Make The Revolution Irresistible: Lessons from Emergent Strategy

Reading Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown was a bit like how I fumble through a meditation practice. I get comfortably seated, take deep breaths in, and begin. Before long, I found passages that struck me with truth and meaning so salient that I'm underlining every line... and then moments later, my attention floats away as other sections fly off into the Realm of the Unique Snowflake.

The principles of emergent strategy are:

  • Small is good, small is all.
  • Change is constant.
  • There is always enough time for the right work.
  • There is a conversation in this room that only these people at this moment can have. Find it.
  • Never a failure, always a lesson.
  • Trust the people and they become trustworthy.
  • Move at the speed of trust.
  • Less prep, more presence.
  • What you pay attention to grows.

As I entered my 30s, I noticed myself becoming more open to the types of media that I would have tossed aside in my 20s and teens. Personal growth articles, business strategy podcasts, and the straight-up woo woo stuff. Whether this is an age thing or a "moved to California for 7 years" thing, I was just open enough to the woo woo of Emergent Strategy to hang with it and absorb the eye-opening ideas. For instance:


"We must make just and liberated futures irresistible. We are all the protagonist of what might be called the great turning, the new economy, the New World.”

YES! Clarity of vision! The author draws on the work of science fiction author, Octavia Butler, who imagines entire worlds led by queer women of color where empathy, connectedness, and love could be humanity's saving grace. How harshly does this contrast to how we've all been taught about the ways the world works? That competition is fierce, resources scarce, and independence is paramount?

It bizarrely called to mind something Machiavelli put in The Prince, which said, "It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage, than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institutions and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new ones." And yes, I get that Machiavelli was describing systems of control whereby vicious actions are sometimes indispensable to the good of the state, BUT what if we flipped this to build systems that are inclusive, abundant and connected? No, not socialism, but more like nature, as Emergent Strategy suggests?

brown is saying we need to captivate those lukewarm defenders with a vision of what could be. Her writing is helping me put a new lens on my work, where the stories I have the honor of telling are painting a picture of a liberated future. 

Make the revolution irresistible because Erykah Badu is way ahead of you.