secondly if you really aim for change then you have to change behavior – and this takes time.
Even if you remain within the same culture it takes time.
It is not that these circles don’t understand that change is needed.
And that the people they rule and control are yearning for change – massive change.
In so many areas.
Some of the members of the inner circle come up with the most detailed analyses and often offer great solutions.
But for what so ever reasons these solutions never become executed.
They got stuck.
Or on their way to realization they went through a huge number of “adjustments”.
Or the solution simply no longer suits the needs when it’s finally realized.
I for myself draw the conclusion that you can’t change such powerful systems from the inside.
You have to build new systems which either make the old obsolete or at least challenge it in a way that it has to change.
And we are starting to see this.
There are huge transformation processes on their way.
And they speed up the more we become connected and the more we cooperate.
Connectedness and cooperation are turbo charger for network structures.
And these structures are no longer linear as the old systems were.
The new ones are non-linear. They hardly show any hierarchies.
They tend to be much more complex and much more dynamic than the old ones.
And therefore much more capable in solving complex problems (Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety).
We see these transformation processes in governments. In enterprises. In education. In communities.
And sometimes they are real battles.
Just look at the unrests in the Middle east, the occupy movement or the NSA issue which isn’t only about surveillance but also about journalism.
But we can also see much more peaceful transformations.
Just look at the government in Finland how they have transformed the education system.
Or how Iceland is including its citizens in governance.
Or the entire open government data movement which allows individuals and enterprises to make use of public data.
Or the open source movement, not only in the software industry but also in the hardware industry.
We’ve started to produce products in an open source way.
We co-create with competitors and customers.
Or think about the way Apple has transformed the music and mobile industry with its new business models and the combination of hard- and software.
It made old rigid value creation chains obsolete.
Look at companies such as Cisco and Unilever. Cisco’s CEO John Chambers has turned the company’s management structure from a board of 12 members to a management team of more than 500 – all of them capable of succeeding him as CEO. Unilever has caught up with P&G in many so-called developing markets or even is ahead of P&G because of their innovation strategies which are network-based.
On a smaller level we see more and more schools and new ways of learning become successful which stand in contrast to the existing government education system. And we see this worldwide.
All these examples take time as well, but the process which underlies all of them, is open, transparent and participatory.
And this itself is a fundamental game changer.
So these “inner circles” are challenged.
By new systems.
And by the complexity and dynamics of the environment they are embedded in.
If they remain as rigid and as closed as they are, their time is limited.