There are three reasons why you might want to invest 5-minutes reading this article:
- The world is at a crossroads, the outcome of this century will be determined over the next 2-3 decades and will depend on the action of people like you. Wouldn’t it be nice to know how and why?
- It’s never been easier to do remarkable things and benefit financially and otherwise from doing so – We will share three shifts you will might have missed.
- You are someone who wants to or already does something rather remarkable.
OUR STORY BEGINS IN THE SLEEPY CITY OF DERBY, UK…
Once the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and now home to Paul Cummins a ceramic artist and unlikely hero. Paul came across a poem written by an unknown fallen British soldier, it read: “The blood-swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread.” Paul who is dyslexic said in an interview that as he read those words he saw a field of red. This became his inspiration to embark on a quest to craft 888,246 handmade ceramic poppies for the stunning art installation surrounding the Tower of London commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of The Great War.
Now our research into the power of leadership quests decoded what makes a quest such a powerful force of change.
We identified that people on quests achieve remarkable things because they do three things:
- Challenge the impossible
- Deliver meaningful benefits
- Have an inspirational-outcome focused destination
Paul certainly challenged the impossible during his crazy quest. He’d set in motion the mammoth task of crafting 7,000 poppies every day over a six-month period. He was used to working alone out of a small studio, but this quest required an army of dedicated people. He stubbornly refused to mass produce the poppies in China wanting each poppy to be handmade representing the unique soul of a life lost too young. Using 100-year-old techniques massive blocks of clay were squashed flat in huge industrial hand-powered rollers. Every one of the 888,246 ceramic poppies were then cut out, lovingly hand crafted by skilled artisans and placed in massive kilns which burned hot for 23-hours a day, seven-days a week. In the end over 25,500 people contributed, many of them volunteers, to bring the dream of 888,246 poppies in the moat surrounding the Tower of London to life.
One person and his dream achieve something rather remarkable here. Five million people visited the installation. It gave meaning to thousands of families who lost relatives in The Great War and reminded all of us of their ultimate sacrifice ““ Lest we forget. For a period of time the installation became the most photographed image on Instagram. Each poppy was sold for £25 raising over £15-million for charities. This story is testimony that one person can make the world they touch a better place.
By thinking big, having a grand dream and striving to do something meaningful Paul was able to reach out to, inspire millions of people and deliver remarkable benefits.
Hopefully this is your inspiration as you read this. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do or what position you hold, in whatever organisation ““ crazy impossible ideas catch on. They can inspire complete strangers to come together, collaborate and achieve remarkable things. And here is a most powerful thing about today’s shifting world: It is getting easier and easier for anyone, anywhere to make a difference.
THE THREE BIG SHIFTS
Today’s technological convergence is resulting in three massive shifts which are re-orchestrating many of the important components of how beneficial value is delivered and gained. The shifts include:
SHIFT 1: THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
“Through this new technology, people are now empowered to express their grievances and to follow people they see as echoing their grievances,” says Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, a research firm that forecasts global risks, in an interview with The New York Times. “If it wasn’t for social media, I don’t see Trump winning.”
Back in July 2016, by inputting data into the quest leadership framework, I predicted that Trump would win the US presidential election. Not because he is a good leader but because he was convincing people that he was on a meaningful quest. I even wrote a letter to Hillary Clinton, imploring her to define her own quest. Unfortunately, her campaign continued to centre around “vote for me and keep him out of the White House.” This was not a quest and neither was it inspirational or meaningful. In reality though Trump’s shock win should not have been so shocking. Because of the power of social media, one person can reach millions if not billions of people in real time and now it costs next to nothing. This is unprecedented in human history and we are constantly learning the impact this seismic shift is having on competitiveness. “In the past,” Mr. Bremmer explained, “the concerns of Mr Trump’s supporters might have been ignored, and his candidacy would almost certainly have foundered.” Not this time.
Here’s the thing. People are inspired by leaders who want to make a difference, take things to a higher level. BREXIT, considered another “impossible” until the Leave campaign won, proved this point too. The best the Remain campaigners could muster was a fear mongering monologue supported by “˜experts and facts’ about how bad it might be if the UK left the EU. The Leave team said “let’s set sail into a stormy sea, for the promise of a better land.” They never had a plan of how to get to their promised land but then they didn’t need one because millions were inspired to vote for their dream. Human history shows that you can not fear people into doing something long-term. But you can mobilise ““ through the power of social media ““ in real time millions of strangers to collaborate and support a quest that promises to achieve the impossible and deliver meaningfulness. Very few businesses get this, but the good ones do.
Of course there are deeper issues at play here, it’s never just as simple as a quest ““ the quest is the motivational platform for driving change ““ Job losses, growing inequality, globalisation and a growing distrust for the elite are the big factors.
But, here is what we can learn from Brexit and Trump’s success: If you are not on a quest during the 21st century to make the impossible, possible and to deliver meaningful benefits to the people who matter most in your life and to your organisation, people will vote you irrelevant.
SHIFT 2: THE DEMOCRATISATION OF KNOWLEDGE
Wikipedia defines the democratisation of knowledge as “the acquisition and spread of knowledge amongst the common people, not just privileged elites.” This revolution began with Guttenberg’s printing press and the Internet combined with mobile technology, internet of things and artificial intelligence is resulting in a revolution of exponential proportions.
Just a decade ago it cost thousands of dollars to buy books, go to university and learn the latest cutting edge insights. Today kids from New York to New Delhi can go to Coursera (or any number of MOOCs) and gain instant access to the world’s best education from the world’s top universities on nearly any subject imaginable, for free. Our ability to gain access to and store knowledge is unprecedented. According the Oxford Martin School: “Google now gives away, to each of its nearly one billion cloud users, online storage worth about $ 15,000 per person at 1995 prices. In other words, what would have cost a combined $ 15 trillion just twenty years ago is now free.” This is a staggering development in an unimaginable short space of time. The implications for business are huge and the biggest challenge is that competition can now come from anywhere and anyone with a big grand idea and this is further being augmented by the next big shift.
SHIFT 3: UNPRECEDENTED ACCESS TO CHEAP AND DISRUPTIVE MOBILE TECHNOLOGY
For just a few dollars you can purchase a smartphone that is faster than the combined computing power NASA had in the 1960s. In fact, the smartphone that fits neatly into your pocket today has more processing power than the two-half tons and $35 million Cray-2 supercomputer, which was the world’s most powerful machine only twenty-five years ago, and it doesn’t stop there.
IBM predict that within the next ten years today’s supercomputer like Watson will shrink to the size of a sugar cube. We are impressed with the computing power of today’s smartphones imagine having the power of Watson in your pocket within the next decade.
Combined these three big shifts are empowering people from all corners of the world and giving them the disruptive and creative capability to share, collaborate and access markets all around the world. All they need now is hope, conviction and a big dream.
THE POWER OF HAVING A BIG DREAM
Unfortunately, the majority of people never embark on big bold quests believing them to be out of reach or themselves incapable. When you were young maybe you dreamt of being an astronaut and going to Mars, or perhaps a doctor inventing a miracle cure. But as we get older we begin to believe we are not capable of embarking on meaningful quests. Maybe someone told you to get in line, to conform, to stop dreaming and eventually you get worn down and you started to believe that quests are only for the special privileged few ““ Kings, queens, nobility or the super rich. This may have been true in the past but it is not true today and certainly will not be true in the future.
Here is the incredible transformation you may be missing: Because of the power of social media, the democratisation of knowledge and unprecedented access to mobile and disruptive technology; it has never been easier to embark on quests and make a meaningful difference.
Today, anyone anywhere with the right determination and the belief in an idea can do their big bit or small bit to achieve remarkable things. As Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings, an epic quest, said, “even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
THE AGE OF QUESTS
During the Renaissance, the Age of Discovery and the Industrial Revolution remarkable leaders emerged who were explorers, adventurers and pioneers shaping a new age. We have the perilous fortune of standing at the dawning of a new economic and social age. An age where the most remarkable inventions have not yet been made. Humanity finds itself at a vibrant crazy exciting crossroad but with no maps showing us the future we need to relearn and master the skills of explorers. The signs and patterns are there and your job is to watch for the them as they emerge and to embark on inspirational quests that capture the new trade winds, riding profitable waves of innovation that will emerge.
So we need more people who are prepared to step forward, think differently and most importantly make the difference happen. We foretell of an Age of Quests because the exploration, voyages, adventures and contests humankind will endure during this century will be the most epic and spellbinding. There are enormous opportunities to move humankind forward, equally there are many seemingly insurmountable challenges. We can be sure that this is a period in history where the balance between risk and reward has tipped in favour of taking bold action. The next two maybe three decades, will determine the outcome of this century.
It is clear to be successful we need a new pioneering mindset but most organisations are not being pioneering. Either they have forgotten or have squashed their pioneering spirit, either way this culture of questing needs to be rebuilt. The great news is that being a quester is not a God-given right or a birth entitlement, being a quester is a mindset and mindsets can be learned and nurtured. It is time to start doing remarkable things, it is time to start delivering on big meaningful dreams.
We can no longer rely on government or big business to direct the change required to make this century remarkable. That doesn’t mean that necessary change can not come from within established entities and institutions, it can. But it is going to take the will, perseverance and resilience of individuals inside and outside of organisations to kick against the picks and drive the innovations and required changes.
Maybe you are wondering what can little me do? Turn it around and ask what can’t I do! As computing pioneer Alan Turing said: “Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of, who do the things that no one can imagine.”
Prince Harry, currently fifth in line to becoming the King of England, was recently in the media, not for impish behaviour but rather for the beneficial and philanthropic work he is doing in the Southern African kingdom of Lesotho. Now going on a quest is not a philanthropic endeavour. Indeed, many corporate social responsibility and philanthropic programmes pay lip service to delivering meaningful value. For quests to have impact they must, as we will show, be central to your strategy and purpose.
But I like the essence of what the Prince said because it is a powerful reminder that anyone can be a quester. The Prince said: “If you’re me, if you’re your Average Joe, whoever you are, if you can’t affect politics and change the big things in the world then just do whatever you can do. Whether it’s in your local community, your village, your local church, walking down the street, opening a door for an old lady, helping them cross the road. Whatever if it is, just do good. Why wouldn’t you?” The Prince is asking a good question.