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The Ways Inflection Points Define Our Future

The Ways Inflection Points Define Our Future

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

Humans tend to think in a linear fashion. If something is growing, we expect it to keep growing. If it is decreasing, we expect it to continue to decrease. We are natural trend watchers and instinctively look for patterns. Yet it is often the discontinuities, rather than the continuities, that have the biggest impact.

The mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot referred to this cycle of continuity punctuated by discontinuity as “Noah effects and Joseph effects.” Joseph effects, as in the biblical story, support long periods of continuity. Noah effects, on the other hand, are like a big storm creating a massive flood of discontinuity, washing away the previous order.

Throughout history, inflection points have defined the future. Business models, built on top of Joseph effects, are disrupted by Noah effects, creating new opportunities for those who are able to identify and adapt. Today, we’re in the midst of a series of inflection points in what was already a time of enormous flux. We can’t predict the future but we can prepare for it.

1920s: A Second Industrial Revolution

By 1920, electricity was already nearly a 40-year old technology. In 1882, just three years after he had almost literally shocked the world with his revolutionary electric light bulb, Thomas Edison opened his Pearl Street Station, the first commercial electrical distribution plant in the United States. By 1884 it was already servicing over 500 homes.

Yet although electricity and electric lighting were already widespread in 1919, they didn’t have a measurable effect on productivity and a paper by the economist Paul David helps explain why. It took time for manufacturers to adapt their factories to electricity and learn to design workflow to leverage the flexibility that the new technology offered. It was the improved workflow, more than the technology itself, that drove productivity forward.

Automobiles saw a similar evolution. It took time for infrastructure, such as roads and gas stations, to be built. Improved logistics reshaped supply chains and factories moved from cities in the north — close to customers — to small towns in the south, where labor and land were cheaper. That improved the economics of manufacturing further.

It was the confluence of electricity and internal combustion, along with the secondary innovations they spawned, that led to mass manufacturing and mass marketing. Enterprises scaled up into huge bureaucracies exemplified by the organization Alfred Sloan built at General Motors. Firms were designed to move large numbers of men and materiel efficiently. Information flowed up, orders went down and your rank determined your responsibility.

1990s – Globalization and Digitization

In November 1989, there were two watershed events that would change the course of world history. The fall of the Berlin Wall would end the Cold War and open up markets across the world. That very same month, Tim Berners-Lee would create the World Wide Web and usher in a new technological era of networked computing.

Much like in the 1920s, these forces had been building for some time. Commercial computers had been around since the 1950s and global trade as a percentage of GDP began to sharply increase in the 1970s. Yet 1989 marked an inflection point and the world would never be the same after that.

The combined forces of globalization and digitization favored the quick and agile over the large and powerful. Rather than spending months or years to develop products, startup firms could rapidly prototype and iterate their way to launching a product in months or weeks. So called “unicorns”, startup companies valued at over a billion dollars, began to emerge and disrupt incumbent industry giants.

Perhaps the biggest shift of the globalized, digital world was from hierarchies to networks. While in the industrial era strategy was focused on linear value chains and the sum of all efficiencies, in the networked world strategy increasingly focused on the sum of all connections. A leader’s role was no longer simply to plan and direct action, but to inspire and empower belief.

Yet much like technologies that came of age in the 1920s, the second and third order effects of globalization and digitization were very different than anyone had predicted. Instead of the triumph of democracy we got a rise in authoritarian populism. Instead of a new era of prosperity, we got stagnant wages, reduced productivity growth and weaker competitive markets.

2020s – A New Era of Innovation

Today, as Moore’s law nears its theoretical limits, the digital revolution is coming to a close and we’re about to embark on a new era of innovation. Much like in the 1920s and the 1990s, the future is likely to surprise us, but the rough outlines of new inflection points are already beginning to take shape.

The first is in energy. The World Economic Forum reports that wind and solar now produce energy cheaper than coal and gas in North America. In fact, in some sunny parts of the world, solar costs less than half as much as coal. Costs for energy storage are still too high, but here too there is significant progress and we’re likely to see a scaled solution within a decade.

Another is the rise of synthetic biology. Driven by new technologies such as CRISPR, we’re beginning to go beyond merely reading genomes and starting to write them. Andrew Hessel, CEO of Humane Genomics, told me that we’re nearing the point that the value of a genome exceeds the cost to produce one. That will unleash a new wave of biologically driven business models. A similar revolution is underway in materials science.

Over the next decade we will also see the emergence of post-digital computing architectures such as quantum and neuromorphic computing, which are potentially thousands, if not millions of times more powerful than today’s technology. Although we don’t expect much of an impact from either of these for at least a decade, they will accelerate advancements in biology, materials and artificial intelligence.

Clearly these new technologies will open up new possibilities, but right now it’s impossible to see beyond first order effects. Nobody looked at a light bulb and saw household appliances empowering women to enter the workplace, or looked at a Model T and saw suburbs and the transformation of retail, or came across an IBM mainframe and said, “Gee, this thing will put journalists out of work one day.”

Preparing For the Future

Six years ago, I wrote how 2020 was shaping up to be a pivotal year. Boy, I had no idea! In addition. In addition to the convergence of longstanding trends in technology, energy and transportation, Covid-19 and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement burst onto the global consciousness.

Two things stick out about these new inflection points. First, they were not only predictable, but were, in fact, predicted by a number of people. Second, both will accelerate already existing trends. Covid-19 has shifted digital transformation and synthetic biology into high gear. Black Lives Matter will likely expedite the shift in political power from Boomers to Millennials.

We can think of various scenarios that can play out. Covid may catalyze nascent trends, such as telemedicine and genomic medicine to greatly improve healthcare in the US. Black Lives Matter may cause a shift in hiring patterns that may help to accelerate productivity. On the other hand, the tensions both inflection points create may exacerbate underlying divisions and make things worse.

Those are just two possible scenarios. There are many more, each of which will create their sets of Noah and Joseph effects and then combine secondary and tertiary changes in ways that are unknowable today. What we can do, however, is explore new possibilities and prepare for them. The most important inflection points are often the ones that we create ourselves through the choices we make. No future is inevitable.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Unsplash

What's Next - New York City on November 17 2022

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Your Next Best Action is Up to You

Your Next Best Action is Up to You

GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski

If you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, you can try to remember why you started the whole thing or you can do something else. Either can remedy things, but how do you choose between them? If you’ve forgotten your “why”, maybe it’s worth forgetting or maybe something else temporarily came up that pushed your still-important why underground for a short time. If it’s worth forgetting, maybe it’s time for something else. And if it’s worth remembering, maybe it’s time to double down. Only you can choose.

If you still remember why you’re doing what you’re doing, you can ask yourself if your why is still worth its salt or if something changed, either inside you or in your circumstances, that has twisted your why to something beyond salvage. If your why is still as salty as ever, maybe it’s right to stay the course. But if it’s still as salty as ever but you now think it’s distasteful, maybe it’s time for a change.

When you do what you did last time, are you more efficient or more dissatisfied, or both? And if you imagine yourself doing it again, do you look forward to more efficiency or predict more dissatisfaction? These questions can help you decide whether to keep things as they are or change them.

What have you learned over the last year? Whether your list is long or if it’s short, it’s a good barometer to inform your next chapter.

What new skills have you mastered over the last year? Is the list long or short? If you don’t want to grow your mastery, keep things as they are.

Do the people you work with inspire you or bring you down? Are you energized or depleted by them? If you’re into depletion, there’s no need to change anything.

Do you have more autonomy than last year? And how do you feel about that? Let your answers guide your future.

What is the purpose behind what you do? Is it aligned with your internal compass? These two questions can bring clarity.

You’re the only one who can ask yourself these questions; you’re the only one who can decide if you like the answers; and you’re the only one who is responsible for what you do next. What you do next is up to you.

Fork in the road” by Kai Hendry is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World

Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

Meeting face to face, for a lovely lunch recently, with a coaching colleague, we were both shocked to discover how stressed and anxious we were feeling about being asked to deliver live workshops and face-to-face coaching to clients once again.

We shared how emotionally, mentally, and physically overwhelmed we felt, despite having decades of knowledge, experience, and skills in being able to deliver deep learning programs and face-to-face coaching sessions, about doing live gigs again! We also agreed, that despite the range of largely effective emotionally intelligent coping strategies we developed to help ourselves and our clients self-regulate, self-manage, to better adapt to the pandemic-imposed work-from-home restrictions that the past two and half years of working, alone, and in isolation, online, had taken its toll.

We acknowledged and accepted that we along with many of our clients were all suffering from elevated levels of stress, discomfort, and anxiety. We then agreed that it was time to focus on exploring how to better help ourselves and our clients reconnect and reset by enabling them to create states of well-being, emotional agility, and mental fitness, where they can feel good, can function well, and be effective and innovative in an increasingly chaotic world.

To seek new ways of enabling ourselves and our clients to deal effectively with a range of unresourceful feelings including helplessness, powerlessness, and fearfulness about an uncertain future. 

We noticed that these feelings often caused many of our clients to contract and freeze, and become immobilised as a result of what we describe as a “bubble” of self-induced silo-based behaviours. That often evolved into extreme self-centeredness, and unconscious selfishness, which ultimately increased their feelings of isolation and loneliness, and lack of belonging, resulting in defensive and avoidant behaviours, in what is becoming an increasingly chaotic world.

How are these ways of being and acting impacting organisations?

Partnering in a wide range of online global coaching sessions, we noticed that a number of common trends emerged as to how our client’s teams and organisations, are being impacted at the cultural level:

  • Immobilization – many people are unable to self-manage their work from home workloads and are quietly burning out, through being overly task-focused and busy, whilst others are preferring to work autonomously, and not waste hours commuting.
  • Lacking safety and trust – many organisations are freezing all of their change initiatives, learning programs, and projects, causing people to fear loss and overall job insecurity, where many people are contracting more deeply within their “bubbles” and become even more distrustful of leadership and even more passively defensive and avoidant.
  • Lacking clarity and foresight – many organisations have slipped into being so reactive, focussing only on delivering short-term results, and are not communicating a clear strategy for leading the way forwards.

Resulting in:

  • Increased resistance to change and going back to the office adds to people’s inertia, and to their sense of disconnection and lack of belonging.
  • Increased risk adversity and conventional (cost cutting), tactical and short-term focus, inhibits any investment in Research and Development or the skills development required in developing and executing a future innovation strategy.
  • People have become even more fearful of failure, and are not stretching themselves to adapt, grow, learn and innovate with disruption, and often choosing to merely change jobs, in a competitive job marketplace, driven by scarcity, as a perceived short term solution.

A unique moment in time

This has created an opportunity, in this unique moment in time, to focus on being kinder to ourselves and to others by helping and supporting each other, respectfully and compassionately, creatively and courageously, to reconnect and reset. Despite rising levels of economic, civic, and social uncertainty and unrest.

What made sense yesterday may not make so much sense today.

Many of the mental models we applied yesterday may not be relevant for tomorrow because corporate culture, civic and social structures have drastically changed and digitalization has become commonplace, noting that we are shifting from a VUCA to BANI world where:

  • Brittle has replaced Volatility.
  • Anxiety reflects Uncertainty.
  • Non-linearity is an addition to Complexity.
  • Incomprehensibility is ultimately the consequence of our non-linear world and goes one step further than Ambiguity.

Paradoxically, this has created new openings to genuinely explore and discover new thresholds to adapt, generate new mindsets, develop skill sets, and power up our toolkits to keep pace with the effects of the emerging BANI world and capture complex systems by asking a  key generative or catalytic question:

How might you support and enable others to think and act differently in such a world, where old patterns seem to crumble while new ideas and systems still need to be created, invented, innovated, and established?

As the world of work changes, so does the need for everyone to consider how to be more open-hearted, minded, and willed with one another.

A final word from Gallop CEO Jon Preston in the Gallop Global Emotions Report:

“All over the world, people are trying to understand the rise of violence, hatred, and increased radicalization. They will continue to argue over what the best policy responses should be and what role social media plays in fueling negative emotions.

However, policymakers must understand why so many more people are experiencing unprecedented negative emotions and focus on the drivers of a great life.

Our shared humanity and wellbeing depend on it”.

When we generously and kindly demonstrate care, respect, and appreciation for the value everyone brings, we can also demonstrate helpfulness and support, through our unconditional willingness to reconnect and reset.

Resulting in an ability to co-create a better sense of belonging and a more optimistic outlook, through enhancing our emotional intelligence.  To effectively self-regulation and self-manage the superpowers and strategies required to thrive, flourish and flow, and make transformational changes in the face of relentless uncertainty, disruption, and a chaotic world.

This is the first in a series of three blogs on the theme of reconnecting and resetting, to create, invent and innovate in an increasingly chaotic world. You can also register for our free 45-minute masterclass on Thursday, 25th August, to discover new ways of re-connecting through the complexity and chaos of dis-connection to create, invent and innovate in the future! Find out more.

Image credit: Pixabay

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The Phoenix Checklist – Strategies for Innovation and Regeneration

The Phoenix Checklist - Strategies for Innovation and Regeneration

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought.”   Sun Tzu

As reference I love using Michael Michalko book, Thinkertoys. It’s been on my shelf since first released in the 1991, especially in the most challenging times. This book has gotten me and my businesses through 2 gulf wars, 9/11/01 economic aftermath, 2008/9 deep recession and even good times where innovation felt no need.

In chapter 14, Phoenix, he shares the CIA’s checklist for dissecting and solving critical problems. BUT don’t just use this for tackling a problem, use it to help you design new business models, new revenue models, innovating a new product… the checklist applies to scenario planning and breaking down opportunities into manageable strategies to execute new ideas, processes and products.

It’s a strategy used and touted by experts over and over again and it works: The Phoenix Checklist Strategy. Challenging your own assumptions every minute of the day is not a bad thing right now. Putting a framework around how best to challenge your team and build stronger more reliable assumptions and plans is a great idea. I am sure there are strategies already at play and that too is a great thing. What more could be done today that you are not already doing? Maybe this is a great basis for the first question you want to answer using the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) trusted Phoenix checklist.

Below is the Phoenix Checklist but broken down in the way we at Plazabridge Group use the tool for innovating new ideas and solving critical issues for our clients.

>Start here: Can you imagine the result if you solve the problem?

Illusion licensed from iStock by PlazaBridge GroupGet those creative juices flowing.

What do you see?

What’s the first thing you see?

What’s the 2nd thing you see?

I. Define the problem– The first stage is to tackle the checklist.

Below are the Typical questions we ask and may have answers for… but go deeper!

  • Why is it necessary to solve the problem?
  • What benefits do you get by solving the problem?
  • What are the unknown factors?
  • Have you encountered this problem before?
  • What data do we have to help us dissect the problem down into smaller pieces?

We often fail to go deeper into defining the challenges to be solved or opportunities to create Go deeper questions:

  • What are you not yet understanding?
  • What information do you have?
  • What is not the problem?
  • Is the information you have sufficient? Insufficient? Superfluous? Contradictory?
  • Can you describe the problem in a chart?
  • Where is the limit for the problem?
  • Can you distinguish the different parts of the problem? Can you write them down? What are the relationships between the different parts of the problem? What is common to the different problem areas?

Then go even deeper exploration:

  • Have you seen this problem in a slightly different form? Do you know a related issue?
  • Try to think of a familiar problem with the same or similar unknown factors.
  • Suppose you find a problem similar to yours that has already been resolved. Can you use it? Can you use the same method?
  • Can you reformulate your problem? How many different ways can you reformulate it? More generally? More specifically? Can the rules change?
  • What are the best, worst and most likely outcomes you can imagine?

Designing the plan checklist:

Our team starts here cutting through most challenges or designing new opportunities we want to tackle.

What will solving this problem do for our company? Answer this question daily for two weeks. See what happens. It’s magical really!   Define, Write, chart, and visualize every step of the way. Assign roles to each member of the team to tackle component outcomes of the exploration.

  • How will you solve the whole problem? Can you break the problem down?
  • How much of the unknown can you influence?
  • Can you deduce something useful from the information you have?
  • Have you used all available information?
  • Have you taken into account all the essential factors in the problem?
  • Can you identify the steps in the problem-solving process? Can you determine the accuracy of each step?
    • Draw these out –
    • Then redraw them
    • And again
  • What creative techniques can you use to generate ideas? How many different techniques?
    • After exploring creative techniques go back to the previous bullet point and draw out the steps again.
    • Then again
    • And yes ONE MORE MAGICAL time

Imagine again the results in the perfect world! What would the results be, look like, feel to everyone in the company, to you and to your customers?

  • Can you imagine the result? How many different types of results can imagine?
  • How many different ways can you try to solve the problem?
  • What have others done?
  • Can you intuitively see the solution? Can you check the result?
  • What should be done? How should it be done?
  • Where, when and by whom should it be done?
  • What do you need to do right now?
  • Who will be responsible for what?

Now what? Can you do more with the plan?

  • Can you use this problem to resolve any other issues?
  • What are the unique qualities that make this problem what it is and nothing else?
  • Which milestones can best highlight your progress?
  • How do you know when you are successful?

This last point is so very important and often left out of processes. There are stages of success. Success doesn’t happen all at once so how will you create your timeline to give any new plan a chance to succeed? Better yet, how will you know if you are not succeeding? The plan was well thought out, a lot of time was invested and possibly a lot of money! Don’t give up but in your scenario planning do know what you are watching for to say, how and where shall we adjust along the way and constantly question how to improve the plan. Give it long enough, give it a fighting chance, put your top minds in the company on these challenges and opportunities.

Create your opportunity team of diverse thinkers! They are your innovators.

Create your action team! They are your executors!

Now you are ready for the next challenge or opportunity. Start at the top and repeat.

Original Article

Image credits: iStockPhoto (purchased by the author)

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How will humans change in the next 10,000 years?

Future evolution: from looks to brains and personality

GUEST POST from Nicholas R. Longrich, University of Bath

READER QUESTION: If humans don’t die out in a climate apocalypse or asteroid impact in the next 10,000 years, are we likely to evolve further into a more advanced species than what we are at the moment? Harry Bonas, 57, Nigeria

Humanity is the unlikely result of 4 billion years of evolution.

From self-replicating molecules in Archean seas, to eyeless fish in the Cambrian deep, to mammals scurrying from dinosaurs in the dark, and then, finally, improbably, ourselves – evolution shaped us.

Organisms reproduced imperfectly. Mistakes made when copying genes sometimes made them better fit to their environments, so those genes tended to get passed on. More reproduction followed, and more mistakes, the process repeating over billions of generations. Finally, Homo sapiens appeared. But we aren’t the end of that story. Evolution won’t stop with us, and we might even be evolving faster than ever.


This article is part of Life’s Big Questions

The Conversation’s new series, co-published with BBC Future, seeks to answer our readers’ nagging questions about life, love, death and the universe. We work with professional researchers who have dedicated their lives to uncovering new perspectives on the questions that shape our lives.


It’s hard to predict the future. The world will probably change in ways we can’t imagine. But we can make educated guesses. Paradoxically, the best way to predict the future is probably looking back at the past, and assuming past trends will continue going forward. This suggests some surprising things about our future.

We will likely live longer and become taller, as well as more lightly built. We’ll probably be less aggressive and more agreeable, but have smaller brains. A bit like a golden retriever, we’ll be friendly and jolly, but maybe not that interesting. At least, that’s one possible future. But to understand why I think that’s likely, we need to look at biology.

The end of natural selection?

Some scientists have argued that civilisation’s rise ended natural selection. It’s true that selective pressures that dominated in the past – predators, famine, plague, warfare – have mostly disappeared.

Starvation and famine were largely ended by high-yield crops, fertilisers and family planning. Violence and war are less common than ever, despite modern militaries with nuclear weapons, or maybe because of them. The lions, wolves and sabertoothed cats that hunted us in the dark are endangered or extinct. Plagues that killed millions – smallpox, Black Death, cholera – were tamed by vaccines, antibiotics, clean water.

But evolution didn’t stop; other things just drive it now. Evolution isn’t so much about survival of the fittest as reproduction of the fittest. Even if nature is less likely to murder us, we still need to find partners and raise children, so sexual selection now plays a bigger role in our evolution.

And if nature doesn’t control our evolution anymore, the unnatural environment we’ve created – culture, technology, cities – produces new selective pressures very unlike those we faced in the ice age. We’re poorly adapted to this modern world; it follows that we’ll have to adapt.

And that process has already started. As our diets changed to include grains and dairy, we evolved genes to help us digest starch and milk. When dense cities created conditions for disease to spread, mutations for disease resistance spread too. And for some reason, our brains have got smaller. Unnatural environments create unnatural selection.

To predict where this goes, we’ll look at our prehistory, studying trends over the past 6 million years of evolution. Some trends will continue, especially those that emerged in the past 10,000 years, after agriculture and civilisation were invented.

We’re also facing new selective pressures, such as reduced mortality. Studying the past doesn’t help here, but we can see how other species responded to similar pressures. Evolution in domestic animals may be especially relevant – arguably we’re becoming a kind of domesticated ape, but curiously, one domesticated by ourselves.

I’ll use this approach to make some predictions, if not always with high confidence. That is, I’ll speculate.

Lifespan

Humans will almost certainly evolve to live longer – much longer. Life cycles evolve in response to mortality rates, how likely predators and other threats are to kill you. When mortality rates are high, animals must reproduce young, or might not reproduce at all. There’s also no advantage to evolving mutations that prevent ageing or cancer – you won’t live long enough to use them.

When mortality rates are low, the opposite is true. It’s better to take your time reaching sexual maturity. It’s also useful to have adaptations that extend lifespan, and fertility, giving you more time to reproduce. That’s why animals with few predators – animals that live on islands or in the deep ocean, or are simply big – evolve longer lifespans. Greenland sharks, Galapagos tortoises and bowhead whales mature late, and can live for centuries.

Even before civilisation, people were unique among apes in having low mortality and long lives. Hunter-gatherers armed with spears and bows could defend against predators; food sharing prevented starvation. So we evolved delayed sexual maturity, and long lifespans – up to 70 years.

Still, child mortality was high – approaching 50% or more by age 15. Average life expectancy was just 35 years. Even after the rise of civilisation, child mortality stayed high until the 19th century, while life expectancy went down – to 30 years – due to plagues and famines.

Then, in the past two centuries, better nutrition, medicine and hygiene reduced youth mortality to under 1% in most developed nations. Life expectancy soared to 70 years worldwide , and 80 in developed countries. These increases are due to improved health, not evolution – but they set the stage for evolution to extend our lifespan.

Now, there’s little need to reproduce early. If anything, the years of training needed to be a doctor, CEO, or carpenter incentivise putting it off. And since our life expectancy has doubled, adaptations to prolong lifespan and child-bearing years are now advantageous. Given that more and more people live to 100 or even 110 yearsthe record being 122 years – there’s reason to think our genes could evolve until the average person routinely lives 100 years or even more.

Size, and strength

Animals often evolve larger size over time; it’s a trend seen in tyrannosaurs, whales, horses and primates – including hominins.

Early hominins like Australopithecus afarensis and Homo habilis were small, four to five feet (120cm-150cm) tall. Later hominins – Homo erectus, Neanderthals, Homo sapiens – grew taller. We’ve continued to gain height in historic times, partly driven by improved nutrition, but genes seem to be evolving too.

Why we got big is unclear. In part, mortality may drive size evolution; growth takes time, so longer lives mean more time to grow. But human females also prefer tall males. So both lower mortality and sexual preferences will likely cause humans to get taller. Today, the tallest people in the world are in Europe, led by the Netherlands. Here, men average 183cm (6ft); women 170cm (5ft 6in). Someday, most people might be that tall, or taller.

As we’ve grown taller, we’ve become more gracile. Over the past 2 million years, our skeletons became more lightly built as we relied less on brute force, and more on tools and weapons. As farming forced us to settle down, our lives became more sedentary, so our bone density decreased. As we spend more time behind desks, keyboards and steering wheels, these trends will likely continue.

Humans have also reduced our muscles compared to other apes, especially in our upper bodies. That will probably continue. Our ancestors had to slaughter antelopes and dig roots; later they tilled and reaped in the fields. Modern jobs increasingly require working with people, words and code – they take brains, not muscle. Even for manual laborers – farmers, fisherman, lumberjacks – machinery such as tractors, hydraulics and chainsaws now shoulder a lot of the work. As physical strength becomes less necessary, our muscles will keep shrinking.

Our jaws and teeth also got smaller. Early, plant-eating hominins had huge molars and mandibles for grinding fibrous vegetables. As we shifted to meat, then started cooking food, jaws and teeth shrank. Modern processed food – chicken nuggets, Big Macs, cookie dough ice cream – needs even less chewing, so jaws will keep shrinking, and we’ll likely lose our wisdom teeth.

Beauty

After people left Africa 100,000 years ago, humanity’s far-flung tribes became isolated by deserts, oceans, mountains, glaciers and sheer distance. In various parts of the world, different selective pressures – different climates, lifestyles and beauty standards – caused our appearance to evolve in different ways. Tribes evolved distinctive skin colour, eyes, hair and facial features.

With civilisation’s rise and new technologies, these populations were linked again. Wars of conquest, empire building, colonisation and trade – including trade of other humans – all shifted populations, which interbred. Today, road, rail and aircraft link us too. Bushmen would walk 40 miles to find a partner; we’ll go 4,000 miles. We’re increasingly one, worldwide population – freely mixing. That will create a world of hybrids – light brown skinned, dark-haired, Afro-Euro-Australo-Americo-Asians, their skin colour and facial features tending toward a global average.

Sexual selection will further accelerate the evolution of our appearance. With most forms of natural selection no longer operating, mate choice will play a larger role. Humans might become more attractive, but more uniform in appearance. Globalised media may also create more uniform standards of beauty, pushing all humans towards a single ideal. Sex differences, however, could be exaggerated if the ideal is masculine-looking men and feminine-looking women.

Intelligence and personality

Last, our brains and minds, our most distinctively human feature, will evolve, perhaps dramatically. Over the past 6 million years, hominin brain size roughly tripled, suggesting selection for big brains driven by tool use, complex societies and language. It might seem inevitable that this trend will continue, but it probably won’t.

Instead, our brains are getting smaller. In Europe, brain size peaked 10,000—20,000 years ago, just before we invented farming. Then, brains got smaller. Modern humans have brains smaller than our ancient predecessors, or even medieval people. It’s unclear why.

It could be that fat and protein were scarce once we shifted to farming, making it more costly to grow and maintain large brains. Brains are also energetically expensive – they burn around 20% of our daily calories. In agricultural societies with frequent famine, a big brain might be a liability.

Maybe hunter-gatherer life was demanding in ways farming isn’t. In civilisation, you don’t need to outwit lions and antelopes, or memorise every fruit tree and watering hole within 1,000 square miles. Making and using bows and spears also requires fine motor control, coordination, the ability to track animals and trajectories — maybe the parts of our brains used for those things got smaller when we stopped hunting.

Or maybe living in a large society of specialists demands less brainpower than living in a tribe of generalists. Stone-age people mastered many skills – hunting, tracking, foraging for plants, making herbal medicines and poisons, crafting tools, waging war, making music and magic. Modern humans perform fewer, more specialised roles as part of vast social networks, exploiting division of labour. In a civilisation, we specialise on a trade, then rely on others for everything else.

That being said, brain size isn’t everything: elephants and orcas have bigger brains than us, and Einstein’s brain was smaller than average. Neanderthals had brains comparable to ours, but more of the brain was devoted to sight and control of the body, suggesting less capacity for things like language and tool use. So how much the loss of brain mass affects overall intelligence is unclear. Maybe we lost certain abilities, while enhancing others that are more relevant to modern life. It’s possible that we’ve maintained processing power by having fewer, smaller neurons. Still, I worry about what that missing 10% of my grey matter did.

Curiously, domestic animals also evolved smaller brains. Sheep lost 24% of their brain mass after domestication; for cows, it’s 26%; dogs, 30%. This raises an unsettling possibility. Maybe being more willing to passively go with the flow (perhaps even thinking less), like a domesticated animal, has been bred into us, like it was for them.

Our personalities must be evolving too. Hunter-gatherers’ lives required aggression. They hunted large mammals, killed over partners and warred with neighbouring tribes. We get meat from a store, and turn to police and courts to settle disputes. If war hasn’t disappeared, it now accounts for fewer deaths, relative to population, than at any time in history. Aggression, now a maladaptive trait, could be bred out.

Changing social patterns will also change personalities. Humans live in much larger groups than other apes, forming tribes of around 1,000 in hunter-gatherers. But in today’s world people living in vast cities of millions. In the past, our relationships were necessarily few, and often lifelong. Now we inhabit seas of people, moving often for work, and in the process forming thousands of relationships, many fleeting and, increasingly, virtual. This world will push us to become more outgoing, open and tolerant. Yet navigating such vast social networks may also require we become more willing to adapt ourselves to them – to be more conformist.

Not everyone is psychologically well-adapted to this existence. Our instincts, desires and fears are largely those of stone-age ancestors, who found meaning in hunting and foraging for their families, warring with their neighbours and praying to ancestor-spirits in the dark. Modern society meets our material needs well, but is less able to meet the psychological needs of our primitive caveman brains.

Perhaps because of this, increasing numbers of people suffer from psychological issues such as loneliness, anxiety and depression. Many turn to alcohol and other substances to cope. Selection against vulnerability to these conditions might improve our mental health, and make us happier as a species. But that could come at a price. Many great geniuses had their demons; leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill fought with depression, as did scientists such as Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, and artists like Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson. Some, like Virginia Woolf, Vincent Van Gogh and Kurt Cobain, took their own lives. Others – Billy Holliday, Jimi Hendrix and Jack Kerouac – were destroyed by substance abuse.

A disturbing thought is that troubled minds will be removed from the gene pool – but potentially at the cost of eliminating the sort of spark that created visionary leaders, great writers, artists and musicians. Future humans might be better adjusted – but less fun to party with and less likely to launch a scientific revolution — stable, happy and boring.

New species?

There were once nine human species, now it’s just us. But could new human species evolve? For that to happen, we’d need isolated populations subject to distinct selective pressures. Distance no longer isolates us, but reproductive isolation could theoretically be achieved by selective mating. If people were culturally segregated – marrying based on religion, class, caste, or even politics – distinct populations, even species, might evolve.

In The Time Machine, sci-fi novelist H.G. Wells saw a future where class created distinct species. Upper classes evolved into the beautiful but useless Eloi, and the working classes become the ugly, subterranean Morlocks – who revolted and enslaved the Eloi.

In the past, religion and lifestyle have sometimes produced genetically distinct groups, as seen in for example Jewish and Gypsy populations. Today, politics also divides us – could it divide us genetically? Liberals now move to be near other liberals, and conservatives to be near conservatives; many on the left won’t date Trump supporters and vice versa.

Could this create two species, with instinctively different views? Probably not. Still, to the extent culture divides us, it could drive evolution in different ways, in different people. If cultures become more diverse, this could maintain and increase human genetic diversity.

Strange New Possibilities

So far, I’ve mostly taken a historical perspective, looking back. But in some ways, the future might be radically unlike the past. Evolution itself has evolved.

One of the more extreme possibilities is directed evolution, where we actively control our species’ evolution. We already breed ourselves when we choose partners with appearances and personalities we like. For thousands of years, hunter-gatherers arranged marriages, seeking good hunters for their daughters. Even where children chose partners, men were generally expected to seek approval of the bride’s parents. Similar traditions survive elsewhere today. In other words, we breed our own children.

And going forward, we’ll do this with far more knowledge of what we’re doing, and more control over the genes of our progeny. We can already screen ourselves and embryos for genetic diseases. We could potentially choose embryos for desirable genes, as we do with crops. Direct editing of the DNA of a human embryo has been proven to be possible — but seems morally abhorrent, effectively turning children into subjects of medical experimentation. And yet, if such technologies were proven safe, I could imagine a future where you’d be a bad parent not to give your children the best genes possible.

Computers also provide an entirely new selective pressure. As more and more matches are made on smartphones, we are delegating decisions about what the next generation looks like to computer algorithms, who recommend our potential matches. Digital code now helps choose what genetic code passed on to future generations, just like it shapes what you stream or buy online. This might sound like dark science fiction, but it’s already happening. Our genes are being curated by computer, just like our playlists. It’s hard to know where this leads, but I wonder if it’s entirely wise to turn over the future of our species to iPhones, the internet and the companies behind them.

Discussions of human evolution are usually backward looking, as if the greatest triumphs and challenges were in the distant past. But as technology and culture enter a period of accelerating change, our genes will too. Arguably, the most interesting parts of evolution aren’t life’s origins, dinosaurs, or Neanderthals, but what’s happening right now, our present – and our future.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Transformation Insights

Future Always Wins

“The most damaging phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way!”
Grace Murray Hopper

GUEST POST from Bruce Fairley

Nearly a century ago in 1923, General Motors made an evolutionary leap in car design with the chemical expertise of Dupont. Debuting the new Duco paint technology, they introduced consumers to a range of car colors, thus giving the Second Industrial Revolution more variety. This was antithetical to rival Henry Ford’s ‘keep it plain to make it rain’ approach. One car – one color was his contribution to humanity. But the robotic consistency that made Ford a legend also became his Achilles heel as glamor and luxury disrupted the auto business and he was dragged kicking and screaming into the future.

When people say ‘it’s lonely at the top’ – it’s not. It’s crowded with competition. In today’s Fourth Industrial Revolution – or Industry 4.0 – leaders that have the courage to change are able to do what some titans haven’t been able to do.

Pivot. Quickly.

Technological leaps have now advanced to an accelerated rate unprecedented in human history. Change is no longer a left curve surprise, but rather a constant evolution that offers both potentially great reward – and great risk. If growth doesn’t drive change – danger will. Visionary leaders navigate today’s ‘wild west’ landscape with an intelligent team approach. One that re-aligns technology to serve business goals rather than other way around.

But this is not a solo mission. Evolution thrives in collaboration, whether it’s upending an industry or upleveling a medium sized firm into a scalable trajectory. Optimizing the tech-business relationship takes multiple points of expertise and objective study. Where technology currently serves – and where it’s poised to strike is a critical question at the heart of any digital transformation worth undertaking. This may not be obvious at first glance. A previously valuable ‘built to last’ feature may now be hindering ‘built to evolve’ capabilities.

That is one reason why C-Suite leaders often turn to digital transformation firms such as The Narrative Group to fix the gap between their current technological resources and their ambitions. Just as GM partnered with Dupont to dazzle consumers nearly a hundred years ago, corporations that wish to present their best offer to the world need a similar confluence of five positive elements:

  • Collaboration Between Complementary Influencers
  • Creative and Analytical Engagement
  • Smart Use of Technology
  • Human Powered Learnability

And most importantly … The Willingness to Change Because the future always wins.

When I founded The Narrative Group, it was partly in response to this need for collaboration that I saw as critical to a corporation’s evolution. Going a step beyond ‘consulting’ to helping construct a corporation’s best future allows me to contribute to the safeguarding of that future for the many people that rely on a corporation’s healthy bottom line to build their own lives. Human potential is measured not only in outcome but also the way in which that outcome is achieved. Effective collaboration requires three key pillars that support an evolutionary leap:

  • Trust between the internal leadership team and the digital transformation firm hired to consult.
  • Transparency in the process from first contact through recommendations.
  • Trajectory in implementing recommendations in a way that maximizes the potential benefits.

This is part of a larger conversation that I enjoy having with clients and within my own team. I will elaborate on some of these points in future posts, but for now I hope I’ve sparked some reflection about the strength of character great leaders exhibit when they choose to master change rather than be blindsided by it.

If you’re a C-Suite leader that would like to discuss your corporation’s Industry 4.0 evolution and how to advance towards a best future outcome that aligns with your vision, reach out at:

connect@narrative-group.com

Looking forward to continuing the conversation…

Image Credit: The Narrative Group

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Taking Personal Responsibility – Seeing Self as Cause

Taking Personal Responsibility – Seeing Self as Cause

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

In our last two blogs on Taking Personal Responsibility, we stated that when people aren’t taking personal responsibility, they cannot be accountable, they will fail in their jobs, and their teams, and fail to grow as individuals and as leaders. Taking personal responsibility is an especially crucial capability to develop self-awareness and self-regulation skills in the decade of both disruption and transformation. It all starts with seeing self as the cause of what happens to us, rather than baling it on the effects events and problems have on us! Where people can learn to recognize the structures at play in their lives and change them so that they can create what they really want to create in their lives, teams, or organizations.

In the last two blogs, we shared a range of tips for shifting people’s location, by creating a line of choice, to help them shift from being below the line and blaming others for their reactive response, to getting above the line quickly.  Through shifting their language from “you, they and them” to “I, we and us” and bravely disrupting and calling out people when they do slip below the line. How doing this allows people to also systemically shift across the maturity continuum, from dependence to independence and ultimately towards interdependence.

In a recent newsletter Otto Scharmer, from the Presencing Institute states “Between action and non-action there is a place. A portal into the unknown. But what are we each called to contribute to the vision of the emerging future? Perhaps these times are simply doorways into the heart of the storm, a necessary journey through the cycles of time required to create change”.

Creating the place – the sacred pause

When I made a significant career change from a design and marketing management consultant to becoming a corporate trainer, one of the core principles I was expected to teach to senior corporate managers and leaders was taking personal responsibility.

Little knowing, that at the end of the workshop, going back to my hotel room and beating myself up, for all of the “wrongs” in the delivery of the learning program, was totally out of integrity with this core principle.

Realising that when people say – those that teach need to learn, I had mistakenly thought that I had to take responsibility for enacting the small imperfections I had delivered during the day, by berating myself, making myself “wrong” and through below the line self-depreciation!

Where I perfectly acted out the harmful process of self-blame, rather than rationally assessing the impact of each small imperfection, shifting to being above the line where I could intentionally apply the sacred pause:

  • Hit my pause button to get present, accept my emotional state,
  • Connect with what really happened to unpack the reality of the situation and eliminate my distortions around it,
  • Check-in and acknowledge how I was truly feeling about what happened,
  • Acknowledge some of the many things that I had done really well,
  • Ask myself what is the outcome/result I want for participants next program?
  • Ask myself what can I really learn from this situation?
  • Consciously choose what to do differently the next time I ran the program.

I still often find myself struggling with creating the Sacred Space between Stimulus and Response and have noticed in my global coaching practice, that many of my well-intentioned clients struggle with this too.

The impact of the last two and a half years of working at home, alone, online, with minimal social interactions and contact, has caused many of them to languish in their reactivity, and for some of them, into drowning in a very full emotional boat, rather than riding the wave of disruptive change.

Being the creative cause

In our work at ImagineNation, whether we help people, leaders and teams adapt, innovate and grow through disruption, their ability to develop true self-awareness and be above the line is often the most valuable and fundamental skill set they develop.

It then enables us to make the distinction that creating is completely different from reacting or responding to the circumstances people find themselves in by applying the sacred pause.

When people shift towards seeing self as the cause they are able to create and co-create what they want in their lives, teams or organization by learning to create by creating, starting with asking the question:

  • What result do you want to create in your life?
  • What is the reality of your current situation?

This creates a state of tension, it is this tension that seeks resolution.

In his ground-breaking book The Path of Least Resistance Robert Fritz, goes on to describe and rank these desired results as “Fundamental Choices, Primary Choices, and Secondary Choices.”

Because there is one thing that we can all do right and is totally in our control – is to shift towards seeing self as the cause and make a set of conscious choices, with open hearts, minds, and wills, as to how we think, feel and choose to act.

“We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things, we can accomplish those goals.”

We all have the options and choices in taking responsibility, empowering ourselves and others to be imaginative and creative, and using the range of rapid changes, ongoing disruption, uncertainty, and the adverse pandemic consequences, as levers for shifting and controlling, the way we think, feel.

Benefits of seeing self as the cause and being above the line

Applying the sacred pause to make change choices in how we act – and being brave and bold in shifting across the maturity continuum, will help us to cultivate the creativity, interdependence, and systemic thinking we all need right now because it:

  • Helps people self-regulate their reactive emotional responses, be more open-hearted and emotionally agile, and helps develop psychologically safe work environments where people can collaborate and experiment, and fail without the fear of retribution or punishment.
  • Enables people to be more open-minded, imaginative, and curious and creates a safe space for continuous learning, maximizing diversity and inclusion, and proactive intentional change and transformation.
  • Promotes ownership of a problem or challenging situation and helps develop constructive and creative responses to problems and an ability to take intelligent actions.
  • Gives people an opportunity to impact positively on others and build empowered trusted and collaborative relationships.
  • Enables entrepreneurs and innovators to invent creative solutions and drive successful innovative outcomes.
  • Building the foundations for accountability, where people focus their locus of control on what they promise to deliver, enables them to be intrinsically motivated, and take smart risks on negotiating outcomes that they can be counted on for delivering.

Tips for seeing self as the cause and operating above the line

Taking personal responsibility and seeing self as the cause involves:

  • Acknowledging that “I/we had a role or contributed in some way, to the fact that this has not worked out the way “I/we wanted.”
  • Clarifying the outcome or result in you want from a specific situation or a problem.
  • Seeking alternatives and options for making intelligent choices and actions, and using the language of “I/we can” and “I/we will” to achieve the outcome.
  • Replacing avoiding, being cynical and argumentative, blaming, shaming, controlling, and complaining with courageous, compassionate, and creative language and acts of intention.
  • People become victors who operate from “self as cause” where they are empowered to be the creative forces in their own lives by making fundamental, primary, and secondary change choices.
  • Trust your inner knowing and deep wisdom that everything has a specific and definable cause and that each and every one of us has the freedom to choose how to respond to it.

Back to leadership basics

As Stephen Covey says, people need to deeply and honestly say “I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday” because it’s not what happens to us, it’s our reactive response to what happens that hurts us.

Being willing to step back, retreat, and reflect on the gap between the results you want, and the results you are getting all starts with stepping inward, backward, and forwards, using the sacred pause, to ask:

  • What happened? What were the key driving forces behind it?
  • How am I/we truly feeling about it?
  • What was my/our role in causing this situation, or result?
  • What can I/we learn from it?
  • What is the result/outcome I want to create in the future?
  • What can I/we then do to create it?

As a corporate trainer, consultant and coach, I found out the hard way that developing the self-awareness and self-regulation skills in taking personal responsibility and seeing self as the cause is the basis of the personal power and freedom that is so important to me, and almost everyone else I am currently interacting with.

It’s the foundation for transcending paralysis, overwhelm, and stuck-ness and activating our sense of agency to transform society and ourselves.

This is the third and final blog in a series of blogs on the theme of taking responsibility – going back to leadership basics. Read the previous two here:

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators, Leaders, and Teams Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deeply personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, October 18, 2022. It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus,  human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context.

Image credit: Pixabay

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You Must Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

You Must Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

It’s been a tough two and a half for everyone since the COVID-19 crisis began. Some of us have been hit very, very hard, by the impact of the pandemic exacerbated by the rate of exponential change and now, by the impact of the conflict in Ukraine.

As result, many of us are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted and languishing in varying states of anxiety and discomfort. Some of us are struggling with “not knowing” how to deal with the extreme uncertainty existing within our business and personal environments, whilst many of us are optimistically seeking to prepare and manage for what might possibly come next.

At the same time, many of us are seeking collaborative partnerships to support us and explore options for keeping both ourselves, our people, and teams engaged in moving forward creatively in a constantly changing world.  Where both the work environment and the nature of work are in a state of flux, where we are going through exceptional and extraordinary changes, and, where to both survive and thrive, we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable with it all.

Safely stepping into the unknown

This creates an opening and a threshold to partner with others in resourceful and creative ways to support them, to safely and bravely step into the unknown.

To perceive this unique moment in time as an opportunity for growth, shape-shifting, and change – by empowering and equipping them to cautiously abandon and exit their comfort zones and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Because the patterned worlds of our “business as usual” existences, which traditionally kept us get comfortable and calm, and helped us stay emotionally and mentally even, free from anxiety and worry to a great degree, are no longer certain, predictable or stable.

Where constant and accelerating change, coupled with uncertainty are the harsh realities of today, and of tomorrow, in the decade emerging as one of both disruption and transformation.

Impact of our neurological survival mechanisms

As humans, we have an internal need for consistency, represented by our internally mapped, largely unconscious, neurological comfort zones, our own unique places for getting comfortable, and amenable to what we habitually do. When we experience cognitive dissonance, in an extremely uncertain and disruptive operating environment, we unconsciously encounter apparent inconsistencies between what is really happening and what we believe to be really true.

As result, we often, mostly unconsciously, slip into our auto-pilot range of varied aggressive and passive defensive, reactive responses: including avoidance, denial, anger, opposition, and resistance to change. Often described as the “retreat, freeze, or take flight or fight” reactions to what is “seemingly” going on. This is because we distort and generalize our thoughts or feelings into believing that have no control over events. Which is a normal and natural neurological, yet primitive, survival mechanism that enables us to cope with the situation.

However, when we operate this way, we lose our personal power and question our abilities to shape and manifest the outcomes we want, or feel we lack the ability to influence others or constructively impact our environments.

Resistance is futile

Manifesting as feelings of discomfort, most of us will do anything to move away from – because we want to avoid pervasive, visceral, challenging thoughts and feelings, derived from our conflicting beliefs and values.  Our auto-responses or neurological urges to remove the discomfort, and typically keep us in our comfort zones, where we procrastinate, make excuses, shift into denial, avoidance, and justification, resulting ultimately, in immobilisation and inaction.

The outcome is that we may feel paralysed, and become inert, inhibiting and preventing us from developing the mindsets, behaviours, and actions required to thrive in the future. Where our only “new normal” will depend on our abilities to flow with constant change, unpredictability, instability, and uncertainty and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Hidden costs of resistance

Resistance to change prevents us from:

  • Adapting to the current and future environment is not the survival of the fittest, it’s he or she who is the most adaptive, who ultimately survives, and thrives!
  • Exploiting this moment in time as an opportunity and threshold to improve our confidence, competence, and emotional capacity to effectively transition through the range of professional and personal crises, brought on by uncertainty and disruption.
  • Exploring possibilities and unleashing opportunities available in this moment in time as a turning point to learn and grow, as a coach, leader, or team.
  • Strategizing in the new global, hybrid, and virtual work environment to improve, competitiveness, productivity, and innovation grow our practices and help our members expand their roles, and grow their teams and businesses.
  • Breaking down silos that add to many of our member’s current states of disconnection and loneliness, and inhibit connection and collaboration.
  • Creating permission, tolerance, and safety for members to safely download and let go of their fears and anxieties, share their negativity and pessimism, fears of failure,  and co-create positivity and optimism towards thriving in an uncertain future, together.
  • Embracing the new world of digitisation and experimentation, from implementing change, enhancing individual and organisational agility, and developing the mindsets, behaviours, and skills to be comfortable in constantly changing contexts.

What can we do about it?

  • Being agile and adaptive

In normal times, creating a comfort zone is a healthy adaptation for controlling much of our lives. Yet having the boldness, bravery, and courage in extreme uncertainty, to step up and out of our comfort zones helps us be agile and adaptive in transitioning, growing, and transforming through the enormous challenges, disruptions, and adversities many of us are confronting.

  • Entering the learning zone

In fact, once we do take the first baby steps out of our comfort zones and into our fear zone (fear of loss, blame, shame, envy, punishment, retribution, opposition, being controlled, humiliation, being envied or made wrong) we can safely enter the learning zone. Being in the Learning Zone is the first stopping point toward generating creative energy and expanding our comfort zones.

  • Facing the fear

Doing this builds the foundations for being more comfortable with being uncomfortable by facing, feeling, acknowledging, and letting go of some of our deepest fears by dealing with them rationally and realistically, with empathy and compassion, and without bias and distortion.

  • Reducing our levels of anxiety

By withdrawing, discerning, and deciding to let go of the need to be constantly in charge and in control and be willing to enter the Growth Zone, where everything that happens is a resource for being tolerant, and accepting, of the possibilities for making positive change.

Stepping into being comfortable

This is a great opportunity to co-create a new playbook for ourselves, our people, and their teams by enabling and empowering the mindset shift to the Growth Zone, to transform cognitive dissonance, and use it as the creative tensions toward being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This involves engaging in a set of consistent and regular practices, to build and support a willingness to embrace change, disruption, and uncertainty, to take on even the impossible.

  1. Hit your Pause Button: retreat from activity, get grounded in stillness and silence, and be fully present to your energetic state. Be mindful and pay deep attention to recognise your patterns, attune to what is really going on, and get unhooked from any internal chatter, stories, and unconscious default patterns.
  2. Label Your Thoughts and Emotions: be fully present and get connected to yourself and to others you are interacting with, feel the feeling, knowing that it is transient.
  3. Acknowledge and Accept: allow yourself to accept and embrace the range of feelings, be empathic, compassionate, and open-hearted with yourself and with others.
  4. Detach from and Observe your Thoughts and Emotions: be willing to create and sustain an open mind, be inquisitive and curious, explore the non-judgemental space between your feelings and how to effectively respond to them.
  5. Identify difficult feelings: as you experience them and find more appropriate ways of responding instead of reacting, be willing to become a “detached observer”.
  6. Be emotionally agile: learn to see yourself as the operating system, filled with possibilities, knowing that you are more than one part of it and flow with it
  7. Be courageous and brave: challenge the status quo, and your habitual thinking, feeling, and decision-making habits and build your confidence to reboot, consistently disrupt yourself and be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  8. Be imaginative and creative: reimagine your most desirable future state, be optimistic and positive about choosing the best ways to reset, and walk your way forward into the unknown.

Focusing your attention and being intentional

Being comfortable with being uncomfortable, enables us to re-think creates openings and thresholds for developing 21st-century superpowers, limitless possibilities for change, growth, learning, and innovation.

By empowering us to respond positively to uncertainty, and dynamic change that respects and engages people’s values and humanity, in co-creative and innovative ways that improve the quality of people’s lives in ways they value, appreciate, and cherish.

An opportunity to learn more

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, May 4, 2022.

It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus,  human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Chance to Help Make Futurism and Foresight Accessible

I’ve been hard at work building all kinds of tools to help innovation, change, transformation and design thinking practitioners be more successful in their jobs.

The number of human-centered tools in the Change Planning Toolkit v13 from the initial fifty (50) to more than SEVENTY.

I also introduced lots of inexpensive tools like the:

  1. $9.99 – Problem Finding Canvas
  2. FREE – Innovation Maturity Assessment
  3. FREE – Visual Project Charter™
  4. FREE – Experiment Canvas™
  5. FREE – ACMP Standard for Change Management® Visualization

And the core of the forthcoming Human-Centered Innovation Toolkit is well underway.

But I’ve also been exploring the very obtuse realm of futurism and foresight and pondering how to make it more accessible to us ordinary humans, and I think I’ve done it!

Chance to Help Make Futurism Accessible

I’ve created a set of TEN (10) simple but powerful foresight and futurism tools to power my FutureHacking™ methodology.

To spread them farther and faster I’m looking to partner with a forward-thinking organization to bring them to market.

  • Does your organization view itself as leading its customers into the future?
  • Are you looking for an amazing marketing opportunity?
  • One that would empower thousands of innovation and strategy professionals to do their own foresight and futurism work?

If so, then contact me here and we’ll build a launch plan together that connects your brand to a powerful new FutureHacking™ movement!

Benefits to you will include, but will not be limited to:

  1. Joint promotion of your brand via my site, social media, email newsletters, etc.
  2. Presence of your logo as a sponsor on the tools and educational assets
  3. Access to the tools for your employees
  4. Other ideas you suggest!

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Dare to Think Differently

Dare to Think Differently

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

As many of my colleagues are aware, I am at heart, a maverick, an unorthodox or independent-minded person. Who is curious and inquisitive, and finds change and challenging the status quo exciting, fascinating and stimulating. I am also, considered, by some, as a misfit, someone whose behaviors and attitudes sets them apart from others in an uncomfortably conspicuous way, that often rocks the boat. There is a range of consequences for people like me, who dare to think differently, especially now that I have also achieved the status of a Modern Elder – “the perfect alchemy of curious and wise, with curiosity leading to expansive inquiry while wisdom distills what’s essential.”

Coupled with both the challenges and constraints of the currently disrupted Covid-19 and digitized world, I am finding that the consequences of being different have intensified, become more impactful, and are often, quite confronting. Where differences cause resistance to change, divisiveness, and conflict, rather than maximizing differences in ways that embrace our humanity, diversity, to harness collective intelligence to make the organization, or world a better, more inclusive, and safer place.

Diversity is of the Essence

According to Jonathan Sacks, in his book “The Dignity of Difference- How to avoid the clash of civilizations,” he states that “we are living in the conscious presence of difference”.

Which exists in the home, in the street, in our workplaces, communities, and countries where we constantly encounter groups and cultures whose ideas and ideals are unlike ours. “That can be experienced as a profound threat to identity. Identity divides.” Considering that “the world is not a single machine, it is a complex, interactive ecology in which diversity – the biological, personal, cultural and religious – is of the essence.”

“When difference leads to war, both sides lose. When it leads to mutual enrichment, both sides gain.”

As is currently being evidenced by the tense and tentative Ukrainian and Russian border confrontation, with its potentially tragic consequences. Where Yuval Noah Harari states in a recent article in The Economist – “At the heart of the Ukraine crisis lies a fundamental question about the nature of history and the nature of humanity: is change possible? Can humans change the way they behave, or does history repeat itself endlessly, with humans forever condemned to re-enact past tragedies without changing anything except the décor”?

People Who Dare to Think Differently

Adam Grant, in his book “The Originals – How Non-Conformists Change the World” describes an original (n) as “A thing of singular or unique character; a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way; a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity”.

The book goes on to explain strategies, through studies and stories how to champion new ideas and fight groupthink, in constructive ways that maximize diversity and differences and promote dissent, as the basis for cultivating original thought to effect positive change.

Ray Dallio, in his book Principles explores this further, suggesting that “if you are like most people, you have no clue about how other people see things and aren’t good at seeking to understand what they are thinking because you’re too preoccupied with telling them what you yourself think is correct.” Often causing divisiveness rather than inclusion, resistance to change, and as a consequence, missing the possibilities and opportunities that may be present.

This also impedes our overall adaptiveness and creativity in an exponentially changing, world, to make real progress, and constructively change and limits the potential for innovation, growth and ability to contribute to the common good.

Change Management Has Changed

In a recent article from the Boston Consulting Group, they stated that  “Effective change management requires leaders to shift away from one-size-fits-all approaches and develop an expanded set of context-specific strategies”.

Which are truly adaptive, collaborative, energize, catalyze change, harness, and mobilize people’s and customers’ collective intelligence, in ways that are appreciated and cherished by all, and contribute to the common good.

To ultimately collectively co-create a set of different, empowered future-fit leaders, teams, and organizations – who courageously, compassionately, and creatively contribute toward an improved future, for customers, stakeholders, leaders, teams, organizations as well as for the good of the whole.

Welcoming Dissent and Thoughtful Disagreement

At ImagineNation™ we dare to think differently and teach train, and coach people and teams to maximize their potential to lead, manage, coach, through implementing and embedding change and innovation, differently.

We enable people to lead in the imagination age by empowering, enabling, and equipping them to be and think differently to:

  • Flow with some people’s need to be “right” and in control, when they are being defensive, abusive, and divisive, even when disagreement and conflict occur.
  • Artfully and skillfully use cognitive dissonance and creative tension to pull people towards a new possibility and envision a new and compelling future.
  • Be inclusive to support mutual enrichment, through co-sensemaking, that helps them create “order” (in their own context) and simplicity from complexity and change.
  • Self-regulate and self-manage emotionally in the face of uncertainty and volatility.
  • Be relatable, empathic, inspiring, and artfully and skillfully influential in helping people open their minds and hearts toward co-creation, collaboration, and experimentation that ensures a shared contribution for mutual gain.
  • Be creative and inventive to maximize their multiple and collective intelligences through learning, contrarian thinking, constructive debate, and creative conversations that generate discovery.

In ways that engage deep generative listening, inquiry, questioning, and differing that uses cognitive dissonance to unleash the creative energy that triggers and generates thinking differently.

When people are trusted and empowered to think differently, they co-create a frequency that allows, awakens, and activates their adaptive and innovative leadership qualities, consciousness, states, and qualities of mind and heart, to effect positive change.

Taking wise and intelligent action

It also enables them to wisely choose the most intelligent actions that result in adaptive and innovative outcomes.

This helps creativity to flourish and disrupts and interrupts those people, whose complacency, conformity, and rigidity create divisions, and feelings of desolation and exclusion that kill our capacity and competence to collaborate, create and invent.

Leaving me to wonder and inquire;

  • What if the “strangers” among us simply listen, with open minds and open hearts to the thought, feelings, and opinions of others, with both curiosity and detachment?
  • What if we could collectively co-create safe containers and collective holding spaces, that maximize our differences and diversity, and simply share a creative conversation about what could be possible?
  • How might we maximize our diversity of thought, to enable us to think differently about the issue, opportunity, or problem in ways that supported differences for mutual enrichment?

There is no wisdom on one point of view

Might this result in a deeper connection when there is polarization between people?

Might it be possible to co-sense and co-create a sense of inclusion, and an opening for a deeper philosophical exploration and discovery for thinking differently about the role, nature of and impact prescriptive points of view on how people truly feel, really think, and deeply act in our globalized and connected world?

Might it help us collectively to co-create making it a better place?

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, May 4, 2022. It is a blended and transformational change and learning program that will give you a deep understanding of the language, principles, and applications of an ecosystem focus, human-centric approach, and emergent structure (Theory U) to innovation, and to upskill people and teams and develop their future fitness, within your unique context. Find out more.

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