Welcome to the radical Briefing 0007. One of the core aspects of our work at radical is centered on helping people and organizations not to be afraid of the future. Yes, there are many things we need to do, and we have some big and scary challenges ahead in terms of our economy, society, our environment, and more. However, if we do not approach and embrace the future in more positive ways, we will not be able to strive for and build for solutions which will make things better. Worse still, fear of the future can mean we do nothing at all. Whether you are examining a new product direction, honing the why you do what you do, or contemplating whole new systems – all require us to pick up our heads, look far out to the horizon and then get to work. Let’s do it!
How to Stay Informed (And Sane)
If you know me a little, you know that the way my brain works is by processing large amounts of information. By creating enough of a smattering of knowledge, I (sometimes) can see the connections between domains. To do this, I tend to skim through a large amount of written content (typically blogs, news and analysis with the occasional white paper sprinkled in) daily. Now – this is not for everyone as it takes some time and deliberate practice.
Over the years I have found a rather small group of news sources which, when followed somewhat diligently, sum up beautifully what happens in the world of exponential technologies (note that my bend is toward digital technologies, fewer areas such as biology, nano-tech, space-tech, and the likes). Scan the following sources a couple of times a week, and I am confident you will stay well informed while also staying sane:
I am sure you will find similar sources for specific domains (e.g., the Synthetic Biology Community) – pick the top 2-3 sources to follow and ignore the rest. What is genuinely worth reporting will make its way to the top sources eventually.
Be the Rebel We Need
One thing we say all the time, is that the future is going to look radically different from today. We are sure you agree. And yet, as humans we are not well wired to think about the coming change. We have evolved to think about time linearly, our social relationships have taught us to fit in and not to rock the boat; our survival instincts have us first see all the threats and not all the opportunities.
So how will we ever design for and build the future we so greatly need to build?
This is where we need you to be a rebel. To see, think and act differently. Dare we say even ‘radically’?
That means you may not be liked, and you won’t always win. Though likely your organization will eventually thank you for being the trendsetter, the “we need to do this differently” type of person, the one who likely went in the opposite direction to everyone else.
Swimming upstream foremost takes courage. Before you start, ask yourself why? Why do you care? Why does this all matter? Getting clear on your why is your fuel. It will tip the scales from thoughts to actions, and set the course.
A rebel needs a tribe. You are not staging a coup, or a revolution (yet!). However, new ideas and ways of thinking require you to find a few good allies inside your organization to test your thinking and learnings. They may come from a different department. That’s OK, great even. More perspectives, more feedback, more diversity is critical.
Be flexible. All good entrepreneurs out there are essentially rebels. Upstarts who see differently, and want to make things better. Let’s take a leaf from their book. You will likely go through many iterations and failed attempts. That’s OK. Focus on what you are learning, evolve your thinking, your product, innovation until you get the right fit.
Keep going. Marching to a new beat can be exhausting, and change will certainly not happen overnight. It could take months, years even. Be prepared to dig in, and plan how you will see it through to the end. Persistence is as much about change as new ideas.
So why bother at all? All sounds like a lot of work right? Not everyone can be a rebel, that’s OK. But we do need rebels, so if you can’t be one, then join one. Support brave new ideas, offer a hand, an ear, a high five.
The world needs rebels!
Leadership articles worth reading this week:
Meet radical Ally, Kevin Starr
Kevin Starr directs the Mulago Foundation which finds and funds high-performance organizations that meet the basic needs of the very poor. He established the Rainer Arnhold Fellows Program and Henry Arnhold Fellows Program which concentrate on finding scalable solutions to poverty and conservation. Before he stumbled into philanthropy, Kevin had a perfectly good career in medicine and went through medical school at UCSF.
Full interview with Kevin here.