So who drives influence and value in C21?
Triple Span, and Triple Drivers
As we struggle to clamber out of a stove-piped culture, forged in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as specialization in knowledge and Fordism in business and stasis in all things ruled the roost, the question is what comes next. Will we all live forever, cherished perhaps but also emasculated by robots? Is the world set for eco-disaster in climate chaos and unsustainable everything? Does the remainder of C21 hold something more dully steady-state, once we take into account the diminishing returns of carrier groups as every year passes and we get the increasingly dispensable feel of the indispensable nation?
If pressed, I’d answer a qualified Yes to each of these three, and have fun speculating on their interconnections (invite me along). But that would not be the point. All three are projections from the past. While the future has always had elements of such trajectories, it has equally challenged them in proportion as the pace has picked up. Vast numbers of the Poles and Russians who went up against the German panzers in those opening years of the Second World War were cavalry. As in, they rode horses, with sabers drawn. Go reflect on that fact.
In C21, the issue is not the technology. O yes, we have technology, technologies, in profusion. We tend – whether pro, anti, or merely generationally, and rather sadly, challenged – to line up on one side or the other. But there are no “sides” in C21. It’s all dimensions and multi. Tectonic plates encounter one another in more than two planes. As the issues keep getting more complex, some of the smartest of humans capture them in tweets. What’s afoot? Where’s the key to influence and value – this year and next?
First, The Span. And then, The Drivers.
The span matters. As the C18 slipped into the C19 and then the C20 the span narrowed. People needed to know more about less, and focus kept narrowing. Then, all of a sudden, three rapid and deep explosions. Globalization: Unless you can span cultures, your myopeia is terminal. Multi-disciplinarity: Unless you span disciplines, you are a hammer fated at every opportunity to see nails. Time tyranny: Unless you span present and future, your commitment to the present becomes a death-wish, as the only today we know is already yesterday. It could work in an C18 where travel is slow, expertise is beginning to be silo’d as knowledge has begun to build, and the future dawns with a speed that looks to us now like slow motion. In 2013, the Triple Span is a necessary assumption of all leadership, creativity, value creation, and interestingness. Span two cultures and you can as needed have a working knowledge of them all. Master two disciplines and you have smarts to engage the rest. Project your mind into the future and, uniquely, you will begin to grasp this present and every present.
Then, The Drivers. I think there are three. They have nothing to do with technology – though they can all make use of it. They have a certain relationship with the pace of change. They are deeply rooted in the nature of knowledge, agreement, new thinking, and diffusion. None of this is entirely new. It is all dramatically affected by the exponential factors driving not the eternal fact of change, but its pace.
First framing. Name the question. What is the issue? Washington, as we have said here more than once, is a city of smart people answering questions they did not set (and do not challenge). Frame the question and you have leveraged the entire conversation, set an agenda it will be very costly for someone else to change, determined not the conclusion but the range of all possible conclusions. (Full disclosure: you can now find my consulting practice located at re-framing.com.)
Second, convening. Chair the meeting, moderate the discussion, shape the perspectives of the parties around the question you have framed.
Which takes us to Third, networking. Meetings do not need to meet. Networking, though a loose term used widely, refers at its core to gathering a meeting for you to convene. That’s your network. If you seek to frame the key question, and host the core conversation, you need to connect with the players. It’s up to you to find them, ID them, woo them, convince them one way or another that you are The One. But if you do, they will come to your metaphorical meeting and like nothing better than your moderating them. They will then be open to your framing. Your charm, your debate skills, your mastery of Kuhn and Toulmin and Festinger – all of that will play in to your capacity to frame.
I never said it was easy. But I did want to say, this is what it is.