There’s just so much emotional stimulus today. The biggest disease people suffer from today is infobesity, most people tend to think of themselves as quite well informed but their head is mainly full of crap. They read 2 books, 12 blogs, gone to 6 conferences and they just cannot understand, why not everyone agrees with their particular truth.
Most of the time when people talk about the future they lament something they’d lost. It’s a kind of exercising nostalgia, more than any significant future thinking. Imagine on the other hand that you are going to tell them that in the future you will have access to something called the iPhone 6 and try to make them really excited about that.
- The heart of future thinking—What is in the void? We can all envision having something and losing it, but what is in the void? What of the emotions as of yet unfelt and unnamed, what are the frontiers that we haven’t checked?
Speed of Transmission
The bubonic plague started around Southern Europe and then spread very slowly. This is one of the world’s most contagious diseases and it took three to four years to reach London and then laggards that we are in Scandinavia almost didn’t make it there.
Similarly the printing press invented in Germany in 1440s, it took nearly 50 years to be diffused all around Europe, and you can see this. In a famous study at Stanford University, the time between invention, inside made path and file and innovation when people actually start to use it, time and time again, the average time lag was 37 years, and this is speeding up.
- DHL can move something like an elephant from Sweden to anywhere on the map within 48 hours. If it’s an ID, an email, we’re talking 47 seconds. The beauty of modern business and organizations is that because we can move things quickly but not everything gets moved, there is a time lag.
- Something it gets invented in Los Angeles, it takes a few months before it comes to New York, a few months before it comes to London, and another 25 years before it comes to Switzerland.
There is a tendency for us to want to minimise risk, risk taking, going where others haven’t, exploring what others haven’t, which means that we have a propensity to rip off and duplicate. We have a tendency to view things through a kind of competitive lens. We get obsessed by it. Most companies I meet today they even call themselves, “A team who wants to win,” “War for talent” we heard from Amy this morning. This is the kind of zero sum competitive mindset, and the problem with this is of course it’s almost kind of medieval mindset in that it’s what the world looked like for a long time.
If we go back a couple of hundred years and we look at things like life expectancy for millennia. It was mired. If you asked in the year 1650, “How long do I expect my children to live,” it was like, “Well, actually a little bit less than you.” “What will the life be like?” “Exactly the same as yours, in fact a little bit worse.” “What kind of technology will they have access to?” “Well, the same as you!”
Creation and Competition
The problem of course in a changing world is that ideas are quickly made redundant. Today you can invent the world’s best idea and it’s relevant for a few decades. Take pensions, invented as all of you know in Germany in 1889, Bismarck, Iron Chancellor said that Germans who manage to become 70 should be allowed to retire. Had Bismarck invented the idea in 2015, he would have said that Germans who managed to become 106 should be allowed to retire. The idea to retire in your 60s or 70s or 50s if you are in France is out of sync with the modern world.
Look at Red Bull—initially no one liked it, because they did not expect the taste. What do you say when someone brings you a new idea? Are you open minded? Do we compete or create?
- Underneath this there is a flaw regarding the future. Creation begins with the realisation that we’ve been wrong. What does it feel like to be wrong? You can form political parties and be wrong together. It hurts, to be wrong again and again. The key to living in this kind of society is to be aware that we are wrong.
- Pessimism is a “perfect substitute for intelligence.” If you haven’t prepared for a meeting, go in there and say, “I can see problems here.” People will think you’re a genius. Economists are pessimistic, and so we assume that they are wise. Pessimists get it wrong too.
There will be bad things that come out of the fog. We have a tendency to use the word catastrophe a lot. We should also be using the word anastrophe— where things are quickly becoming better for many people.
Everyone has a secret that we hide in plain sight. We look for ideas in one dimension and we tend to look through them.
Companies go bad by doing the same things too long. Companies have success and then get complacent.
Cure your own infobseity. Explore, create. Be an idiot and try something new—people may join you.