King Lear is not Shakespeare's best play - but it is his greatest. The truth of this, which I recall one of my Shakespeare professors claiming, grows more apparent to me as I grow older. And especially as our world lurches forward in unexpected ways then those of us who are older, and have settled into our routines, feel more and more affinity with the aging Lear. So perhaps at different times King Lear grows even more emblematic of our predicament. Of course, this is a little disconcerting when we recall that King Lear loses his marbles. In the scene depicted above where we see the famed 18th Century actor David Garrick playing the old man, Lear rages against the storm, against the forces over which he has no control, even as he has lost his grip on much smaller things.
We might be forgiven for thinking that we are a little like the aging monarch as so many things change in our world. Judging by the media, and what appears to be our collective inability to manage even small things, I find it impossible to evade the comparison between ourselves and King Lear, and to watch therefore for signs of growing madness.
But we can also watch for, and even exert effort towards, signs of improvement instead of degeneration. Strictly speaking we don't need to follow Lear's lead.
While this might be applied to almost any domain you wish to point at, we can look at something smaller - something over which we might exert better control if we tried. How about we look at the worlds within which we work - our organizations. Here we see that there are massive changes in the technology landscape, with Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) emerging on top of rapidly-evolving cloud ecosystems that put unimaginable infrastructure and processing capability at our disposal. We also see that business, how we work and what we work on, is changing. And we see that everything is expanding in scale with the effect of ballooning the amount, and complexity, of what we need to collectively understand in order to manage all this technology and to act effectively in whatever it is we need to do.
Of course, my first response to any challenge is to construct a diagram. And once I have constructed a diagram, I am duty-bound to explore the implications of that diagram. So I have been excavating the central region to understand what is happening there or needs to happen. I won't go into all of this right now except to say that the one thing I know is "in the middle" is us. You and me. And in the middle, we are standing inside the storm very much like King Lear does. Hopefully we respond more constructively than he does. That said, Lear - even in his madness - does not give up and ultimately his demise restores some balance, which is what makes it a tragedy as opposed to a simple trainwreck. Now that does mean that it is possible to be even less constructive than King Lear and we would achieve that glory by not even trying to respond.
Channeling my inner King Lear, and holding onto my own brand of lunacy, I believe we can respond and that, in the central region of my diagram, we can broker a better relationship between what we do (our business), the tools we use to do it (our technology), and what we understand and how we leverage that understanding (our knowledge). It is a hope that I am inclined to cling to. Do you see it too? "Look there, look there!"