Priorities

In this time of uncertainty and opportunity, where do I see the world heading? 

 
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Where do I see the world heading? 

The world is out of balance. Policy makers versus startups, consumption versus the environment, teachers versus parents. The list goes on. For many people, and undoubtedly for Mother Nature, the future does not look bright.

I have spent more than two decades around visionary entrepreneurs, leaders, thinkers and doers who make it impossible for me to conclude that the world is doomed. As a species, we absolutely have the collective wisdom and resources to solve today's biggest challenges. We have the expertise, data, funding, and wherewithal to "be the change we wish to be." 

What is increasingly missing, however, is a sense of balance and shared responsibility. The biggest challenges we face today are human-made. So, too, we must create the solutions.

I believe that the most successful economies, cities, societies and individuals of the future -- those that thrive -- will have the following characteristics:

Bigger is not better: in our relentless pursuit of efficiency, productivity and proverbial 'scale,' we're losing sight of human connection, empathy and what binds us together. Cities are growing, but the pressures of megacities often make them difficult if not impossible to live in long-term. Nonetheless, I predict that visionary leaders of cities will outpace those of countries: mayors will rule the world. Similarly, companies, neighborhoods and governance structures built for human scale are more resilient and sustainable long-term. 'Watersheds' may be the organizing principle of the future.

Tech is not the holy grail: in the future, the most successful places and organizations will not embrace technology as the holy grail, but rather see it strictly as a means to an end. They will beware the digital darksides, whilst harnessing the upsides strategically.

Nor is VC: in the future, the most successful places will not be characterized by the most venture capital, which generally increases inequality and corrodes the social fabric. Rather, they will have the most B Corps and (longer-term) platform cooperatives

It's all about relationships: success will be in direct proportion to the quality of relationships maintained. I'm not talking about relationships like "customer loyalty" or Twitter followers. Rather, I'm talking about deep, authentic interpersonal connections. Successful places and organizations will still prioritize human-to-human relationships over human-machine interactions.

And all about balance: as recent economic rollercoasters, political turmoil and social events have shown, it's time to recalibrate and reprioritize. To invest in society as a peer of, not secondary to, profit. To pursue public policies that moderate individual wealth with collective well-being. To blend technology with humanity. To learn from places like Medellin and Estonia, both of whom radically rethought the foundations for a healthy society: innovation and inclusion, light on resources and heavy on vision.

Power is shifting from countries to cities, with a global edge: We are in the early stages of a shift that ultimately will see less national power, more local and more global power. Effective mayors will command more respect and authority than mediocre presidents or prime ministers. Globally networked cities, communities and global citizens will do more together than any traditional international organization.  

Responsible startups: The most successful and truly leading startups won't just disrupt. They'll also take responsibility for stabilizing the chaos caused.

Responsible leaders: Leadership is being turned on its head. Gone are ego, climbing the corporate ladder, or assuming others will follow. Rather, successful leaders are those who best identify and harness talent and potential in others, and who are brilliant mentors.


What do I care most about? How do I focus my efforts? 

Global citizenship vs. globalization: I continue to be amazed by how often people equate globalization with global citizenship. These two concepts are distinct. Globalization is about national and corporate interests. It helps some people (and some countries) more than others; it is not an universal blessing, nor is it inherently evil.

Global citizenship, on the other hand, is about shared values: the values of community and collaboration, of diversity and discourse, of empathy and equality. Global citizens are keenly aware of our interdependence and live, work, and breathe these principles. Global citizens are the key to a future in which more people thrive. Everything I do is committed to being a global citizen today and enabling more global citizens tomorrow.

Doing well vs. doing good: for too long, especially in the West, we have built societies that require unnecessary trade-offs. Trade-offs between making money and helping society, between the economy and the environment, between other people's wishes and our own passions... the list goes on.

These trade-offs are entirely human-designed (to understand how they came about, read this excellent Brief Economic History of Time) and they have put too many people in precarious situations financially, emotionally and spiritually. Yet, it is completely possible to avoid these tensions. This requires a re-thinking of how we define wealth, worth and well-being.

I have pursued a career that bucks these trends. True, I've had to make very deliberate decisions to do so, build my grit, and deal with social pressures, skeptics and nay-sayers along the way. But I have seen first-hand what this kind of mindset and lifestyle shifts can bring about, and I am committed to helping others "regrind their lens" to see the future -- their future, our future -- with a fresh perspective.

Building for quick wins vs. long-term well-being: from corporations' focus on quarterly earnings at the expense of long-term growth, to the adrenaline rush of a new text message over a good night's sleep, short-termism has increasingly creeped into our lives. We want instant gratification without thinking about bigger, often unsavory, implications of our actions. This bodes poorly all around, most of all for future generations.

I'm focused on keeping the longer-term focus front of mind. This means many things, from rethinking policy reform to investing in unlikely relationships. Sometimes it's hard to do, but it invariably yields even greater returns in the end.


What keeps me up at night? 

The future of work: how do we create a future of work that truly works for everyone? Do jobs become "just work?" Are predictions of automation replacing jobs overly optimistic? And regardless, how do we ensure that technology augments human potential rather than obliterates it outright?

Universal basic income: it's a fantastic concept in theory, but how could it be sustainably funded? What mindset shifts are required? More broadly, what does an appropriate social contract for the 21st century look like? 

The global trust deficit: we have built so many institutions from the basic premise that people cannot be trusted. As a result, we've frayed the very relationships that are key to a functioning society. Today, companies, governments, the media and NGOs are all suffering from all-time low public trust. How do we repair this? Here is one of my favorite videos that points the way: What If We Trusted You?