A book about leadership under VUCA circumstances, a world in a scramble, with asymmetric upheaval and shape-shifting organisations. Where disruption becomes the norm. It is not going to be easy. What do you need to do as a leader?
Perspectives and action
You need to get as many perspectives as you can to learn from a wide diversity of views—but not get stuck in any single view worldview, to look long instinctively—but focus on action when that is needed. Action without foresight and insight will be dumb, dangerous, or both. Leaders will need to combine the practices of foresight, insight, and action in an ongoing cycle of learning.
You need to become a sense-maker, by looking backwards from the future. However, almost nothing happens that is truly new. The future that is about to happen has been brewing for a very long time. Don’t ask, “What’s new?” because if something is truly new, it almost certainly won’t happen any time soon. Rather, you should be asking, “What’s ready to take off?”Look back at least 50 years. Look for patterns of change. Look for thresholds of change. Look for signals that precede the future. Look in particular for what seems ready to take off, even if it has failed many times before. Look for stories that connect to the signals and give clues about how a particular future could come to pass.The more complex the future, the further ahead you will need to look. You will need to start thinking about the unthinkable. You will also need to provoke, not predict. Read “Futurevision” or “Non-obvious”
You need to focus on clarity instead of certainty. You must become a source of clarity. Clarity is the ability to be very explicit about where you are going, but very flexible about how you will get there. You will also be in the business of seeding hope.
You need to embrace storytelling. Read “Putting stories to work“. Strategy is storytelling about the history of the future—the present that hasn’t happened yet. It was novelist Ursula K. Le Guin, an eloquent futures storyteller herself, who said, “Story is our only boat for sailing on the river of time”. You need to understand the memes and create memes, respond to memes, build on memes, and fight memes. Leaders in shape-shifting organisations of the future will trade in memes. They will fuel communication—and miscommunications. News and fake news will spread via memes. You will need to be very good at seeding and steering wildfire events and the memes that hover above them. Memes or guiding principles will drive the organisation, and leaders will carry and trade in memes.
You will need to create and sustain positive energy. If you are going to thrive in a future of extreme disruption, you must not only manage your own energy, you must encourage, model, and reward positive energy in others. Leaders will need to radiate positive energy at all times. People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel (rule one in storytelling). Read “Solve for happy”.
You need to build an organisation that can shapeshift. Read “The network always wins”. Not only networked organisations but networked leadership or distributed authority. You will need to develop your own brand of blended-reality presence.
Connectivity and trust
You need to develop connectivity, idea flow, and trust. The key to increasing the “contagion” of your story or meme is trust and connectivity between otherwise separate elements of an establishment.
You need discipline, to provide order—but not too much order.
You will need to develop the ability to bring together, engage with, and nurture purposeful business or social change networks through intelligent use of electronic and other media.
You will need to develop your maker Instinct: The ability to turn one’s natural instinct to build into a skill for making the future and connecting with others who are making. Read “Makers”
You need to build company game or practice zones where you can play, try, test and develop grit. Read Freek Vermeulen
You will have to shift from thinking about physical proximity to attentional proximity and come to see scheduling as a much more dynamic and ad hoc process.
Study Africa. Innovation will come from Africa and other regions of the world that are dealing with constraints that force that innovation.
You will need to play XBox. Gameful engagement will be basic to the next generation of learning, marketing, advertising, and commercials. In ten years, most rising star leaders will be gamers, with a gameful mindset. Digital natives are going to expect a much higher level of engagement as they get to work.
You should study flow. Read “Stealing fire“
You need to look at the edges of your organisation
You need to develop bio-empathy: The ability to see things from nature’s point of view; to understand, respect, and learn from nature’s patterns. The future is bio-engineering. Nature has its own clarity if only we humans can understand and learn from. Bio-empathy involves learning the principles of nature and applying them.
The book reminds me of “workplace 2020”, but goes beyond it. Ultimately it is about the clarity of purpose, storytelling (including social media, memes, virtual reality, avatars, etc.), culture and authenticity. It is the leadership that is applied to “Firms of endearment“.