The Page 2009 Spring Seminar theme, “Influence in the Midst of Uncertainty", has resonances way beyond the bounds of the US. A kind of night blindness has seized the world. We're edging our way forwards, waiting till we can see again. My observations of the international stage where the economic downturn is being played suggest we are beginning to discern our surroundings again.

The arrival of Barack Obama in the White House – an arrival viewed on TV by hundreds of millions around the world – has created a sense that, at the very least, a new vigour is here to lead us through these grim times. “A moment comes, which comes but rarely" said the Indian leader Nehru, “when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the sound of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance". When the dark goes, there will be fresh strength to articulate fresh direction, in the US and Europe and further afield, of that I'm certain.

At our recent Echo Chamber meetings in New York, Zurich and London, which were effectively focus groups with the CCOs of major companies and government departments and NGOs, we have seen new paradigms tentatively taking shape, and interestingly they chime in with many of Page's Authentic Enterprise notions. One metaphor suggested by participants for the changing face of communication was that of “complex adaptive systems" – as if the organisation operates like a neurosystem – being constantly bombarded and challenged, and forced to adapt to survive. This image captures the ebb and flux of reputation through the myriad channels and multipliers of the web – the tool which Obama's campaign used to such extraordinary effect, and it articulates the urgency of investigating these constantly morphing environments.

Analysis and mapping of the points of light that make up perceptions around an organization is, or comes close to, the first step on the road. It yields that contextual intelligence without which complex adaptive systems seize up because they no longer 'know' what to adapt to or 'how'.

Although Kurt Vonnegut had a point when he said “History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again", as did French poet Paul Valery when asserting that history is the science of what never happens twice, there are few today who would dare feel their way through the midst of uncertainty by guesswork alone.

Supporting and influencing organisations through this challenging time requires all to raise – or change – their game. For insights into how and connecting with others who are doing just that is what the Page Spring Seminar is all about. Timely, relevant, important.