Author Archives: randy

My synopsis of The Accommodation: The Politics of Race in an American City by Jim Schutze, is Today, Thursday, May 19, 12:30 pm, over Zoom – Come Join Us – (And, here is my synopsis handout)

The AccommodationA special encouragement to attend today on Zoom:

The book The Accommodation is a classic book on racism in Dallas. And this classic book has special implications for this week, as we cope with another racist-based mass shooting; this one in Buffalo.

Seriously, this synopsis today will help you think through some important and critical issues.

Please join us. All details below.

Randy


Click join synopsis handout cover image to download the full handout

Click 0n synopsis handout cover image to download the full handout

If you have an open lunch time window Today, Thursday, May 19, 12:30 pm (CST), I am presenting my synopsis of:

The Accommodation: The Politics of Race in an American City — Seacaucus, New Jersey.  Citadel Press (1986). by Jim Schutze — (Reissue: La Reunion Publishing. September 28, 2021)

Today, Thursday, May 19, 2022 at 12:30 (CST) for the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare, on Zoom.

This is a significant book about racism in Dallas; and its lessons are helpful to think about racism in all American cities.

I encourage you to download my synopsis handout, print it out, and follow along.

Come join us on Zoom.

Urban Engagement Book Club
Thursday, May 19, 2022 – 12:30 pm (CST)
The Accommodation
by Jim Schutze.

Synopsis presented by Randy Mayeux
We conclude shortly after 1:30.
(This event is free).

Here is the complete lineup of books selected for 2022. 

And, here is the Zoom link to join our gathering. 

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Urban Engagement Book Club, 2022
Time: May 19, 2022 12:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81668108641?pwd=bXFlMkxBbTAvMDRHanFoZ2VhSmZVQT09

Meeting ID: 816 6810 8641
Passcode: 237130

—————————-

Here is the more complete Zoom info.

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Urban Engagement Book Club, 2022
Time: May 19, 2022 12:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)
(Every month on the Third Thursday, until Dec 15, 2022)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81668108641?pwd=bXFlMkxBbTAvMDRHanFoZ2VhSmZVQT09

Meeting ID: 816 6810 8641
Passcode: 237130

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Maybe call it the Empathy/Human Concern Gap? – A Leadership Reflection — Part 2

Leadership Strategy & TacticsFirst of all, not all leaders are good leaders.

Jocko Willink, Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual

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More on the empathy/human concern gap… (Read part 1 here).

The business literature has no shortage of books describing the personal traits of individual leaders who were great at getting results…but, were quite a jerk in the midst of their greatness.

In my own life and experience, I have had leaders fail to correct me; leaders who corrected me very badly, leaving a pretty wounded soul behind in the process; and a couple of leaders who corrected and shaped me with the right kind of empathy and understanding in the process.

(I suspect that I have made some pretty bad moves in earlier chapters in my life also…).

No surprise:  those empathetic and understanding leaders are the leaders that I most appreciate.  And, I also think those leaders did the best job at helping me make needed changes.

In the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott, she states that good leaders have to do two things well:  Care Personally, and Challenge Directly.

They must first care personally – i.e., treat you with empathy, and like a human being.

But, if they genuinely care, they will also challenge directly.  If they do not challenge directly, their care does not run deep enough.  To care is to help; and thus to care is challenging directly the people they lead to make progress and improvement while correcting mistakes and flawed approaches.

Now, back to those leaders who are jerks:  I won’t list the specifics, but there are some rather well-known leaders who were known for their lack of empathy.  Steve Jobs; Lee Iacocca; Elon Musk; among others.  In many ways, these were great leaders – great as in getting great results.  But, they did not seem to nurture people all that well.

And this took away greatly from their greatness.

On the other hand, there are leaders who get results while leaving the people they lead feeling…appreciative; and more capable.  Here is a description of such a leader from Jocko Willink, from his book Leadership Strategy and Tactics:

At the end of each day, he would take out the trash. This was a tangible and physical action that represented pure humility. Delta Charlie was the most senior man in the platoon; he also had the most experience. But there he was, taking out the garbage. And yet I was too good to do it? …And while Delta Charlie was a phenomenal tactician, an incredible planner, and a gifted operator, it was his humility more than anything else that drove the platoon to want to do a good job for him. We didn’t want to let him down. We didn’t want to disappoint him in any way. …The core of what Delta Charlie taught me was the importance of humility. He had all that experience and all that knowledge and the rank and the position; he had every reason to elevate himself above us, every reason to look down on us, every reason to act as if he were better than everyone else, but he never looked down on us at all. The fact that he didn’t is what made us respect him and want, truly want, to follow him. I still try to follow his example to this day.

Humility in a leader keeps that leader human.  And being human – remembering that you too are human — is the foundation for having empathy.

Here’s a thought:  people do not see their own flaws all that well.  This is why the top leaders might need to hire a coach; a coach who observes them in action.

The world will not change until the leaders who are lacking in humility, and empathy, and human concern, learn to accept leadership from a leader they follow – a leader who will Care Personally, AND Challenge them Directly about their own flaws.

In other words, the best leaders know they still have some learning to do; including some learning regarding how they interact with the people they lead…

Yes, it is possible to get results and nurture people at the same time.  We should demand nothing less from our leaders.

Maybe call it the Empathy/Human Concern Gap? – A Leadership Reflection — Part 1

I have written many times on this blog about the “knowing-doing” gap.  It is a real gap; a serious gap; we “know,” but we do not do.

But, there is another gap – a gap I don’t quite know what to name.  Maybe call it the Empathy/Human Concern Gap?

It is this kind of gap: the books say this, but the folks out in the real world ignore and/or contradict what the books say.

Let’s start with modern-day leadership books.  There is a long list of books that speak of the value of empathy, of treating all of your employees like human beings, of seeking to truly engage your workers so that they stay loyal to the organization, thus greatly reducing turnover.

The wisdom in these books is clear.  It makes sense.  It sounds right; it feels right.

And, yet…the stories of leaders, especially CEOs who ignore such leadership principles and approaches, is legion.

These leaders get things done, no matter the human cost.  They don’t seem to really care about the human needs of the people they “lead.”  Maybe, they don’t lead “people,” they lead companies to attain results, and they view the people as utterly replaceable; disposable.

And, here’s the truth; though we do admire those human centered leaders, and we certainly admire the authors who write of such leadership (Brené Brown, Hubert Joly, among others), we seem to want to buy stock in the companies that see the best results.

Here’s just one example: Amazon is what you might call a true American success story.  It did not exist, until not too long ago, and as of now it is the fourth most valuable company in the country.  Do you know their turnover rate for their workers in their fulfillment centers (warehouses)? – it is well more than 100% per year.  Read this:  Investigation into Amazon raises questions about workforce turnover, HR errors – Marketplace:

David Brancaccio: Among warehouse workers at Amazon, attrition for workers is how high?

Karen Weise: Roughly 150% a year. It’s actually so high that Amazon tracks it weekly. It’s about 3% a week. And this is much higher than the warehousing and retail industry is broadly.

Brancaccio: More people leave Amazon warehouses in a year than if you add up all the employees that are employed at Amazon warehouses?

Weise: Exactly, it’s the equivalent of having to replace the entire workforce every eight months. 

And, how does Amazon, especially Jeff Bezos, feel about this?  Actually, pretty good:

Part of what was so interesting, Kantor told “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio, was that Amazon has long seen high turnover as a good thing — and has deliberately encouraged it through various internal policies.

“Bezos really wanted turnover. He was afraid of a stagnant workforce — what he would call a ‘march to mediocrity,’ ” Kantor said.

In other words, in the case of Amazon’s mindset, such a very high turnover keeps the company from stagnating.

And they do produce results, don’t they?!

So, not much empathy; not much human concern; but plenty of results.

So, what do we make of all of these books calling for human concern and empathy?

I realize that for some, this is not a good and proper question to raise; but, maybe there is more to life than results? 

I’m not sure I want to live in a world where leaders have so little empathy; so little concern for human need.  Do you?

Competing in the NEW World of Work: How Radical Adaptability Separates the Best from the Rest by Keith Ferrazzi, Kian Gohar, Kian, Noel Weyrich — Here are my five lessons and takeaways

(Note:  there are too many “extra blank lines” in this post.  My apology.  Wordpress has changed something, and I can’t figure out how to get rid of them.  Sorry about that).


Competing in New World of WorkIn an increasingly decentralized world where technology democratizes access to anything and everything, power lies within communities of individuals who can radically disrupt the status quo.

So we pledged to turn the experiences and lessons learned during the crisis into big wins for our customers, for our companies, and for each other. …And while we’re at it, we pledged to make our work in this new world more purposeful, more meaningful, and more humane.

But suddenly in 2020, this future of work became the present of work, and every leader realized they had to pay attention. They had to pivot or get left behind.  

By definition, adaptability is the ability to adjust to new conditions.  

We firmly believe that the number one lesson from the pandemic must be that we have to develop a strategy to survive similar shocks in the future, be they events or the relentless disruption of technological and social change.  

Keith Ferrazzi, Kian Gohar, Kian, Noel Weyrich, Competing in the NEW World of Work: How Radical Adaptability Separates the Best from the Rest

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If there is a theme – a truth, a suggestion, a piece of advice – that is more universally stated than “you have to abandon the status quo,” I do not know what it is.  So, so many books on leadership, and corporate culture, and change, talk about the overwhelming hold of the status quo on a company (and our lives…).

This has to be true, doesn’t it?  This has to be a problem, doesn’t it?  Companies can get stuck in the status quo, can’t they?

What is this all-powerful status quo?  Merriam-Webster defines it simply:  “the existing state of affairs.”  And that captures it.  The status quo is the set of beliefs that work just fine when everything stays the same.

But, this is not an “everything is staying the same” time, is it?

Now, if you ask me which book is the best book on defeating, rising above, abandoning, disrupting the status quo, I have no such recommendation.  As I said, it is a theme in book after book after book after book…

But, at the May First Friday Book Synopsis, I presented my synopsis of another book that deserves a spot on the “abandon the status quo” book list.  It is Competing in the NEW World of Work: How Radical Adaptability Separates the Best from the Rest by Keith Ferrazzi, Kian Gohar, Kian, Noel Weyrich.  (Keith Ferrazzi seems to be the lead author and thinker in this book).

I greatly enjoyed, and benefitted from, Mr. Ferrazzi’s earlier book Never Eat Alone. It is kind of the “bible’ on networking.

This book is not quite at the level of being the “bible’ on its subject.  But, it is smart, insightful, and worth heeding.  And the emphasis on, and explanation of “radical adaptability” is a key reason that this book deserves your time and attention.

As I always do, in my synopsis I begin with What is the point?  Here is the point for this book:  The pandemic taught us that slow change can leave an organization behind; way behind…if not dead.  Radical adaptability may be the survival practice of the modern organization.

And I ask Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – This book provides a good overview of many “certain types” of companies – especially, companies that have learned to adapt rapidly; and companies that have a clear purpose.

#2 – This book is a call to embrace genuine inclusion, across the board. (Partly, for the purpose of competitive advantage).

#3 – This book is a book that calls for agile, rapid, change; radical adaptability.

I always include a few pages of Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages.  Here are quite a few of the best of the best from this book:

How we work hasn’t been working for a long time, but we’ve continued to cling to outdated ways of work as though we were hanging by our fingernails over an abyss. 

What if tradition and inertia proved to be so strong that all the bad old habits snapped back into effect as soon as the pandemic ended? 

We knew we had a responsibility to not let this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass us by. And we crowdsourced a research-based methodology for what leadership means in a radically volatile world. …A New World of Work Is Emerging. 

The essence of radical adaptability is that it is predictive, proactive, and progressive, very unlike the typical response to change, which is inherently reactive and conformist. 

The urgency of change is real. The challenge is how to maintain your energy and passion through change and not crumble from its strain and pace. 

“If we can leverage the call for inclusion today around eradicating racism—using this as the hook to really get leaders to open up to let people be heard—it’s the right step forward for unleashing innovation overall.”   

New challenges changed daily, from Covid cases to wildfires to social unrest and, eventually, overstretched supply chains.” “In fact, there were many weeks where we battled all the above at the same time. Innovation and transformation, supported by people’s stubborn refusal to let each other fail. …Their first step on that journey was to explicitly agree to new behavioral norms for teamwork: to recontract. …Recontracting for co-elevation.   

The work of a true co-elevating leader is to promote a shared sense of responsibility among team members and nurturing a common ethos with which everyone is committed to each other’s success. …Co-elevation requires interdependency among team members in the form of candid peer-to-peer support and peer-to-peer accountability. 

No one is successful until everyone is successful; the team crosses the finish line together. …(RM – “Everybody counts or nobody counts” is the personal credo of LAPD detective Harry Bosch).

In any collaboration, a common social contract needs to be negotiated, or a faulty one is likely to be the norm.   

Physical distance is not the main roadblock to co-elevation involving remote workers. …Strategic distance (a lack of team alignment) operational distance (a lack of well-oiled team process to operationalize the work), and affinity distance (the lack of team members’ commitment to one another). 

The co-elevating ethos of empathy, generosity, and candor naturally compels the group to expand the boundaries of its reach beyond the tight inner circle.  pg. 49

One study concluded, “Because many large companies have pockets of expertise and knowledge scattered across different locations, we have found that harnessing the cognitive diversity within organizations can open up rich new sources of innovation. 

When leaders actively reach beyond their businesses to seek out fresh ideas, listen, and act on the solutions, the benefits stretch beyond the commercial impact of whatever result is put into practice, whatever new product is launched, or whatever service is taken to market.  …To the evergreen culture question, “Why are we doing this?” there is no better answer than “I was among the voices that said we should.”

“We always started by asking people to open with what their silver lining was. It turned into a great forum for best-practice sharing.” …overall, I would say the people who have gone outside of their organization and leaned on peers have been more effective. This is the power of crowdsourcing ideas and collaborating with external partners.” …but certainly something I confirmed is how important it is to lead with generosity,” Frank explained. This simple, powerful idea of inclusion—reaching out to draw people closer in—ultimately blossomed into the GFTW Institute and this book. 

As you consider your role as a radically adaptable leader, it’s time to pause and ask yourself, “What business are we really in?”

Peter Diamandis likes to say that there will be two types of companies in ten years’ time: “AI-led companies, and dead companies.” 

If you think your business is safe from the forces of decentralization, think again.

External experts provide an outsider perspective and can ask the tough questions; internal members generate the institutional knowledge needed to commit to a massive workforce transformation.

The truth is, work in the future will be a balance between human intervention and automated technologies.

So how do you decide if your workforce should be based on a traditional full-time employee model, a gig-economy model, or a hybrid somewhere in between the two? There is no one right answer but only an answer that is right for you. But we do know that there are some wrong answers to avoid.

Specialists who are critical to your business should be internal hires. Tiger teams, which are tasked with finding new pathways of innovation for your organization, should be fully internal employees. — …We argue that any task can be dialed up on the gig knob if it is repetitive, not core to your business, does not need consistent direction over how the work is done, and can be done by workers who don’t require internal firm knowledge.

Most employees are dissatisfied with reskilling if it doesn’t expand their opportunities for advancement or better pay. …74 percent of respondents believe developing new skills is “strategically important in their organization,” but less than a third said they were rewarded for developing new skills. The gap between the two numbers is expressed in worker disengagement.

In addition to key excerpts, those “best of” my highlighted passages, I ask what are the key points, and principles, and insights from the books I present?  Here are a number from this book that I included in my synopsis.  (Note: if I got it right, sections below in italics also came directly from the book):

  • Tilly Smith, 10 years old from Surrey, England; and the Tsunami that hit Thailand
  • more than two hundred thousand people were killed by tsunami waves all across the Indian Ocean basin. Thailand’s coastal towns suffered tens of thousands of deaths, but the secluded beach where Tilly and her family were staying was the only beach in Thailand with zero fatalities. …What made Tilly a hero was her resolve, her belief in what she knew, and the courage it took to put her knowledge and insights into action. …When Tilly’s mother first tried to shrug off her daughter’s warnings, Tilly didn’t back down. Instead, she got angry. She told her mother, “Right, I’m leaving you, because there is definitely going to be a tsunami.” …Courage, not knowledge, is what made Tilly Smith a hero. Her knowledge was essential, but without the courage of her convictions—without expressing her righteous anger to her mother in that crucial moment—her knowledge about tsunamis would have died with her that day, along with her parents and everyone else on the beach.
  • Apparently, we all need to go to Burning Man…
  • creativity; experimentation; necessity…
  • When the pandemic hit…we weren’t ready. Our organizations weren’t ready…
  • The need for a new level of adaptability in the workplace became a dire necessity, not just a competency of the truly best.  
  • But…we learned fast; out of necessity.
  • In a single year, adversity ushered in more changes in ways of doing business than we had seen in decades.
  • Team members also became more generous. They broke out of siloed that’s-not-my-job behaviors. And out of sincere concern for each other, they asked, “How can I help?”
  • We found that the urgency of the situation melted the frozen routines and the ossified protocols that had long posed obstacles to growth and change.
  • But also…
  • Without proper support for sustaining these new modes of work, many companies were merely “crisis adapting.”
  • Now the open question is, how can we sustain that sense of mutual commitment as a matter of choice, not crisis?
  • Big ideas:
  • We call this methodology radical adaptability. — It presents all the lessons of crisis leadership in the form of a sustainable model for leading continuous change through the coming years of unexpected turmoil, opportunity, and transformation.
  • Radical adaptability is a transformational mechanism. Radical adaptability prompts you to constantly anticipate change, reinterpret it, and transform yourself through change. Through radical adaptability, you embrace the new world of work and grow with it, while others merely adjust and adapt to it.
  • Collaborate through inclusion.
  • Collaboration has nothing to do with where employees show up for work; it has everything to do with how they show up.
  • Inclusion in the workplace must extend to race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, and physical ability because it’s the right thing to do and because all successful innovation and transformation benefits from including the full diversity of voices and perspectives.
  • Inclusion is the vital ingredient missing from these teams. As Telva put it, “Inclusion is not just in service of the DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] agenda. It’s core to any organization’s capability to transform.”
  • We started realizing that there are people whose advice we could seek everywhere, but we had to reach out to them deliberately instead of waiting for the occasional serendipitous get-together.        
  • Lead through enterprise agile — short-term sprints
  • act very, very quickly…faster than you think you can…FAST!!!
  • By its nature, agile invites breakthrough innovation, because agile presses every team member to keep asking, who else do we need on this team? …“During crises, you’ll see managers astonished by how fast their teams can innovate and come up with solutions.”
  • You shift your leadership approach and delegate responsibility to teams closest to work and closest to the customer.
  • Crisis agile was frequently achieved through weekly sprints.
  • Promote team resilience — good leaders strive to maintain the emotional and physical energies of the team.
  • Develop active foresight — Learn to see around corners
  • Sociological, Technological, Economic, Environmental, and Political (STEEP). • Sociological: Mainly refers to demographic and other societal changes that might affect consumer demand in your industry. It’s why toy manufacturers are mindful of changes in birth rates and why carmakers are concerned that record-high percentages of teenagers aren’t bothering to get driver’s licenses in the age of car sharing and ride hailing.
  • Technological: Includes all the developments in disruptive technologies. The slightest shift in any of these technologies could open new, unforeseen opportunities or create new, unexpected threats within your industry.
  • Economic: Refers to the business cycle’s ebb and flow; shifts in interest rates, the stock market, and the labor market.
  • Environmental: Includes not only short-term elements that may impact your business or supply chains (like hurricanes or outbreaks of contagion) but also long-term climate change and prospects for future access to natural resources.
  • Political: Includes trends in government regulations, taxation rates, import tariffs, labor laws, treaties, international alliances, and overall stability in domestic politics and politics in nations wherever your company has offices, customers, and critical suppliers. 
  • Future-proof your business model.
  • In January 2021, General Motors CEO Mary Barra shocked the global auto industry by announcing plans to phase out all fossil-fueled models by 2035 and make the transition to an electric-only fleet.
  • Develop an ongoing process of experimentation 
  • Build a Lego block workforce.
  • Ask, “What work needs to be done?” Ask, “What workforce will we engage?” Ask, “Where will the workforce work?” — a fourth corollary question: How do you move your current workforce into this new paradigm?
  • How do you decide if you should build, buy, or borrow that talent?
  • Supercharge your purpose.
  • Companies like Salesforce, with a high level of employee engagement through a shared common purpose, were much better prepared than most other companies were to go on the wartime footing that the pandemic called for.
  • There was a time when having a shared mission was enough to drive organizational change. Employees could team out around their collective desire to be the biggest or the best. But missions are more about how. They’re not about why. …In the new world of work, change happens too fast for your mission to be a dependable unifying force. …“Purpose is about having an impact beyond yourself, outside of the company’s own profits.”
  • Bill Gates, had always been “a PC on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software.” In 2014, when Satya Nadella became CEO, he set Microsoft on a much more inspiring and enduring purpose: “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
  • Can everyone in the company recite it? Are they clear about the values and principles that underlie it? Can they say how decisions are made with respect to those values and principles?
  • Act now…NOW!
  • For example, take a moment to visualize what you assume might be the reality of your job or industry in five years. There’s a good chance that all those things need to get done in the next eighteen months if you want to be anything more than a follower and if you don’t want to lose ground to your competitors. The hurdle for success has been raised exponentially, and the terrain has become simultaneously rockier.
  • This new world of work requires a new set of attitudes, processes, and practices that will achieve not just 10 percent improvement over yesteryear, but 10X transformation to prepare you for a future that is faster than you think. 
  • Adopt asynchronous collaboration. (“asynchronous by default”).
  • Asynchronous means doing more work through collaborating through written or recorded form without meeting at the same time. The keys to successful asynchronous work include (1) simplified, concise communication; (2) clearly identifying the decision-maker for each action item; (3) making every communication transparent to the whole team; (4) being responsive to every communication you receive; and (5) allowing your team time to review the material you share with them.

And here are my five lessons and takeaways:  

#1 – You really do have to find a way for many, many more people – your people; other people – to have a voice; to be genuinely heard, and respected.

#2 – You have to treat your workers as fully human. All the time.

#3 – It would be really good to put into practice, and keep in practice, the rapid decision making and innovation and change and adaptability and work that was required during the pandemic – even when there is no crisis at hand.

#4 – It is a good idea to do more reading about companies that were successful; and companies that were not successful.

#5 – It is a time when we have to know the modern-day absolutes. — Here’s one:  a company/organization must have a mobilizing, energizing purpose greater than the bottom line.

This is a good book.  The issue it deals with is this:  how do we disrupt and jettison the status quo, and embrace the practices of radical adaptability?  Until we get that right, we are in serious danger of being left so far behind that we can never catch up.

Quite a challenge, isn’t it?!

Competing in the New World of Work, cover

My synopsis handout cover

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My synopsis of Competing in the NEW World of Work, with the audio recording of my presentation, and my comprehensive, multi-page handout, will be available soon on this web site.  Click here for our newest additions.

We have many synopses available. Click on the buy synopses tab at the top of this page to search by book title.

Read a book – then read more books – you need the advantage of the accumulation of knowledge

there is always the right book to read next

there is always the right book to read next

I do a little speech coaching.  And, yesterday, as I met with a client, I found myself quoting a number of different books.  And, I even referred to an academic journal from the 1960s that I pulled out of my memory banks.

People frequently ask me “what is the best book you have ever read?”

(I do have an answer:  Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.  Read my blog post about this book here).

But, the reality is, there is no one best book, is there?  Because, even the really, really good books fail to cover everything there is to learn about a subject.  And, even if the book is remarkably up to date, there will be new findings and discoveries and insights, and new books with those new insights will be coming soon.

No, there is no one book.  And, by the way, alas, you won’t remember everything you read even from the last book you read; which you just finished, maybe yesterday…

Reading books is sort of like eating meals.  It is the accumulation of nutrition, which you need to constantly replenish.

Similarly, you keep reading books; you keep reading the next new book; in order to build up your store of accumulated knowledge.

The more books you read, the more knowledge you accumulate.

And, the more knowledge you accumulate, the more effective you will be in whatever endeavor you undertake.  (Assuming…that you are smart enough to put some of what you learn into practice).

So, read a book this month.  Then, read another book. Then another.  Keep reading. Keep reading more books.

There is so much knowledge to accumulate!

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Though it is not the same as reading books, you might want to check out some of my synopses.  Each one comes with my multi-page, comprehensive synopsis handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation from the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.  It will help you choose what books to read for yourself; and, even if you don’t read the book, my synopsis will give you enough from the book to help you think about, and discuss, some of the key ideas.  Click here for my newest additions.

Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything—Even Things That Seem Impossible Today by Jane McGonigal — Here are my six lessons and takeaways

(Note:  there are too many “extra blank lines” in this post.  My apology.  Wordpress has changed something, and I can’t figure out how to get rid of them.  Sorry about that).


Taking in information that makes you uncomfortable isn’t something you do once. You keep it up, like a habit. And the more clues to change that you find, the more open and less shockable your mind becomes.

Imaginable“Look at how many specific forecasts from EVOKE are happening now! It’s uncanny. How did you get so much right?” And that’s a question I’m going to answer by way of this book. 

You could say one of the main reasons I’ve written this book is that I don’t want the drawing out of future consequences, especially around technologies or policies that could affect many millions or even billions of people, to happen in secret. 

Were the most shocking events of the recent past really unimaginable before they happened?  

Ideas about the future can be useful because they help us prepare for a challenge before it happens; or because they give us time to try to prevent a crisis; or because they open our minds and inspire us to make changes in our lives and communities today.

There is one kind of clue, in particular, that futurists are trained to detect and work with: signals of change. …You know you’ve found a signal if you can tell a story about it—a who, what, when, where, and why.

“Almost everything important that’s ever happened was unimaginable shortly before it happened.”

It’s clear that the problems we refuse to solve today will complicate and intensify the crises we face tomorrow. 

Jane McGonigal, Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything—Even Things That Seem Impossible Today

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I think I may be close to figuring it out.  I think I may understand why people need to attend the First Friday Book Synopsis, or read my synopsis handouts; or read business books for themselves.

Sure, some people actually learn things they put into practice.  But the reality is that it takes an accumulation of ideas and strategies to add up to actions that propel companies and organizations forward.

But…back to the question:  why people want to participate is because they need a place to just think about the bigger issues of work without the constant bombardment of the “whirlwind” — “THE WHIRLWIND; The real enemy of execution is your day job!” (that’s a phrase from The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling).

In other words, the First Friday Book Synopsis provides something of an intellectual escape event into big-issue and big-challenge thinking.

This past Friday, I presented my synopsis of two books that were perfect for thinking about the bigger issues of business, especially this big issue:  “how do we really get ready for the next unexpected future?”

This post is about Imaginable.  I will soon write a post about the other book:  Competing in the NEW World of Work by Keith Ferrazzi.

Imaginable is a remarkable book; a terrific book.  It is part tutorial on how to be a futurist.  It is a reminder of the changes that have hit us hard; they hit our lives and our work in ways that we were not quite prepared for.

Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything—Even Things That Seem Impossible Today is by Jane McGonigal, who serves at The Institute of the Future.  That affiliation alone is enough to give her full credibility in my eyes. (I am a big fan of Bob Johansen of that Institute, and learned much from two books by him that I have presented:  Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present – Using Foresight to Provoke Strategy and Innovation and The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a Future of Extreme Disruption and Distributed Everything.  In fact, I hosted a workshop, back before the pandemic, built around the ideas in his book The New Leadership Literacies).

As I do with all of my book synopses, I begin with this:  What is the point? of this book.  Here is the point for Imaginable:  Imagining a future tomorrow creates resilience, “future memories” to draw upon, and strategies to implement. Learning the skills of a futurist gives you survival skills for a rapidly, ever-changing world. 

And I ask Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – This book is a tutorial on how to think like a futurist.

#2 – This book is a sweeping overview of the problems we suspect are headed our way.

#3 – This book will help us get ready for future problems; and future opportunities.

I always include a few pages of Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages.  Here are a number of the best of the best from Imaginable:

And it’s not just that we didn’t see this coming. There is grief baked into these words. We use the word “unimaginable” as another way of saying “heartbreaking”— We use the word “unthinkable” to mean “unjust,” “cruel,” or “unacceptable”—as in an unthinkable failure to act, an unthinkable lack of concern for others. These two words that we use so frequently these days speak not just to shock but to trauma. How do we make plans for the future in an age of seemingly endless shocks?

Simulation participants kept telling me, in their own ways, that pre-feeling the future helped them pre-process the anxiety, the overwhelming uncertainty, and the sense of helplessness, so they could move more rapidly to adapt and act resiliently when the future actually arrived.  …They acted faster, because they knew firsthand how bad things could get.

What I see in my simulation participants’ reactions to COVID-19 is something almost like the fortitude of having lived through a real pandemic. Their minds were prepared to act faster and adapt faster. Less shock, more resilience.

A deep immersion into a possible future creates lasting mental habits, especially when it comes to watching the real world for evidence that the simulated possibility is becoming more likely.

When you think like a futurist, you think more creatively. Research studies have shown them to increase hope and motivation for the future and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

As both a game designer and a futurist, I see my job as transporting people to imaginary worlds, to worlds that don’t exist. — My goal is to make sure that when people leave these imagined worlds, they feel more creative, more optimistic, and more confident in their own ability to transform those worlds, to take actions and make decisions that change the shape of that reality.

Futures thinking is an incredibly useful, practical tool to prepare your mind to adapt faster to new challenges, build hope and resilience, reduce anxiety and depression, and inspire you to take actions today that set yourself up for future happiness and success. We’ll heal and recover faster because we won’t be sitting around waiting for the next decade to happen to us. We’ll be making the decade together.

Well, it’s easy to prepare for futures that are similar to today. It’s the dramatically different stuff that catches us off guard.

If anything can increase your ability to influence how the future turns out, it’s this: planting seeds of imagination in the minds of tens or hundreds or thousands of other people who can help you make whatever changes you’re imagining.  …It’s what I call urgent optimism. Urgent optimism is a balanced feeling. It’s recognizing that, yes, there are great challenges and risks ahead, while also staying realistically hopeful that you have something to contribute to how we solve those challenges and face those risks. Urgent optimism means you’re not staying awake all night worrying about what might happen. Instead, you’re leaping out of bed in the morning with a fire in your pants to do something about it. Urgent optimism is knowing that you have agency and the ability to use your unique talents, skills, and life experiences to create the world you want to live in.

Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong.—Mandy Hale, author.

In other words: things that are small experiments today in ten years can become ubiquitous and world-changing. And social change that seems improbable or unimaginable—well, in ten years that can change too.  …There is ample evidence that almost anything could happen on that timeline. And for that reason, ten years helps unstick our minds.

So next New Year’s Day, why not try a new tradition? Make a ten-year resolution.  …When you feel like you have less time to get things done, you do less.

Your brain really does not want to hear it—it actively filters out and rejects information that causes it discomfort, or “cognitive dissonance.”

Professional game developers will tell you that if you want someone to stick with a game, you have to give them an opportunity to be successful in the first few minutes.  …If we are given a clear purpose within the first minute of imagining the future—here is a choice you have to make right now—we feel more engaged.

The COVID-19 pandemic unfolded more like an asteroid scenario than like climate change. It motivated social sacrifice and global scientific coordination faster than any previous event in human history. …Instead, humanity reacted to the emergency it was.

A useful future scenario is like a tip-off you can use to investigate further. You discover that if you look in the news…  Coming up with ridiculous, at first, ideas about the future means having your eyes fully open… To do this, you also have to somehow find a way to trick your brain into noticing things it would ordinarily overlook.

This is how you become a pioneer. …it’s so much easier to come up with new innovations, to imagine new products and services and businesses and art forms, when you play with ridiculous, at first, ideas—because far fewer people are thinking about and getting ready for these “unthinkable” futures. You get to the ideas first.

Consider that, prior to 2020, one of the standard examples of an HILP event (High-Impact-Low-Probability)given in strategic foresight glossaries and textbooks was this: pandemic.

Whatever hasn’t happened will happen, and no one will be safe from it. — J. B. S. Haldane, evolutionary biologist.

Every form of creativity has its own raw material. For futurists, the raw material is clues. To find future clues, you need to develop a new way of looking at the world around you, a way to spot weird stuff that others overlook. “Huh, that’s strange,” and “Hmmm . . . I wonder why that’s happening,” and “Wow, this is weird, and I want to understand it better.” I call this way of looking at the world strangesight.

You become increasingly drawn to things that challenge your assumptions. Strangesight is a precursor to foresight.

William Gibson famously stated, “The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed.”

Many of my students tell me that looking for signals of change is the most enduring habit they’ve picked up from my classes—they describe this habit as “fun,” “exciting,” and “inspiring.”

The brain wants to believe that what’s normal now will still be normal for the foreseeable future. It wants to believe that if something has never happened before, it probably won’t happen anytime soon. …Things happen every day that have never happened before!

After you’ve created a memory of a possible future in your mind, you recall the details much more quickly the next time. Each time you reimagine a possible future event in vivid detail, you rate its probability of happening even higher.

How much empathy do you have for your future self?

It seems that understanding other people’s hopes and worries motivates and empowers us to be more helpful and caring. This, in turn, makes us feel better about our own self-worth. It’s a virtuous cycle, an upward spiral of social benefit.

Experts say that roughly 50–60 percent of people who endure a trauma will go on to experience at least one area of post-traumatic growth. …It is the direct result of suffering deeply and trying to make sense and meaning out of that suffering. It happens when we are forced to rethink our core beliefs, acknowledge our own vulnerability and mortality, and decide what is truly important to us. …Post-traumatic growth is usually thought of as an individual process. But now, for the first time, we may be seeing it play out on a truly global scale.

During COVID-19, more than one billion young people fell behind by an estimated average of six to twelve months of learning. pg. 271

What do we need more people doing in order to make a better world?

In countries without universal health coverage—there are 124, including the United States—one in four people each year skip medical care because of the cost.

Many just-in-time supply chains failed because they were based on prediction models using historical data of “normal” behavior. But during a crisis, normal no longer applies.

Now it’s time to practice the single most important future imagination skill: finding your own unique way to help. I describe this as “answering the future’s call to adventure.” In his famous model of the hero’s journey, mythologist Joseph Campbell the adventure begins when an otherwise ordinary person receives the “call to adventure.”

The future is a place where anything can be different, including how we simulate it.

Remember: the phrase “to make a difference” literally means to make something different. …the future is a place where anything, or one hundred things, or everything, can be different—even things that seem impossible to change today.

And, in my synopses, I include many key points and principles from the books I present.  Here are a number from this book.  (Sections in italics are directly from the book):

  • About Jane McGonigal, Institute for the Future
  • I’m a professional futurist and I’m a game designer. It’s not a common combination of career paths—as far as I know, I’m the only one in the world.
  • created the How to Think Like a Futurist workshop for Stanford University’s Continuing Studies program.
  • and, see her TED Talks
  • and…praise for this book’s documentation and research citations

• And, a word about Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present by Bob Johansen: I “got there early” and came down with it in early 2020 before anyone suspected the virus had arrived in the United States.

  • An encounter/conversation with the automakers, and the ten-year horizon
  • people will never want self-driving cars…ok; maybe they will — In the United States today, 40 percent of eighteen-year-olds have opted not to get their license yet.
  • “Strong opinions, lightly held.”
  • The 2008 “Simulation,” Superstruct — In 2008, I was the lead designer for a six-week future-forecasting simulation called Superstruct. The simulation was run by the Ten-Year Forecast.
  • A global pandemic — ReDS, short for respiratory distress syndrome.
  • For example: “Data suggests that if you lead a religious congregation or community of any kind, you need to plan now to create a space for virtual religious worship.” And: “If you’re planning a wedding, professional conference or networking event, or party, you should proactively cancel it now, because people will risk their health to attend these affairs even during a pandemic.”   
  • The 2010 Simulation, EVOKE
  • First the global spread of COVID-19 in early 2020, followed by the historic West Coast wildfires of the summer of 2020 that burned for months and required millions of people to evacuate their homes and relocate. Then, the rise of the QAnon conspiracy movement on social media, which created an “infodemic” of misinformation that COVID-19 was a hoax and vaccines would implant a microchip in your arm. Later, the “unthinkable” power grid failure in Texas that left three million people without electricity or water, blamed on “unimaginable” extreme cold weather that the aging infrastructure was unable to withstand. “Look at how many specific forecasts from EVOKE are happening now! It’s uncanny. How did you get so much right?”    
  • About Games, and Simulations
  • These simulations do more than stretch individuals’ imaginations. They build actionable collective intelligence, by revealing otherwise hard-to-predict phenomena and ripple effects. — “It’s better to be surprised by a simulation than blindsided by reality.” In fact, one way we measure the success of a simulation is by how surprising the results of the game are to experts in the field.
  • A future scenario is a detailed description of a particular future you might wake up in, a future in which at least one thing is dramatically different from today.
  • 3 Big Questions:
  • Question #1: When you think about the next ten years, do you think things will mostly stay the same and go on as normal ? Or do you expect that most of us will dramatically rethink and reinvent how we do things?
  • Question #2: When you think about how the world and your life will change over the next ten years, are you mostly worried or mostly optimistic?
  • Question #3: How much control or influence do you feel you personally have in determining how the world and your life change over the next ten years?

AND…

  • At the Institute for the Future, we call this using your positive imagination and your shadow imagination. Positive imagination asks the question: What’s something good that could happen? It builds confidence that the future will be better. Shadow imagination asks the question: What’s something bad that could happen? It builds readiness to face future challenges. 
  • Give yourself time to think, and to imagine, with “Time Spaciousness”
  • We become more optimistic and hopeful about what we can change through our own efforts. This has to do with a psychological phenomenon known as time spaciousness. On a ten-year timeline, we don’t feel rushed.
  • Setting goals for yourself (or your family, or your community, or your organization) on too short a timeline usually creates the feeling of being time-rushed. 
  • Did you know?…
  • that you think more creatively in a large room with high ceilings? — Studies have found that we also think more creatively and set higher, “maximal,” goals for ourselves when we’re in rooms with higher ceilings or outside in a wide-open environment.
  • So I like to think of a ten-year timeline as a kind of cathedral or Grand Canyon for the mind. It lifts the ceiling on our imagination. As one team of expert psychologists put it: “A maximal goal reflects the most that one could wish for, whereas a minimal goal reflects bare necessities or the least one could comfortably tolerate.”
  • Imagination Training
  • RULE #1: Take a Ten-Year Trip. — give you that magical feeling of “time spaciousness.” It will help you open your mind, take in new information, reduce your blind spots, increase your empathy, set more optimistic goals, and see a much bigger picture.
  • RULE # 2: Learn to Time Travel
  • Create memory and pre-feelings… — You can revisit this memory whenever you want and examine how it makes you feel. Does it spark positive or negative emotions?
  • Be Ridiculous, at first!
  • (Futurist Dr. Jim) Dator’s law:  “Any useful statement about the future should at first seem ridiculous.”
  • It’s ridiculous, at first, but the more you think about it, the more plausible it seems. This is the crucial second half of Dator’s law. …A useful future scenario is like a tip-off you can use to investigate further.   
  • Things to do!
  • Play more games
  • Join in on more simulations
  • Start your own simulations
  • Google stuff – stuff you do not normally google – stretch your thinking…
  • I recommend doing one search a month, to learn just one new thing.
  • Take your own ten-years-into-the-future trips: When Does the Future Start? I ask everyone: “If the future is a time when many or most things in your life will be different than they are today, how long from now does that future start?”
  • Envision in your mind – and/or write things down…
  • write down your to-do list, for ten years from today…
  • Look for clues that are signals of change
  • The easiest way to find a clue is to search “future of” plus whatever you’re interested in.
  • set up communication tools (Bluetooth is a possibility) off the internet/wifi network… 
  • Among the Future Scenarios in the book:
  • Future Scenario #1: Thank You Day…
  • Future Scenario #2: “Have You Checked the Asteroid Forecast?”
  • Future Scenario #3: The Global Emergency Sperm Drive  
  • Future Scenario #5: Don’t Face Search Me
  • Future Scenario #6: Have You Declared Your Challenge Yet?
  • Future Scenario #10: The Alpha-Gal Crisis Future Scenario           
  • A big takeaway challenge – as you become a more accomplished lifelong learner, learn, on purpose, about one big world challenge at a time…
  • And here are my six lessons and takeaways:

#1 – Put in the time to learn how to think like a futurist.

#2 – Put in the time practicing thinking like a futurist. (Join in on scenarios; journal; think and ponder).

#3 – Link up with some fellow future time travelers.

#4 – Put this into practice in your workplace and work life. What are the actual (future) threats that your organization is not ready for?  What (future) opportunities is your organization not in position to take advantage of?

#5 – Become conversant in the big challenges and problems headed our way.  Become something of an expert in one or two of them.

#6 – Get far more serious about the lifelong learning challenge.

I have never worked as a futurist.  But I sure have enjoyed reading about, and thinking about, the future.  I am old enough that I read Future Shock by Alvin Toffler shortly after it was first published, and many, many “look-to-the-coming-future” books since then.  This one is now at the top of my “read this first” list.  It is absolutely worth your time!

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My synopsis handout cover

My synopsis handout cover

My synopsis of Imaginable with the audio recording of my presentation, and my comprehensive, multi-page handout, will be available soon on this web site.  Click here for our newest additions.

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