Kevin Redmond, CEO of UseBecause asked me; “From the books, you have read in the last say two years, if you had to pick two categories and 3 to 5 books in each category, what would you pick?”
“Disruptor or disrupted, leadership in turbulent times”
That made me think. It is also an excellent help for formulating the talk I am doing at the London Law Conference, with the title “Disruptor or disrupted, leadership in turbulent times”. Speaking at 9:45. Crown Stage.
What is very interesting, particularly from a law perspective, is the move away from technology, innovation and disruption. Instead, business authors are asking some very pertinent questions of where this is all going. This is interesting for law practitioners, as from this, law and regulation follow. And opportunity.
Call it “sense-making”. Not about making sense about the exponential development in technology, as that is now a given, but about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity. Here are the books:
Covering how some things are still very far beyond our capabilities, particularly figuring out the complexity of the brain, and where the mind, consciousness or soul fits. So near and yet so far. There is hope for us yet. A book about how humanity has evolved and progressed. With some warnings, but with a very optimistic perspective on humankind.
The warning that you keep on hearing is about AI. The potential of applying AI is enormous. Particularly in areas such as law, particularly if you combine that with near science, blockchain and IoT. We are playing with fire, as we don’t understand the law of unintended consequences. And because AI is developing at an exponential rate, it might run away with itself and with us before we realise it. With potentially some dark and dire consequences.
Gerd Leonard spoke at the Law Conference last year. He wrote a very interesting book about how machines and a winners take all approach, are potentially destroying our humanity. Debugging us, to ensure we operate just like the machines. Being human is inefficient and cumbersome. Killing emotions, mistakes, serendipity, creativity and ultimately not allowing us to be the messy, weird, compassionate, wonderful human beings that we are.
Tim O’ Reilly writes about lots of technologies and its potential applications and impact. He also comes to the conclusion that ultimately it is about making some moral choices of where we want to go. I picked up 36 questions, you should consider, and there are many more in the book
No ordinary disruption is about the hard statistics, such as demographics and climate impact. Nothing fluffy. Urbanisation, emerging economies, pension bombs, shorter company life cycles, job and skill gaps, capital shortage, shortages, boom and bust and the increasing cost base. This book made me realise the true risks that companies are under, and if I can focus on climate:
- Circular is the only way to go to ensure future supply lines.
- Business will pay for past and future pollution (expect a lot of law suits, which should be music to ears of the audience at the Law Conference)
- Natural capital cost will become part of cost pricing.
Thomas Frieman’s books feels like dancing in a hurricane. Change is coming to us from every angle. What stood out in his book, is the message, that we are now so advanced in technology, that one lone wolf with a DNA sequencer can kill everyone on this planet, we have to make sure that no one is left behind and that we take care of the immigrant, the stranger, and the loner and create an inclusive society with a place for everyone. Focussing on family, tribes and community development as the killer app to ensure a future.
Leadership and the Lindy effect (back to ancient values and principles). Moral leadership is now becoming a thing. Helping organisations and people make sense of the mentioned technology, but also making sense of climate change, globalisation and in its core, purpose. As individuals and organisations, including your own purpose as a leader.
Being a leader and a CEO is hard and getting harder. In some ways, it is also getting simpler. I wrote a book about books, suggesting that to keep up with the fast pace of developments, you need to slow down. The new leadership literacies are the old ones. Combined with technology such as gaming, AR and VR, social media, big data, etc., but ultimately it is about storytelling, clarity, discipline, culture and authenticity.
Storytelling, clarity, discipline, culture and authenticity is also what captains of some of the most successful team have in common. Leading by example and the realisation that effort is transferrable. The importance of passion and emotion, driven by a common understanding of purpose. However, if you do not lead from the front, you will not be a CEO or leader for long
Sensemaking and all the traits and characteristics of good leadership come together in the ability to create and tell a good story. Without a good story that your staff believes and wants to be part of, you are on a hiding to nothing. Stories are also one of the oldest media in the world to convey information and knowledge and cuts through a lot of the social media distraction. A good story still sticks. It is the platform for leadership. What compelling story are you telling?
Health is becoming an issue. We are increasingly aware of what bad work environments are doing with our health (another opportunity to sue!). Why not get people to bring their best self to work, by being healthy at all levels. Physically, mentally and emotionally. Combine that with a purpose and a compelling vision, and you will have a business that fires on all cylinders, That also means that you need to be fit as a leader or CEO. Leading by example. Make you believable. Potbelly CEOs will be a thing of the past.
You can’t be unhealthy as an All Black. Physical fitness is a given, so that is no longer a competitive edge. This book follows the All Blacks on how they developed a lasting winning culture, applying very old principles such as humility, no-asshole allowed, sacrifice, accountability, identity, character and legacy. Ensuring that everyone leaves their jersey in a better place.
Leaving the jersey in a better place. It says it all. Ultimately it is all about culture. Culture eats strategy, culture eats technology, culture makes you more agile and resilient. Culture is the last business battleground. Companies with the best culture will be able to compete. Companies with the best culture will not be sued. Because they understand they have a responsibility to staff, customer, community and the planet. In a world where everything is going to be transparent, your culture and your staff are your brand. Robots and AI do not understand culture.
And a few outliers about slowing down
Everybody is trying to run faster. Reminds me of the race between the hare and the turtle. If billions of people are speeding up, what is the most sensible thing to do for entrepreneurs and CEOs that want to be distinct and different? You slow down. You hone your mind and your body. You go deep. You go focused. You manage your attention span, and you strive to do your best work. You focus on mastery. Quality always wins.