I bought this book based on the first word. “TomorrowMind: Thrive at Work with Resilience, Creativity and Connection, Now and in an Uncertain Future”. A tomorrow mind?
Our minds are not fit for purpose
The book starts by explaining that our mind, which evolved over millions of years, is not suitable for the world we are currently living in. We are still fundamentally hunters, foragers and gatherers. For 95% of our history, Homo sapiens relied on hunting, gathering, and fishing to survive.A forager’s brain is suited to a five-hour workday, communal life, the creative exploration of new terrain, and an ever-present connection to nature. Farming, the industrial revolution, urbanisation, technology 4.0, and social media are a complete mismatch. In other words, starting with the Agricultural Revolution, our brains were no longer designed for our work.
We are suffering
From quick fear (tiger!) to ongoing anxiety. From prospection to a human-robot in a system, labour enforced by machines, from generalist to specialist, from wandering to staying put, and that is before we start talking about nutrition, physical health, etc. Our brains were not built to cope with factory life; they were built to cope with predators, storms, and tribal arguments. Our bodies were not built to be a cog in a machine; they were designed to wander, gather, hunt, and chitchat. As a result, we are suffering as humans.
We need a reset
As a result of the suffering, we have, at the moment, mental and physical health crises. There is a need for a reset. A different approach to mental health, such as positive psychology, stoicism, savouring and the wisdom of a life well lived. Life is about meaning, happiness, love, connection, and flow. If you read “The Body: A Guide for Occupants”, you realise what an awesome piece of design you are that needs to be taken care of. Exercise, do yoga, meditate, etc. “A healthy mind in a healthy body” was not invented for nothing.
It will get worse
It is getting worse. ReadIt is not the case that we will experience a hundred years of progress in the twenty-first century. Instead, we will witness the order of twenty thousand years of progress. World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025, this will shift to 50% of labour performed by humans and 50% by machines. According to another estimate, eight hundred million global workers will see their jobs replaced by automation by 2030. As many as 80% of us will see our wages reduced due to automation in this same period. Soon, we will have to reinvent ourselves every day.
There is good news
If agriculture and then industrialisation dehumanised work, the era ahead has the potential to rehumanise it in new and inspiring ways. Thanks to those immensely powerful forager brains, we can prepare for what is coming—what is, in so many ways, already here. The key characteristics of the hunter-gatherer mind are generalism, adaptability, and creativity. Not that dissimilar to the five psychological powers as most critical for workplace thriving in the twenty-first century:
- Resilience and cognitive agility
- Meaning and mattering
- Rapid rapport to build social support
- Prospection: The meta-skill positioning us ahead of change
- Creativity and innovation
Perhaps the most humane and transformative product of tens of thousands of years of our modern brain’s existence is knowledge of how to adapt. For all its psychological challenges, the current whitewater world offers us the opportunity to develop two uniquely human superpowers: prospection and creativity.
Prospection is the meta-skill of our era. The more sophisticated, accurate, and expansive our foresight skills, the greater our self-determination will be in an era of constant change. Organisations that cultivate creativity at all levels will see outsized returns. Those that do not will fall behind. Prospection metabolises the past and present to project the future. Like digestive metabolism, the prospecting mind extracts the nutrients from the past and present, then excretes the toxins and ballast in order to prepare. Prospection allows us to anticipate the downstream impact of our decisions.
At the organisational level, prospection is essential because strategy no longer looks like a twenty-year plan. Organisational prospection requires that human employees be more skilled in foresight. Teams whose leaders score higher in prospection perform better in a number of critical dimensions: team engagement is 19% higher; team innovation scores are 18% higher; and team agility, as measured with a cognitive agility scale, is 25% higher.
There are two stages in prospecting
- Phase one is fast, sweeping, and optimistic. In this initial phase, our thoughts tend to focus on the question, “What do I want the future to be?”
- Phase two sets in quickly after phase one and entails a much slower, more specific, more deliberative, and more realistic—even pessimistic—assessment of the pictures that phase one has painted.
Prospection and the Default Mode Network
One of the most important neuroscientific discoveries is that of the default mode network (DMN), a set of brain regions involved in our mental downtime. DMN is associated with spontaneous, self-generated thought. DMN breaks the bounds of time and place. DMN activates whenever we let our mind wander, as when we daydream. When nothing else is going on, the brain doesn’t just “power down.” Instead, it switches into a new mode of thinking, one so vital that it is our default—the activity our brain jumps to in every free moment. Mind-wandering is a feature of the mind, not a bug. Prospection, in fact, occupies at least one-quarter of our waking thoughts.
Two other brain networks
Two other brain networks show up consistently alongside the DMN in studies of creative tasks: the salience network and the executive control network. The salience network monitors our internal and external environments for signals that require conscious attention. The executive control network, by contrast, oversees specific, externally directed tasks.
The dance between intuitive, spontaneous thought and highly controlled, focused effort cuts to the heart of a long debate among creativity scholars: Is creativity conscious? The unconscious generates the pieces. Consciousness puts them together into a creative product. Interfere too much with consciousness, and creativity suffers.
Building the prospection muscle
- Actively daydream
- Apply scenario planning
- Open yourself to experiences
- Seek Novelty
- Apply thinking techniques (the book mentions integration, splitting ground reversal and distality)
- Branch out your network
- Browse broadly
- Dial-in incubation periods
- Embrace ambiguity
- Broaden the realm of the possible
- Celebrate risk-taking
- Treat everyone as creative
The book introduces PERMA:
- Positive emotions (P)
- Engagement in work, love, and play (E)
- Positive relationships (R)
- Meaning or mattering (M)
- Accomplishment, achievement, and mastery (A)
It makes business sense.
By 2008, leading military thinkers knew all about positive psychology. For them, optimal human performance was a matter of national security. Today’s CEOs understand, at least in theory, that the corporation needs to preempt the challenges of tomorrow rather than wait to respond reactively when the inevitable occurs. The need to shift from hierarchical, central governance to a distributed, dynamic, local, hyper-responsive. With a key focus on resilience. The ability to bounce back. The ability to anticipate and respond. Five factors are especially important: emotional regulation, optimism, cognitive agility, self-compassion, and self-efficacy. Read “Resilience“.
On the other hand, one of the most important predictors of poor resilience is catastrophisation. People who catastrophise immediately jump to imagining the worst possible scenario in times of uncertainty.
The good news again
We have come by these skills honestly, as a species, through millions of years of evolving for the forager life. Today, once again, we need a forager’s cognitive agility and adaptability to flex in response to the rapids of the whitewater workplace.
320% more growth
Firms with higher levels of workforce resilience see 320% more year-over-year growth than those with lower levels. Highly resilient individuals outperform those with low resilience by 20%. Resilient individuals’ ideas were also 11% more useful. Their influence extended beyond themselves: The teams they sat on were 18% more creative.
From an organisational perspective, resilient leaders are the gift that keeps on giving. Employees who report to resilient leaders are themselves nearly three times as resilient as others. Now an estimated 22% of American companies have resilience included in their leadership competencies. Also, have a look at https://www.healthyplacetowork.com/ (they are one of my clients).
That also means that meaning plays an essential role in our work. “If work is meaningless,” Maslow said in 1962, “then life comes close to being meaningless.” Today every corporation has a mission statement intended to both inspire workers and attract customers. Many such statements ring hollow. However, virtually everyone—across all generations and income levels, regardless of sector or position—craved more meaning at work. Everyone wanted work to be less of a job and more of a calling. On average, people were willing to sacrifice a whopping 23% of their future earnings to have a job that would always be highly meaningful! This percentage is held across income brackets from $40,000 annually up to $200,000 annually.
$ 5.94 million in savings
One of the holy grails of modern HR departments is “discretionary effort.” People in a job do not exercise discretionary effort. Those with a calling do. Studies have found that employees who find their roles meaningful work longer hours and miss fewer days. Companies will save an average of $5.94M in annual turnover costs for every one thousand employees who find their work highly meaningful.
- Employees who feel values-aligned with their colleagues were 33% more satisfied with their jobs
- Employees who feel values-aligned with their leaders were a whopping 46% more satisfied.
Connection and workplace performance
When we estimate how steep a hill is, we perceive it to be significantly less steep if we are standing with a friend than if we view it alone. Lonelier workers have lower job satisfaction, earn fewer promotions, and are more likely to quit. Social connection supports our well-being, enriches us as individual workers, and fosters successful teams.
Connection and customer experience
Cause-based marketing is easiest. It is “us” instead of “them”. It should also be evident that excellent customer service cannot be expected if we are lonely, lacking a belief that our work matters, and failing to cope with the turbulent changes around us.
The conclusion is that using our ancient tomorrow mind whilst tapping into some ancient wisdom and mixing that with prospecting and meaning is a combination with many business benefits. Combine that with https://www.healthyplacetowork.com/, and you will be unbeatable.