Sunday, 23 June 2013

So Long William Emery Bridges

Could this be chaos theory?

"Chaos is the primal state of pure energy for every true new beginning" (William Bridges)

When a butterfly flaps its wings in an Amazonian rainforest, or so the chaos theory goes, it marks the beginnings of a hurricane miles away in the Caribbean or Louisiana. A hurricane that will follow in the flapping insect's wake a few weeks later and maybe thousands of miles from its origin.

Don't you think there is more than a little part of human interconnectedness in that statement, especially with the ascent of cyber-globalisation? Somebody writes something and it ripples and resonates across the USA, Europe, Asia.

William Bridges' work was a little like chaos theory. His insights helped inform and shape contemporary thinking, his words echoing in the minds of students, researchers and journalists down the years.
"I have looked through the chapters of the third edition of "Managing Transitions" published in 2009, and considered what he said about the three major stages of: 1) Ending, losing, letting go 2) the neutral zone 3) the new beginning" Dr Jan Hively muses over the work of William Bridges . "Over the last 20 years...individuals who have gone through the process of losing their jobs have been guided through these three stages of transition by life coaches using Bridges' material. However, our society as a whole has not acknowledged "The End of Jobs"..... the scope of social and economic impacts brought by technological change. Bridges' process described in 'Managing Transitions" can be applied to "The End of Jobs.""

An email I received this week from Susan Bridges informed me of the untimely death of William Bridges. It seemed strange, coming as it did, directly after a blog - Message in the Data - where I had quoted Dr Jan Hively who had revisited William Bridges work in her paper Adapting To The End Of Jobs (With An Emphasis On Productive Aging).

The man who wrote Transitions : Making Sense of Life's Changes (an influential book that altered the way people thought about and approached change) sadly died on February 17, 2013 from complications of Lewy Body disease.

I believe William Bridges was writing way ahead of his time, with Transitions and with Jobshift : How To Prosper In A Workplace Without Jobs.

He gave us some wonderful insights into change and how it impacts each and every one of us. His work, also has significant relevance in the modern era where the rate of technological advance, changing demographic patterns, global financial change, emerging nations and cyber-globalisation is taking us rapidly forward.

Bridges believed that while change was locked into the situation, transitions were psychological. He also thought, as Dr Hively outlined above, that change was experienced in three stages.

In 1994 he published the mind-altering Jobshift, a book which prophesied the end of jobs. His insights were nailed on as he predicted the end of middle-management which Dr Hively touched on, 20 years later, in her paper.

For me Jobshift was a route marker on my own journey to understanding the world in terms of work, why we do it and what its meaning is within the overarching panoply of human existence. Bridges is a name that constantly recurs on that journey, and anyone remotely interested in the human condition would be well advised to put William Bridges on their reading list.

William Bridges, born in Boston in 1933, died in Larkspur, California. He obtained a BA in English from Harvard, his MA in American History from Columbia and his PhD in American Civilisation from Brown. He is survived by his wife Susan Bridges, his daughters Anne Gavin, Sarah and Margaret Bridges.

William Bridges flapped his wings, we can still feel the hurricane...

Coming Soon : No Sleep Till Future

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  1. I so appreciate your homage to and Jan Hively's musings on William Bridges whose clear description of the relentless stages of transition certainly helped me come out stronger on more than one occasion. His work on the future of jobs should be standard reading, especially for politicians who keep promising a return to full employment...
    Moira Allan

    1. Ah our politicians - are they also to become redundant? The multi-nationals might well take over the world, if they haven't done so already. You are so right, he should be standard reading no questions. Thanks.