From future-fit to future-proof and what it really means to lead into the future, today…
Having attended a number of innovation events in recent weeks, I have to confess, I’m feeling a little short-changed. Yes, they were entertaining and at a stretch, informative. However, from a leadership perspective, the narrative appears to be stuck somewhere between shocking us into becoming “future fit” or selling the idea of being “future proof”. And whilst the former is desirable, the latter is, strictly speaking, snake oil.
More importantly, why aren’t we talking about ethics, moral dilemmas and the mindset we need to cultivate to lead into the future?
The truth is, there is little that can’t or won’t be achieved from a digital/AI perspective. And whilst we absolutely need to know what’s here and what’s on the horizon, it’s not the whole story by any stretch of the imagination. We must broaden our perspective from what innovation can do, to whether it should be done. And if so, how should it be done?
Leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, citizens, take note. The biggest disruptors of our time are and will be the ethical and moral dilemmas and challenges we will all need to face and live with.
Let’s take a moment to explore one particular challenge in relation to emergent AI. MIT’s Moral Machine was designed to explore the moral dilemmas faced by autonomous vehicles. The questions asked included choosing from the lesser of two evils: in an unavoidable accident, should an autonomous vehicle choose to kill three passengers or three pedestrians?
The platform gathered 40 million decisions in ten languages from millions of people in 233 countries and territories. What they discovered is that morals are not universal. You can read the findings here.
And what about genomics, facial recognition and Big Data Ethics across privacy, confidentiality, transparency and identity? There isn’t a crevice of our lives, touched by innovation, that won’t present these challenges.
As leaders and entrepreneurs, we all need to expand our thinking and skills to foster a mindset fit to lead into the future, today.
Every day I work with leaders who are actively developing a futures mindset. We foster the habits of creativity, innovation and agility, fueled by conscious leadership practices of self-awareness, self-knowledge and ultimately, self-mastery. In other words, ‘know thyself and get thyself the hell out of the way’, which keeps it light, gets egos off the table and concentrates our focus.
The futures tools we use include drivers, scanning and scenario planning to work with possible, probable and preferred futures. This enables everyone to quickly identify new challenges and actively adjust in real time.
And we grapple with big, chewy questions around morals and ethics and unintended consequences. These questions often reveal our own firmly held beliefs. And as you can imagine, the more diverse the team, the more interesting our findings are. We know that as our world of work gets more complex, the need to work (more empathetically) together and harness our collective intelligence becomes a fundamental necessity.
And yes, uncertainty and change are uncomfortable. Saying this, armed with some new tools and thinking, we are all perfectly capable of exploring and creating our desired futures as we go along. And whilst the solutions may be perfectly imperfect and as incomplete as the future, they are always a step in the right direction.
If you and/or your team are feeling fearful or wondering about your role in the future, do yourself a favour and get yourself a future-minded, external coach, mentor or sounding board.
Someone outside your business who will challenge your thinking and assumptions, hold you accountable for taking action and assist you to assimilate what you have learned. This will better equip and enable you to lead into the future, today. And you will feel a helluva lot more confident about playing an active role in creating it.
Why is external important? Because you need someone independent of your organisation who is unbiased, with no attachment to future outcomes, financial or otherwise.
The good news is the future is not only ours to create, but we also have a profound responsibility to influence and determine the outcomes for the greater good of all. Ignore the fearmongering, which is of no use to anyone. Rather replace it with the freedom of being a lifelong learner and get curious, learn, unlearn and relearn. This will serve you, your team, your organisation and this world we are all co-creating well.