Welcome to the radical Briefing 0008. One of the questions we ask business leaders regularly is “how much time did you spend last week deliberately thinking about the future?” The vast majority of people answer with “none” to “not enough.” We understand that it’s hard – you have targets to meet, people to organize, problems to solve. All short-term/immediate issues. Long term planning and decision making are fraught with complexity and risk. And yet, if we don’t start to understand where technology is heading, where business is evolving, where people are choosing; then we shall fall short, and risk disruption. We don’t need to tell you, the future is coming thicker and faster, and therefore building a practice (we advise at least weekly) to educate yourself on what is happening and how new trends will affect you and your business is no longer optional.
In the Debate About the Future of Work, Words Matter
Little is debated hotter than the future of work these days. Pretty much everywhere I go someone inevitably brings up the topic – and a long, concerned debate ensues. The headline under which this debate is typically being held is “The Future of Jobs” (a label used by the World Economic Forum for their influential work in the space).
I believe that the label creates a misled discussion – words matter (a lot) in this context: Instead of debating the future of “jobs,” we are better served by looking at the future of “professions.” Without a doubt we will see professions change and sometimes disappear; for example, it is conceivable that we won’t have people driving trucks anymore (the profession of a “truck driver” disappears), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that their job disappears at the same time. As the venerable IEEE Spectrum points out: “Self-Driving Trucks Will Always Need People.”
There is no doubt in my mind that we will see large-scale changes across the globe in terms of work – and it surely is a complicated topic which requires the smartest minds to work on solutions to ensure our exponential future doesn’t lead to socially undesirable outcomes. And at the same time, we are better served by thoughtful and careful fact-based debate than polemics of bleeding headlines (which, of course, sell). And words matter a lot in this context.
Insights worth reading this week:
The Case for Boredom
The case for boredom is not new. Ever since the smartphone revolution, there’s been the lament of always on, always connected, always looking down. Certainly, we all intellectually know less screen time is better (we tell our kids so), and yet disconnecting still remains illusively hard.
Even the science now backs up the benefits we intuitively knew – neuroscience research now shows that the time we spend doing literally nothing is extremely beneficial. The brain’s so-called ‘default mode’ activated during rest is shown to be important for active mental processing, sparking creative ideas, and connections.
So when exponential technology is abundant, how do you make a case to switch off?
The smartphone break-up. Remove the temptation to your favorite time-consuming apps by deleting them, or at least moving them several screens from your home screen. Cal Newport in his book Digital Minimalism suggests only using social media on the desktop and setting yourself an allocated time in the day to check facebook, twitter etc. He goes even further and suggests not even taking your phone out with you when you go for a coffee meeting or meal with a loved one (god beware!). We’ve tried it, and it’s actually liberating.
Go back to school. Use a notebook, yep we know you barely remember how to hold a pen. But, with all this smartphone free time you’ll want to make sure you can capture free-flowing ideas and thoughts. Furthermore, the physical act of writing and drawing still remains a powerful tool, rather than typing on a keyboard. Keep one in your bag and by your bedside. Don’t forget your pen!
Go it alone. Manoush Zomorodi in her book ‘Bored and Brilliant’ wants you to spend time alone every day sans device and other people. Whether that’s going for a walk (preferably in nature) or sitting in a meeting room thinking & planning, or in quiet meditation before the day begins. Time in solitude allows for deep thinking, processing, and creative flow.
In an unrelenting world of screens, connected devices, pings, and chatter – the case for boredom and solitude might not just be the antidote of a busy life, but also the place for discovery and innovation.
Leadership articles worth reading this week:
Meet radical Ally, Mary Grove
Mary Grove is the co-founder of Silicon North Stars, a nonprofit that aims to educate and inspire young Minnesotans from economically underserved communities toward futures in tech. She previously spent 14 years at Google where she was the founding Director of Google for Entrepreneurs. Mary is an investment partner at Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, focused on investing in innovative startups based outside of Silicon Valley. Mary has worked with and supported entrepreneurs in more than 100 countries. She earned a BA and MA from Stanford University and lives in Minneapolis with her husband Steve and their two-year-old twins.