How to Invent the Future
When a society accepts the practices, methods, and measures of the 20th century to conceive the 21st century, failure is inevitable. In order to consider new ideas, you have to be willing to let go of ones that no longer serve you.
The challenge, though, is not how to throw away the Old to embrace the New. That would be folly; the efficiency of the 20th century is what allows (most of) us have clean water and plenty of relatively inexpensive food to eat and so on. Plus, let’s not forget that “new” ideologies can be misleading. I’m reminded of Enron’s “new metrics” once touted by big-name thinkers as reflecting the future of management. Only later did we all collectively learn it reflected criminal accounting practices. So “new” is not the end-all. Unlike the medicine in your bathroom drawer, ideas don’t come with pre-printed expiration dates. There are no clear signs for which ones to toss and when. The challenge is in knowing how to evaluate and build new ideas into reality.
And when management thinkers are confined together in our own enclosures - not cages, but conferences - we seem to do little more than pull on each other’s tails. We find flaws in each other’s arguments (and surely there are many, for they are nascent ideas). We largely advocate for our own idea and ours alone, because we want so desperately for it to be seen. And we show why any New Idea doesn’t prove out, often without sharing our fundamental assumptions. And like the monkeys, we find ways of signaling: “That’s not the way we do things around here.”