Here’s our monthly review of the best of the many articles, books, videos and ideas-in-other-forms that our Deputy Editor Kyle Elzy has found for you. The nextsensing mind, we believe, is always stretching to see beyond the marketplace horizon. Let’s get started …
Cruise into the future. With self-driving cars already upon us, Mercedes-Benz is taking the next step. The “Future Bus”, the world’s first self-driving city bus, is already on the road, reports Doug Newcomb (@dougnewcomb) for @Forbes. Testing has begun in Amsterdam due to the city’s challenging network of turns and intersections. Thankfully, the Future Bus is packed with front and rear cameras and a short-wave radar, and it can communicate with traffic lights to ensure a safer, smoother ride. The interior features designer seats, wireless device charging, and onscreen entertainment. Production is set to begin after 2020. [Read More Now]
It’s all in the genes. Society says we can be anything we choose, if we set our minds to it. But science is beginning to push back on that notion, says Olivia Goldhill (@OliviaGoldhill) for @qz. Geneticists are pinning the strong influence of DNA on everything from personality differences to children’s success rates in school, making behavioural genetics “the fastest growing field in science”. Why is it important? California State University geneticist Nancy Segal believes in the value of “explanations… that help you plan for the future and alter your lifestyle appropriately.” [Read More Now]
A tasty “cool” concept. This one comes from Rob Leane (@robleane) at @mental_floss, who highlights a new start-up built around the impossible: ice cream that does not melt. The secret is freeze-drying and it’s actually nothing new: astronauts have been enjoying the packaged variety for decades. But Gastronaut Ice Cream and founder Robert Collignon are “redefining” it for the ice cream-craving world, and that starts with quality ingredients. Collignon uses “super-premium organic ice cream” and “a touch of sea salt”, making for a delicious — and lucrative — treat. The company is already $30,500 (USD) above its $9,500 Kickstarter goal. [Read More Now]
All aboard. The SeaBubbles are coming — perhaps as soon as next summer. Two entrepreneurs have succeeded in raising 500,000 euros to build a fleet of “bubble-shaped” river taxis in the hopes of making urban travel easier. “You’ve got packed roads and empty waterways in a lot of cities,” says co-founder Alain Thebault. The battery-powered shuttles are designed to hover over the water with five passengers, and the founders hope the cabs can go fully automated in a few years. Many thanks to Marie Mawad (@Marie_a_Paris) and Alexandre Boksenbaum-Granier (@HatsBoks) for this Bloomberg @technology feature. [Read More Now]
Just in case you missed this when it first appeared… Where industry meets biology. How can we better integrate what we create with the natural forms of the world around us? According to designer/architect Neri Oxman (@NeriOxman), it’s already happening. In her @TedTalks presentation, Oxman describes the unprecedented digital fabrication tools now available to designers, which have allowed for innovations driven by nature — from seamless clothing that acts like a second skin, to entire structures made of hard seashell-like materials. “Here’s to… a new age of creation,” she concludes, “that takes us from a nature-inspired design to a design-inspired nature….” [Watch More Now]
Paid to… listen? That’s the occupation of Takanobu Nishimoto, whose team of 60 middle-aged Japanese men “lend an ear” to those who are fearful of opening up to friends and family. Most are just eager for some company and a little bit of understanding, says Karyn Nishi-Poupee (@karyn_poupee) at @AFP: “…it allows them to forget the expectations of their family and friends and speak freely… [which is] especially useful in Japan, where social roles can be tightly defined….” [Read More Now]
An eye for A.I. Microsoft is hedging its bets on artificial intelligence as the critical DNA for all next-gen apps and services worldwide, reports Casey Newton (@CaseyNewton) for @verge. @Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella believes the company is in the driver’s seat on A.I., thanks to its advances in “smart” systems that learn and process information quickly and accurately. Those innovations led to Cortana, which allows users to speak what they want to know instead of typing it. Now, Nadella’s team aims to “elevate the experience” by combining A.I., messaging, and social networking into one seamless package. [Read More Now]
You’re making that up. One of the men behind the Dunning-Kruger effect is at it again, sharing some fascinating new insights on “inflated” knowledge. In a recent study at Cornell University in New York, psychologist David Dunning has observed that people confident in their specialised knowledge are more likely to claim they know more than they actually do — and will even acknowledge technical terms that are, in reality, total fabrications. Says Simon Oxenham (@neurobonkers) for @bigthink: “A stunning 92 per cent of people claimed to be familiar with the nonexistent biological subjects of ‘meta-toxins,’ ‘bio-sexual,’ and ‘retroplex.'” [Read More Now]
VR for the young-at-heart. Who says virtual reality can’t be enjoyed by everyone? Physician-turned-entrepreneur Sonya Kim is embracing the wonders of VR as a way to combat depression and dementia in seniors — and there is hard research to back it up. The Oculus Rift platform allows her to bring scenic, relaxing experiences into homes and senior care facilities all over California’s San Francisco Bay Area, helping those in their golden years to reconnect. Says Kim: “Dementia patients often feel lost…. By giving them a beautiful beach, I want them to feel found again.” Thanks to Kara Platoni (@KaraPlatoni) and @KQEDscience for this great article. [Read More Now]
If you build it… “An italian jury of architects award 132 buildings and urban planning projects from over 40 nations to define a new global design aesthetic for 2016.” Thanks for the alert from @e_architect. [Read More Now]
Big impact, bright future. Sydney, Australia is taking the lead on environmental progress, setting new goals on emissions and efficiency. By 2030, the city plans to reach 50 per cent renewable electricity, with net zero carbon emissions to follow by 2050. It’s an ambitious target, but @renew_economy columnist Sophie Vorrath (@sophvorrath) reports Sydney is already well on its way: 6,604 street lamps upgraded to LED and zero new vehicle emissions since 2014. The city will also reward projects that support the initiative. Says Lord Mayor Clover Moore: “After eight years of progress, it’s time for us to raise the bar….” [Read More Now]
Funds = solutions. A global venture capital firm is pouring investments into an unlikely industry: African start-ups. Omidyar Network, the brainchild of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (@pierre), has begun to support a variety of new companies seeking to use technology to fight poverty and disease, provide free education resources, and create jobs, according to Lebogang Tsele (@LebogangTsele) on @SMESouthAfrica. Charmaine Padayachy, a principal of Omidyar Network, says the firm is “built on the belief that businesses can be a powerful force for good” in ways that non-profit organisations often struggle to achieve. [Read More Now]
Quote of the Month From @LizWiseman: “In this world, it’s not what you know that matters anymore, it’s how fast you can learn.” Cited by @ValaAfshar in his provocative article: “Coding And A Rookie Mindset Are Critical Skills For The Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Thanks @HuffingtonPost! [Read More Now]
Leadership is key. “… [Clear] and decisive leadership” is needed at all levels of management for any company looking to navigate and succeed in the new digital economy. That’s the view of Andrew Woolf (@andrewwoolf2), Managing Director of Financial Services at @accenture. He says leaders should expect many of the “norms” to be upended, believing that organisational stability and rule following have already given way to experimentation and change. Above all, he says that collaboration is absolutely essential — the way forward must be guided and supported “from the centre,” not from the top down. [Read More Now]
Watch Steven D’Souza. One of our NextSensors is now on YouTube discussing his intriguing thoughts on the value of “not knowing.” [Watch More Now]
Alvin Toffler was eminently quotable because he was eminently brilliant. His legacy will be a long one [link].
“The future arrives too soon and in the wrong order,” was one Toffler line that has stuck with me. And his sentiment that “our moral responsibility is not to stop the future, but to shape it… to channel our destiny in humane directions and to try to ease the trauma of transition” was a call to action that still inspires me. He died in late June at the age of 87.
Said The New York Times [link]:
Mr. Toffler was a self-trained social science scholar and successful freelance magazine writer in the mid-1960s when he decided to spend five years studying the underlying causes of a cultural upheaval that he saw overtaking the United States and other developed countries.
The fruit of his research, “Future Shock” (1970), sold millions of copies and was translated into dozens of languages, catapulting Mr. Toffler to international fame. It is still in print.
My first encounter with Future Shock was as a teenager in 1976, after my older brother brought it home as high school reading. To say the least, I was shocked and (at the same time) fascinated by things in the future; and it was Toffler’s point of view from the 70s that has steered so many of us who have pursued related studies.
Today, I both admire and share Toffler’s focus on the impact of technology and change on the human experience. Almost 50 years after Future Shock, too many still allow themselves to become obsessed with advances in technology while forgetting or dismissing the impact on humanity, something Toffler warned so strongly about.
Many economists and others have had to learn the hard way that to leave out the human factor is to put any and all projections in peril. We may never move beyond the kind of shock profiled by Toffler in his several (all great) books [listed here]. Then again, The Nextsensing Project is dedicated to helping leaders deal with such shock as a normal (or, at least, unavoidable) occurrence that we can face with confidence — if are well-equipped to deal with it.
Toffler, to my mind, wanted to enable a new mindset; and he has left to all who admire his work the daunting task of designing firms that embrace, not block, such new thinking. As said, Toffler was emininently quotable, so much so that any seven quotes do not do his career justice. But perhaps these seven will spur you to read (or re-read) Toffler’s works or perhaps catch him on a YouTube video. You will not regret any time you spend with this notable thought leader.
Change is not merely necessary to life — it is life.
Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.
If you don’t have a strategy, you’re part of someone else’s strategy.
Humanity faces a quantum leap forward. It faces the deepest social upheaval and creative restructuring of all time. Without clearly recognizing it, we are engaged in building a remarkable new civilization from the ground up. This is the meaning of the Third Wave.
One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal. Soon we’ll need a new definition.
The next major explosion is going to be when genetics and computers come together. I’m talking about an organic computer – about biological substances that can function like a semiconductor.
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
It’s July and here is our monthly review of some of the too-numerous-to-track stimulating articles, books, videos, and ideas-in-other-forms that we have tagged for you. Nextsensing minds are always stretching to see beyond the marketplace horizon. Our principal researcher for this feature is Kyle Elzy, a man of many talents and our deputy editor, who assembles this listing each month. You can learn more about Kyle [here]. Hope you enjoy this edition of…
Ocean of possibility. A new “wave” of renewable energy might be on the horizon, reports Mark Lammey (@marklammey) for @EnergyVoiceNews. The European Commission has awarded a £3.1 million grant to explore new advancements in wave and tidal energy technology. Two companies will test their systems on the open sea near the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, Scotland. Says Oliver Wragg, commercial director at @EMEC_Orkney: “I’m delighted that the EU is supporting full-scale testing and demonstration to help progress towards a commercially-viable industry.” [Read More Now]
Lab-grown lustre. After thousands of years, the diamond industry shows no signs of slowing down — and now the trade is taking a bold leap forward. According to Chavie Leiber (@ChavieLeiber) at @Racked, several American companies have begun to offer “nearly flawless” synthetic diamonds, thanks to a revolutionary process that can churn out lab-grown diamond crystals in a matter of weeks. “There’s no way to look at it and know it’s not natural,” says one purveyor, Ariel Baruch. For him, that’s a step in the right direction. “The lab-grown is the safer option. It’s eco-friendly and there are no negative connotations….” [Read More Now]
Cut and run. A new @LinkedIn article is shedding some light on why companies see their best employees abruptly leave in search of greener pastures. It’s a gradual process, says author Dr. Travis Bradberry (@talentsmarteq), and a big problem: “A survey by CEB found that one-third of star employees feel disengaged from their employer and are already looking for a new job.” Some of the blame lies with unsupportive practices — not sharing the big picture, not letting employees pursue their passions — but Bradberry readily pinpoints another important factor: “people don’t leave jobs; they leave managers.” [Read More Now]
Beam us up! Many thanks to @Kotaku for sharing their first look at Star Trek: Bridge Crew, an upcoming virtual reality video game that puts players in command of a Federation starship. Reports Mike Fahey (@bunnyspatial): four players assume the role of bridge officers with the freedom to take on missions any way they see fit. “Do they utilize the Kirk approach, or react like sensible, non-crazy people? It’s up to them.” Talk about leadership skills! Developer @Ubisoft revealed the game at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (@E3) and is promising a Fall 2016 release for Vive, Oculus Rift, and Playstation VR. [Read More Now]
Let them eat cake. Walmart is making a serious investment in its workers in 2016, reports Phil Wahba (@philwahba) for @FortuneMagazine — and it’s paying off. The retail giant has spent roughly $2.7 billion in wage increases and has doubled its efforts on customer service: friendliness of staff, availability of merchandise, speed at checkout, and more. “It’s the tiny, noticeable things that should be in our DNA,” says Walmart U.S. COO Judith McKenna. As a result, the company has posted rising sales in each of its last seven quarters. [Read More Now]
More cowbell! The sound of drums is in the air — literally! A pair of tech developers from Liverpool has developed a digital drum kit that allows drummers to play a wide range of percussion arrangements without ever touching a solid surface. Aerodrums uses motion-sensor technology and a computer system that allows players to record over music and use headphones for silent sessions. But what’s the value of a virtual drum kit? Besides keeping the neighbours happy, @deutschewelle indicates that Aerodrums are likely best used “with music that contains more electronic sounds or drum machine sounds.” What an exciting prospect! [Read More Now]
Mars attracts! Thanks to Maria Popova (@explorer) for some astounding artworks, free: “NASA’s glorious Mars exploration recruitment posters are free to download, with print-quality hi-resolution files available.” [Read More Now]
Listen up, listen in. Podcasts are more popular than ever, but @Strachery founder Ben Thompson (@benthompson) wants to know — what does the future hold? The monetisation of the podcast market seems to be on the horizon, but Thompson cautions against a single-source app solution for all podcasts: “…publishers should offer podcasts through their own app that measures listens, and either sell ads themselves if they have the scale or outsource it…” [Read More Now]
A digital masterpiece? Is the Internet more than just a vast collection of media in virtual form? According to Anna Wiener (@annawiener) for @NewRepublic, that’s precisely what one American journalist believes. Virginia Heffernan’s (@page88) new book, Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art extols the virtues of the World Wide Web as an honest-to-goodness work of art equal to “the pyramid, the aqueduct, the highway, the novel….” What sets the Internet apart, Heffernan argues, is that it’s an endless collaboration. But Wiener points out that the book ignores mountains of tedious online systems — financial software, spreadsheets — which dominate many users’ working lives. “The web is at its best a platform for art,” she counters, “but certainly not art itself.” What do you think? [Read More Now]
Quote of the Month “It’s not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It’s the one most responsive to change.” That’s a classic quote from Charles Darwin, spotlighted by @SteveCase. [Read More Now]
Ooops! @businessinsider reports that PIRCH CEO Jeffery Sears is speaking out on why long-standing retail giants like JCPenny and Macy’s are floundering. “I don’t think [retail has] done a great job of creating a good experience…,” Sears contends. So what does PIRCH do differently? Customers of the kitchen/bath retailer are greeted with a complimentary drink and every appliance and fixture can be tried in the store. Says Sears: “Our job is to make a person’s time in our store the best part of their day, and along the way if we sell them something: great.” Insightful feature by Dennis Green (@DennisVerde). [Read More Now]
The world in 100. @MechAgri recently shared a fascinating infographic video that illustrates some of the world’s most defining demographics — nationality, age, religion, economic status — scaled down to just 100 people. One of the most astonishing statistics: only “30” people speak the top five world languages; the remaining “70” speak 6,500 other languages! Another eye-opener: just “one” person (1% of the population) controls half of all money on Earth. Unbelievable! [Watch More Now]
SPECIAL NOTE: Joseph Pistrui, founder of The Nextsensing Project, will be overseeing the academic content of a first-of-its-kind curriculum for senior executives. [Read More Now]
In 2012, when The Nextsensing Project began, I wanted to write a series of three e-books to explain (1) the mindset, (2) the toolset, and (3) the skill set of a 21C leader.
The journey since then has been filled with a lot of happy surprises — and only a few minor delays. Our website now has some 135 blog posts (quite a few by guests), a NextBrief report on the future of television, and a number of videos — all of which have helped us communicate both the research and the views of the project.
And all of this would not have been possible without the assistance of our project team, which has grown dramatically. Members of the Nextsensing project team are called NextSensors. The 27 team members have diverse backgrounds and interests, and they are definitely a global group. They represent 17 different nationalities based in 24 cities — from Madrid, Spain, to Cordoba, Argentina; from Sydney, Australia, to Boston, Massachusetts; from St. Petersburg, Russia, to St. Petersburg, Florida.
Today’s news: we are posting not only the third e-book in the series but also a companion video, both tied to The Story of Next.
Because I know that managers are incredibly jammed for time, the e-book format has always been made as easy-access PDFs and so easy-to-read that anyone should be able to digest each e-book in 15 minutes or less. But that does not mean there isn’t sufficient “meat” in the publications — and that is emphatically true for our latest. Similarly, the new video runs about three minutes; but, it, too, communicates a lot in the short space of time.
As the final e-book in the three-part series, as noted, the subject at hand is the skill set that a nextsensing leader needs to survive in the turbulent times in which we all live. You’ll find, in both the e-book and video, a list of four key skills that our project team believes are essential for anyone leading an enterprise of any size. These four abilities are so essential we have tagged them “nextabilities”.
Just to give you a feel, the new e-book talks about expanding one’s senses to the world of change, standing for needed change, creating a new order that will enhance the promise of change, and leading with foresense — which means leading today with the future always in mind.
I hope you enjoy, and benefit, from The Story of Next. While the e-book is about the four nextabilities, it’s also about the extraordinary power of a very simple question: what’s next?
Here are some links to help you start your own “next” journey. Thank you, as always, for your continued interest and support in our work.
For the first and second e-books, you can find them listed here [link].
We have a terrific collection of articles, books, podcasts, videos and ideas-in-other-forms for you this month. We even spotlight Steven D’Souza, one of our NextSensors! Thanks in advance for checking out this month’s edition of…
Lead with your left brain. In the business world, creativity is key. That’s the counsel of Syed Balkhi (@syedbalkhi) in @HuffingtonPost, who offers nine strategies for bringing a creative pulse to your enterprise. Playing music and hanging artwork can have an immediate impact, but I particularly like this suggestion: talk to lots of people. Balkhi says doing so “will expose you to a new type of vocabulary, new thought patterns, and new ideas.” [Read More Now]
Calling all fashionistas. It seems there’s a lot to learn from the world of fashion. This month, @smithsonian writer Naomi Shavin (@NaomiMaeShavin) spotlights Iris van Herpen, a “high-concept” designer whose “otherworldly” creations are pushing the boundaries of technology and inspiring unlikely collaborations. Recently, Herpen teamed with 3-D printing company Materialise to fabricate clothing designs that resemble fossils, a splash of water, even internal anatomy. “The fertility of these dialogues is that friends in multiple disciplines are exchanging ideas and opening the sense of what the applications can be,” says company representative Vanessa Palsenbarg. [Read More Now]
Do you see PC? Great slide show by Benedict Evans (@benedictevans) on the state of digital devices in the world. “There are now 3 billion iOS and Android computers on earth.” Many stats and trendlines in this report. Thanks Chris Dixon (@cdixon) for the lead to “Mobile Ate The World.” [Read More Now]
It’s more than a rain dance. El Niño is getting harder and harder to predict, says meteorologist and writer Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) via @ensiamedia. But a new data set called CHIRPS is bringing together an unprecedented amount of global rainfall data to provide an “early warning system” for worldwide drought, particularly in rural communities that rely on adequate rainfall for food, water, and economic stability. “Thanks to CHIRPS and other technologies, we can now anticipate drought emergencies,” says Holthaus, who reports that early detection will prove invaluable in preparing food aid and providing insurance compensation to affected areas. [Read More Now]
Can you name the world’s deadliest animal? From STAT (@statnews): Mosquitoes kill 725,000 people a year, according to a list from Bill Gates. They are the world’s deadliest animals. Eric Boodman (@ericboodman) reveals much more in the full story. [Read More Now]
Learning your way forward. When Fareed Zakaria (@FareedZakaria) speaks, we should all take a listen. The acclaimed journalist spent some time with @bigthink to discuss the role of skills in tomorrow’s workplace. It’s not good enough to simply have skills, he says; we must be willing to continually learn and grow and broaden our expertise. Although many employers still rely on university degrees as the “single best sorting mechanism” for evaluating job applicants, he believes companies could begin to place more value on those who “demonstrate a capacity to acquire [new skills]” through alternative means, such as online course accreditation and independent training. If that happens, Zakaria says, employees might realise that “what [they] are being paid for is really outcome related.” [Read More Now]
Innovation… or regression? NYT (@nytimes) correspondent Neil Irwin (@Neil_Irwin) takes a look back at the last 150 years of American history and asks: “What was the greatest era for innovation?” Certainly the 1920s introduced electricity, the telephone, and the automobile, and by the 1970s nearly everyone owned a television and could enjoy the luxury of air travel. But it’s hard to discount the innovations of today: the Internet, email, mobile telephones and text.” How that stacks up against the advances of yesteryear,” Irwin writes, “is the great question of whether an era of innovation remains underway, or has slowed way down.” [Read More Now]
It’s electric! Spotted by Erik Brynjolfsson (@erikbryn): “Tipping point: Japan has more electric car chargers than gas stations.” Tyler Cowen’s report for Marginal Revolution (@MargRev) leads to the full and fascinating story on this written by Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield (@aminorjourney) on Transport Evolved (@transportevolve). [Read More Now]
Make a decision. Big decisions can be scary, and realising you’ve made the wrong one is usually even worse. That’s certainly true for entrepreneurs who have to navigate increasingly crowded waters with no clear blueprint for success, says Steve Tobak (@SteveTobak) for @Entrepreneur. That’s why he urges young entrepreneurs to consider three key factors: (1) risk, (2) opportunity, and (3) expertise. Tobak particularly touts the value of starting out in the corporate world: “You get to learn and gain experience on the job, and get paid in the process.” [Read More Now]
What’s booming in Beijing? China is on the rise—and might already be giving Silicon Valley a run for its money. That’s the view of Shopkick (@shopkick) founder Cyriac Roeding (@cyriac1), who spent three weeks getting up close and personal with the Chinese start-up world. Roeding says Chinese start-ups are faster, but they’re also currently driven too much by the “get rich fast” promise. Still, he believes there is much to be learned from the authenticity of Chinese entrepreneurs: “Get to the core of it, the true entrepreneurial endeavour, the obsession with the product and the company, come hell or high water.” [Read More Now]
She’s fit to lead. Charlie Rose (@charlierose) has an insightful interview with Sara Blakely, the founder of @SPANX. Proof again that, with the right person, you can learn a great deal about leadership in less than 10 minutes. [Read More Now]
It’s a cosmic achievement. In 2014, the European Space Agency made history when it successfully set down a robotic lander on the surface of a tiny comet travelling 135,000 km/h through our solar system. In a new @BBC_Future documentary, Philae Lander manager Stephan Ulamec recalls the years of meticulous planning and precise execution needed to see the mission through. “Patience is something you have to bring with you if you want to work in the space business,” he says. But the reward makes it all worthwhile. “This will keep us busy for weeks, for months, and maybe, at the end, for years.” [Read More Now]
Want to read something really scary? “People watch Netflix more than they hang out with their friends, exercise, and read — combined” by Nathan McAlone (@nmcalone) for @businessinsider. Thanks Olivia Sterns (@OliviaSterns) and Aldo Barragan ™ (@un_tal_aldo) for helping us find this. [Read More Now]
Buckle up for the future. In the world of auto design, every year brings fresh ideas and innovations. Scott Collie (@CollieScott), for @gizmag, reveals one enterprising company that is literally opening new doors in 2016. Moscow-based automaker Mirrow recently unveiled its futuristic Provocator city car concept, which boasts a unique design feature: a single rear entry door with a centre aisle. Collie writes that the Provocator “makes it easy for passengers to get in and out,” and its square-like frame and flexible interior space allow for industry-specific configurations, such as taxis and catering vehicles. [Read More Now]
Here’s our fav quote for the month. The reality is that we live in an age that works against poetry. Poetry is an act of attention and we’re in a time where having an attention deficit is the norm. We’re bombarded with images and information, but images and information are not knowledge—and they’re certainly not poetry. — Carol Muske-Dukes (@carolmuskedukes). She is the Poet Laureate of California [link]. Spotted 20 May 2016 on @PageADayCal.
Good job, Steven! Our final post this week comes from one of our very own NextSensors, Steven D’Souza, who urges people to embrace the unknown. An international educator and founder of Deeper Learning, Steven (@cbcsteve) is also the co-author of Not Knowing (with Diana Renner) [link]. In a recent podcast interview, he talked about his book, which explores the role of uncertainty in the business world. Our culture places business leaders in “an impossible situation,” he argues, given how much we look to them for all the answers. But D’Souza believes leaders can find new ways to accept the unknown: “One of the challenges of leadership is making more space for that ability to change opinion [based] on valid data, to have humility, to challenge our own perspectives, but also [to have] the confidence to go forward.” More great work by the folks at @innovecosys. [Read More Now]
Every month, The Nextsensing Project publishes a brief review of some of the many great articles, books, videos, and ideas-in-other-forms that we encounter. The nextsensing mind, we believe, is always stretching to see beyond the marketplace horizon. Hope you enjoy this month’s edition of…
Sit down, Siri.Virtual assistants are on the rise—and who better than poets and comedians to give them life? From @washingtonpost, Elizabeth Dwoskin (@lizzadwoskin) reveals that creative writers are helping to bring a touch of humanity to the next class of A.I. companions. It’s a “hot job” in a hot market, she says: “at least $35 million in investment over the past year.” [Read More Now]
Bon appetit! It seems plastic is now on the menu… if you’re bacteria. Interesting article reported by @mental_floss: A team of Japanese researchers have identified a strain of bacteria that can break down PET, a polymer found in most plastics. What could this mean for the environment? Says Michele Debczak (@micheledebczak): “…scientists are hoping their discovery could inspire new ways of dealing with plastic pollution.” [Read More Now]
What’s so special about bitcoin? Dominic Frisby (@DominicFrisby) explains in an Aeon (@aeonmag) post that it’s all about “blockchain technology” — something that is far bigger than the bitcoin revolution. Consider these words from Frisby: “Just as the blockchain records where a bitcoin is at any given moment, and thus who owns it, so can blockchain be used to record the ownership of any asset and then to trade ownership of that asset. This has huge implications for the way stocks, bonds and futures, indeed all financial assets, are registered and traded. Registrars, stock markets, investment banks – disruption lies ahead for all of them. Their monopolies are all under threat from blockchain technology.” [Read More Now]
Winning formula. A Boston-based video game developer is taking the fight to ADHD. “Project: EVO” will teach kids how to navigate a digital world using only the items they really need—a “brain-training” model based on existing research. Denise Roland (@deniseroland) reports that the project has raised $30.5 million so far, and for good reason: “As many as 11% of U.S. children had been diagnosed…as of 2011 (CDCP).” Good spotting by @AlvaroF. [Read More Now]
BORING! Sandi Mann (@SandiPsych) in UK’s The Guardian (@guardian) tackles a question seldom asked. Why, she ponders, are we so bored? In her words: “Yet despite the plethora of high-intensity entertainment constantly at our disposal, we are still bored. Up to half of us are ‘often bored’ at home or at school, while more than two-thirds of us are chronically bored at work. We are bored by paperwork, by the commute and by dull meetings. TV is boring, as is Facebook and other social media. We spend our weekends at dull parties, watching tedious films or listening to our spouses drone on about their day. Our kids are bored — bored of school, of homework and even of school holidays.” Ouch! Then again, the author wrote a book on the subject and it’s titled The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom is Good. [link] (Thanks @Pocket for spotting this one!) [Read More Now]
No thanks! In 1973, with the Internet on the horizon, British economist Francis Cairncross predicted the death of the brick-and-mortar business office. Now it’s 2016 and many of us are still commuting to work. What gives? According to Carlo Ratti (@crassociati) and Matthew Claudel (@matthewclaudel) in @HarvardBiz: “We strive for places that allow us to share knowledge, to generate ideas…and the interaction of our minds are vital aspects of work…” [Read More Now]
Save the whales! How does one begin to protect Earth from ecological destruction? Pulitzer Prize-winning theorist Edward O. Wilson has a few ideas. His new book, Half-Earth, proffers a radical new solution: reserve half of the planet’s surface for non-human life. Says Jedediah Purdy (@JedediahSPurdy) in @NewRepublic: Wilson wants us to cast aside “an economy of endless appetite for more” and convert to one that dignifies the natural world. [Read More Now]
Imagine that! Highly recommend this post “Make Room for Imagination!” by Gaurav Bhalla (@GBInnovation). Wonderful thoughts about the need for more imaginative thinking in today’s workplaces. Says Bhalla: “Creativity can certainly accelerate innovation, but only after imagination has rewired mindsets.” Yes. Yes. Yes! His post appears in The Marketing Journal (@marketingjour). [Read More Now]
Do you measure up? A German hardware company may have just saved us all a heap of time —and trouble. John Wenz (@johnwenz) recently tried out BMI’s latest product: an automated tape measure that rolls out on its own. “Need to measure to that wall over there? Simply let the tape stretch itself across the room.” Neat video, too. Who knew? @PopMech did. [Read More Now]
Not just “old” news. A big change is coming, says the United States Census Bureau. People aged 65+ will soon outnumber children five years old and younger—a first in human history. Via @businessinsider, Elena Holodny (@elenaholodny) reports: “…by 2050 those ages 65 and up will make up an estimated 15.6% of the global population…” No doubt this shift will impact every facet of life in the years to come. [Read More Now]
Smart cooking. Fascinating post from @revieweddotcom. The next leap forward in microwave technology might be upon us — and we have 15-year-old Shahir Rahman to thank for it. Using a temperature gun and a little bit of math, the young scientist has developed a “smart” microwave that can determine the best settings for anything you want to cook. Says Nick Schmiedicker (@nschmiedicker): “[Shahir] hopes to be able to include a way for the microwave to detect fires before they start, and identify what food is inside without any user input.” [Read More Now]
Stay cool, man. The Internet never sleeps, and that means server hardware is hotter than ever. To keep the temperatures down, according to @nytimes, Microsoft has taken the plunge—literally. John Markoff (@markoff) reports that the tech giant recently installed a data center hundreds of feet down in the Pacific Ocean and “measured an ‘extremely’ small amount of local heating.” Barring any ecological effects, project leaders hope the effort will inspire even more innovation in server tech. [Read More Now]
Branch out, already! Want to win over some new customers? Per @Entrepreneur, you’ll need to tackle some new markets. “…[R]eal growth and scale requires attracting customers who are not like you,” says Martin Zwilling (@StartupPro), who offers seven tips for doing just that. My favourite? “Incorporate social consciousness into your message.” [Read More Now]
Boris Pasternak, Author, Doctor Zhivago [link]
Reshaping life! People who can say that have never understood a thing about life — they have never felt its breath, its heartbeat — however much they have seen or done. They look on it as a lump of raw material that needs to be processed by them, to be ennobled by their touch. But life is never a material, a substance to be molded. If you want to know, life is the principle of self-renewal, it is constantly renewing and remaking and changing and transfiguring itself, it is infinitely beyond your or my obtuse theories about it
Bill Watterson, Comic Strip Artist, Calvin & Hobbes [link]
Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating; the mind is like a car battery — it recharges by running.
Maria Robinson, Author, The Brave Caterpillar [link]
Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
Eugène Ionesco, Playwright [link]
I believe that in the history of art and of thought there has always been at every living moment of culture a will to renewal. This is not the prerogative of the last decade only. All history is nothing but a succession of crises — of rupture, repudiation and resistance. When there is no crisis, there is stagnation, petrifaction and death. All thought, all art is aggressive.
Ingrid Weir, Writer, Comic, Activist [link]
Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and if you screw that up, you can start again tomorrow.
Hermann Hesse, Poet, Novelist, Painter [link]
Whether you and I and a few others will renew the world some day remains to be seen. But within ourselves we must renew it each day.
John Henry Newman, Religious Leader, in The Idea of a University [link]
The intellect, which has been disciplined to the perfection of its powers, which knows, and thinks while it knows, which has learned to leaven the dense mass of facts and events with the elastic force of reason, such an intellect cannot be partial, cannot be exclusive, cannot be impetuous, cannot be at a loss, cannot but be patient, collected, and majestically calm, because it discerns the end in every beginning, the origin in every end, the law in every interruption, the limit in each delay; because it ever knows where it stands, and how its path lies from one point to another.
Many today do not have an extensive attention span. Instead, they have “attention spangles”. Their attention span is as small as a sequin, sometimes glittering with brilliance but, in the main, only a brief reflection of someone else’s intellectual light.
I’m alarmed by this as nextsensing requires keen observation reinforced by extended reflection and thinking. Today, what I see most people doing is glancing left and right, gulping down half thoughts, rinsing those with splashes of bewilderment, and then moving on to a steady diet of other information tidbits. Deep data analysis? Critical judgement about what’s true? Comparative assessment of what’s significant and what’s not? Say most: “Sorry, no time. Gotta check my emails and social media posts.”
This is not without great cost to the careers of many people, and ultimately, to society. This thought was driven home to me by a recent — and quite brilliant — analysis of four books written by Jacob Weisberg (@jacobwe) in The New York Review of Books [link]. I’ll list the four books momentarily, but it’s important to set the tone of Weisberg’s insight:
Americans spend an average of five and a half hours a day with digital media, more than half of that time on mobile devices, according to the research firm eMarketer. Among some groups, the numbers range much higher. In one recent survey, female students at Baylor University reported using their cell phones an average of ten hours a day. Three quarters of eighteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds say that they reach for their phones immediately upon waking up in the morning. Once out of bed, we check our phones 221 times a day — an average of every 4.3 minutes — according to a UK study. This number actually may be too low, since people tend to underestimate their own mobile usage. In a 2015 Gallup survey, 61 percent of people said they checked their phones less frequently than others they knew.
This is by no means a problem restricted to the US and UK. Anywhere I have travelled, I observe the same behaviour set. The need to stay digitally connected seems to surpass all other tasks and duties.
I even see this in the classroom with postgraduate students who often work for major global corporations. Just a few years ago, I would ask my students to spend 45 minutes for an in-class assignment that required critical thinking and extensive peer discussion. The same assignment today is often done in 20 minutes as a check-off-this-box exercise — rushed through so students could return to their digital world via their iDevices. While I do not have enough evidence to establish causality between this evolution and smartphones, I surely do have my suspicions.
Let’s extrapolate this point of view. Many CEOs will send their teams a current book deemed important to the business. How many managers actually read (as opposed to skim) the book? Business schools love case studies, which are often dense with text and charts. How many students settle for the gist of the case rather than the dissection it warrants? Even in the world of entrepreneurs, how many new businesses are started without the due mental diligence that would augur a sustainable future?
For that matter, Weisberg’s well-written review of the four books runs around 4,300 words. My guess is that many skated through it, which would, sadly, reaffirm so much of what Weisberg concludes about our digital daze. As Weisberg asks, “What does it mean to shift overnight from a society in which people walk down the street looking around to one in which people walk down the street looking at machines?”
The four authors he considers each take a stab at that question. Here are the books:
- Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle [link]
- Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle [link]
- Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web by Joseph M. Reagle Jr. [link]
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal with Ryan Hoover [link]
Weisberg nicely highlights each of these, which makes his review so valuable. That said, I just added these four books to my reading list because the linkage here to nextsensing is palpable. Sherry Turkle (@STurkle) has two books on the list, and I know from meeting her recently that she is struggling to find ways that technology can enhance the roles of people inside organisations, not marginalize it. Her thoughts on the loss of empathy between people as a result of technology bear special mention, as empathy is the highest form of sensing.
Go back to the basics for successful teams. They are powered by earnest, open and extended intercommunications, which forge ever higher levels of trust — and empathy — among team members. Too many teams today seem to only to be powered by the phrase “Gotta go!”
Not buying any of this? Take a peek at the stats of the Statistic Brain Research Institute [link]. What was the average attention span in 2000? 12 seconds. In 2015? 8.25 seconds, about a 30 per cent drop. In another 15 years, will the average attention span be under five seconds? Oh, I forgot the kicker: the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds.
Perhaps you’ve heard the comment by Einstein that “we shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.” While I fully acknowledge that some today exhibit the kind of new thinking that Einstein craved, the majority will forever be handicapped by attention spangles that prevent real thinking at all.
When Max De Pree was CEO of the legendary furniture maker Herman Miller (@HermanMiller) [link], he wrote a book to help others develop as leaders. Since Leadership Is An Art was published in 1989, it has sold more than 800,000 copies. And it’s still available — and selling [link]. That kind of longevity in the field of management thinking is rare.
Even today on Twitter, one can find De Pree quoted liberally. For example, just a few days ago, Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein), a college basketball broadcaster, was moved to tweet this De Pree thought: “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” At the time of my last check, Jon’s post was retweeted 19 times.
Seeing that, I recently pulled my worn copy of that seminal book off the shelf. Such an act is akin to calling on an old friend whom you have not seen for (can it be?) decades! Flipping through the book, the highlighted lines, the bookmarked pages, I was struck to see that De Pree had included a chapter I had totally forgotten. There it was, on page 113: “What’s Next?” And here is how he opens the chapter:
At times in business, the congruence of principles and practice — or their incongruence — comes sharply into focus. Reviewing performance is a time like that, a time to ask what we are trying to do, evaluate how we are doing, and then ask “What’s next?”
Someone who would appreciate De Pree’s sentiment is Roderick Millar (@RoddyMillar), the editorial director of the formidable Developing Leaders Quarterly. Millar’s publication comes from IEDP (@IEDP_Knowledge), an international organisation dedicated to “Monitoring World Class Executive Development” [link].
In the current issue, you will find my own thoughts on developing leaders. Titled “In Search of the ‘Next’ Leader: Nextsensing to Frame a Future State for the Firm”, you can read it online via IEDP’s world-class e-journal [link].
Perhaps this excerpt will give you incentive to read the entire article:
Stated most simply, the number one problem I see today in the business world is the inability of most managers to answer the question “What’s next?” That is, whether taken as an innovation challenge, a corporate sustainability desire, a strategic planning requirement or a basic survival need, too many leaders seem either myopic or visionless. They lack the deliberateness that comes from the confidence gained by clear thinking.
I close the IEDP article by sharing that our Nextsensing Project will be concentrating on this theme for all of 2016, with our next e-book (coming soon) and other productions now being prepared to outline the skill set that should be at the top of everyone’s leadership development agenda for the foreseeable future. As I say in the article, all the work on nextsensing so far has taught us three important lessons:
- You cannot lead alone.
- You cannot lead with a limited perspective.
- You cannot lead backwards.
By the way, De Pree’s work is far from over. You might enjoy exploring the information on the “Max De Pree Centre for Leadership” (@depree_center) website [link]. In 1989, De Pree stated: “Choosing leaders is the most vital and important matter corporations and institutions face. What characteristics of a good leader will you add?”
Be looking for our own detailed answer to that question in the very near future.