Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Future Ready? The Future Needs a Hero

My friend Nick Davis leads innovation and customer experience at Reaching the Future Faster and faculty chair for corporate innovation at Singularity University. Late in 2019, Nick and I were talking about his upcoming book, “Future Ready: A Changemaker’s Guide to the Exponential Revolution.” When I read the draft, I immediately had an idea for a foreword. We agreed. My request was that I could share it here with upon release.

Future Ready is a how-to guide for changemakers who are ready to move from pondering the future to creating it for themselves and their organizations. It’s packed with frameworks, strategies, and actionable advice for those who seek to create the future, rather than waiting for it to arrive.

The future either happens to us or because of us…

I hope this foreword and Davis’ book help you. Please read and share your thoughts!

Foreword: The Future Needs a Hero

Are you ready to be future-ready?

I can’t imagine a realistic scenario where someone would say no.

So then, with a resounding “yes!” you’re ready to lead change toward exponential revolution. You’re in good hands here with Nick. Before we put on our changemaker capes and race toward innovation and transformation, let’s warm up a bit…a little bit of a superhero exercise if you will.

Every superhero faces villains and you have to be prepared. The most common enemy of change is the status quo. But be careful, they don’t wear a villain costume that says, “no change!” They’re much more cunning. Their sabotage occurs in the shadows of hall- ways and conference rooms, with their whispers to key stakeholders.

Have you ever looked at something that was broken and shrugged your shoulders and said to yourself, “I’ll get to that later”?

But there’s another enemy…often missed in our day-to- day work to save the world.

Ourselves.

Sometimes we think that everybody wants to, or should, want to change! After all, we have to change, right? Disruption is coming! Disruption is here!

Exponential change is as much about humans as it is about digital innovation. We have to take a human-centered approach to transformation and becoming future-ready. A superpower we need to unleash is empathy. We have to build bridges for people to cross over the tall walls of fear, to soar over the risk-averse, and to deflect the doubt inherent in all aspects of change.

Remember, there have been times in your life when change didn’t seem like a good idea. And it’s like that for everyone at different points in their lives.

Have you ever followed existing rules or processes and thought, “there must be a better way” or “what if I…” but decided to do things the same, familiar way because it was easier?

Photo by Gabriel Bassino on Unsplash

Have there been times when you thought, “things aren’t the best right now, but I’ll get through it…I’m sure it’ll get better,” or that maybe, “now’s not the time to rock the boat,” even though you were frustrated or unhappy?

The thing about innovation is that it challenges one of our core human constructs that’s deeply wired in all of us: we’re rule followers.

We were taught to follow the rules from the earliest days of our formative years. Following rules is the antithesis of innovation in many ways. Instead of following the rules, which dictate the norms for the status quo, inno- vation asks us to challenge, bend, and even break the rules! Doing so creates a different set of norms, which creates new behaviors that may frighten or threaten everyone else.

As Nick states, the future isn’t what it used to be. One of two outcomes is inevitable, and those outcomes depend on a choice we make today. The future either happens to us or because of us. If we’re to create the future we want to see, then we must save ourselves and our colleagues from inaction, doubt, “whataboutism,” and fear. We must break from our shackles and take risks to achieve expo- nential change and attain the future-ready advantage.

A New Mindset for Exponential Change

To do so, we have to think about exponential change in three unique and parallel ways. The balance between them is user-defined.

Iteration: We need to invest in improving mindsets and processes to exponentially improve what we do today. We must continuously adapt and evolve to sur- vive and thrive in what I call digital Darwinism.

Innovation: This is different than iteration. Itera- tion is continually improving upon what we do today. Innovation challenges us to explore ways to deliver new value internally and externally. This is where the magic lies—but it is incredibly difficult to unlock. Why? Because innovation is very much a human pro- cess. Leadership must empower it. Organizational cultures must articulate shared purpose, socialize new norms, and incentivize new behaviors. Leader- ship and human-centered culture must make change irresistible.

Disruption, a.k.a. Exponential Change: This is the result of enlightenment, vision, purpose, and meaningful transformation. The synthesis of itera- tion and innovation, powered by human-centered, purpose-driven culture, is exponential change, a.k.a. disruption. If iteration is improving existing processes and outputs, and innovation is creating new value across the board, then disruption is the outcome of making legacy mindsets, operations, and products obsolete.

Remember, your superpower is empathy. It’s a gift to you and those around you. And it’s powerful. It breaks down walls and brings people together around a common purpose and shared goals. It shifts the Golden Rule from treating others how you would want to be treated to treating others how they want to be treated. This makes exponential change inclusive, personal, and inevitable.

Now get your cape and go save the day.

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