Have you ever had to delete parts or all of your online presence because you feared for your life? This story has been on my mind since I read this:
“USAID, the United States’s humanitarian arm, purportedly sent an email over the weekend to partners asking them to go through their social media accounts and websites with a fine-toothed comb to ‘remove photos and information that could make individuals or groups vulnerable’. USAID also advised partners still operating in Afghanistan to delete and wipe any personal identifying information of those they’d worked with on the ground, in case it fell into the wrong hands.”
Are there lessons we can take from this story about data privacy architecture and such? Probably, and out of fairness to these and potentially the next humans who will go through this we should absolutely work through that discussion and create better solutions. For reasons far less grave but still important, we have long needed to re-think the opportunities we have to control where our data goes, who has access to it, and how we can pull it back or lock it down when we need to.
But I don’t want the vastness of that conversation to overshadow the very real experiences people are living through right now. So in the meantime this is just a placeholder of compassion for human beings dealing with an imminent existential threat that is complicated even further by the latticework of digital experiences and data most of us take for granted.
Here’s wishing safety and peace to those who desperately need it.
All around us we seem to be surrounded by bad news and hard choices. And yet you, as a leader, still have to make choices. You still have to manage teams of people who are looking to you for direction. You still have to decide what risks to take, what tradeoffs to make, — and it feels like I should add a third thing that ends in -ake but that’s probably just the former songwriter in me. I will resist.
Anyway, given all this, how can we put forward a positive outlook for our teams and our companies? How can we convince ourselves that there’s a brighter future to lead toward?
And how do we do all this with an awareness of the very real challenges in the world? And while acknowledging the very real harms that people are facing, and the negative potential outcomes of our actions — and our inactions?
The pessimists will say that we’re doomed, and nothing can be done to change it. The optimists will say that if we focus on the positive, nothing can go wrong. Neither of those views are true. Not on their own.
Today’s Approach to Leading for Tomorrow
The best way — indeed perhaps the only way — to confront the challenges we face and build a bright future is to allow ourselves to see the brightest future possible while at the same time acknowledging the ways the future could go dark and working to prevent that from happening. That’s Strategic Optimism.
Technology is developing rapidly and it has changed and will change society significantly. One consequence is that it stands to widen gaps in income and wealth. As a result, the top 1% of the population will own most of the world’s wealth, while some 80% of people may only have access to basic needs — if that. That’s due to the capacity and scale of using technology to power economic solutions. When it’s applied only to scaling corporate revenues, it benefits only the top corporate leaders. The untapped opportunity, though, is to harness the capacity and scale of technology to solve human problems at scale. But to do that requires a combination of thinking strategically and optimistically — both/and — about the decisions we make today for the future we want to create.
Making the Future a Little Bit Brighter
That’s what I explore in my new book A Future So Bright. My aim is to help you develop the habit of seeing both the good and the bad outcomes for any possible future situation, not just the rosy ones. That gives you the opportunity to prevent or mitigate the worst outcomes, while you lean with all your might into the best possible outcomes.
With Strategic Optimism, you can lead from a place of integrity, acknowledging the pain and anxiety people are feeling, but also the hope they very much want to feel. And you get to lead in a way that aligns with the best futures for the most people.
The book detail page has all the details you need, but here’s the summary version:
This book, quite simply, explores some of the ways we have already begun to solve human problems at scale, and makes the case for us all to take an approach that’s both hopeful and strategic as our best chance at a truly bright future.
Even yesterday’s announcement of the new report from the UN IPCC that climate change is already on track to be hotter and more damaging than experts were trying to avoid years ago, and that some effects are inevitable and irreversible — even that includes recommendations for reducing greater impact on the farther-ahead future. Because otherwise we’re going to make things even worse. In other words, amid all that hard-to-hear news, there is still hope that we can do better than we’re on track to do, and a strategy for how we do it.
Over the next few weeks as the book gets its finishing touches and prepares to be launched into the world, this blog will preview some of the key ideas and themes from the book and offer some suggestions even before the book launches on how you can begin building the brightest future for the most people.
I look forward to introducing you to this book. In the past year or two I’ve heard from so many of you that you need this. You need a hopeful way to think about the future. I’ve listened and read and researched and talked to a lot of people and listened some more, and out of that I’ve put together the approach that evidence suggests and I believe gives us the best chance at a bright future. I hope you’ll be encouraged to buy it, read it, share it.