radical Insights.

Weekly Research and Commentary on the Future of Business and Technology.

Karaoke Confidence and Pole-Star Vision for Innovation, Disruption, and Transformation.

Feb 21, 2022

Dear Friend,

I am currently in Germany, where the weather is… well, German, I guess. Gray afternoons are the perfect time for a round of #FutureThing, our online-version of the highly entertaining futuring game by Stuart Candy and Jeff Watson. Head over to our website, get a “thing from the future” and describe to others how that future might look like — it is a fantastic way to get your creative forecasting juices flowing. My thing just now? “In a future defined by Shame, there is a Lotion related to War. What is it?” 😮


Transformation and building for a future that doesn’t yet exist both require learning through experimentation. Which means that they involve doing many new things and (if we’re doing learning and experimentation right) lots of being wrong and lots of “failed” attempts. There’s plenty of good, detailed research out there on the importance of psychological safety and how to foster it in building innovative and creative organizational cultures. One of the simplest formulations comes from Tom & David Kelley’s riff on “karaoke confidence” (karaoke being — for many — an extremely out-of-the-comfort-zone experience). In their book Creative Confidence, they suggest that the same set of guidelines for creating a good karaoke environment can actually work wonders for fostering an innovation culture comfortable with high-levels of experimentation:

  • Keep a sense of humor
  • Build on the energy of others
  • Minimize hierarchy
  • Value team camaraderie & trust
  • Defer judgement—at least temporarily

(via Jeffrey)

Disrupt Disruption

In a 2009 paper on driving radical innovation with interdisciplinary teams, a group of researchers led by Alan Blackwell emphasized the importance of what they called the “pole-star” vision — an orienting team goal that “motivates the general direction of their work, but without blinding the team to opportunities along the journey.” They argued for a balance of focus and serendipity that would allow teams to learn their way in the right direction without knowing the path at the outset. Writing the next year, the authors of Gamestorming (a Jeffrey favorite) built on this argument when they identified “fuzzy goals” as key to setting a course for creative work “when the destination is unknown.” Fuzzy goals are clear enough to focus creative energy but loose enough to admit to a range of possible approaches and even revision over time as the team learns more about what does/doesn’t work. They allow teams to maintain a sense of shared purpose/direction while affording the freedom to follow intuition, and they can help leaders lead more effectively into and in the unknown. (via Jeffrey)

What We Are Reading

🧪 How Managers Can Build a Culture of Experimentation How can build a culture of experimentation? Often weight is given to larger initiatives while ignoring small ideas that, in the aggregate, can have a bigger impact with less risk. Learn how small shifts of internal processes will help define problems, and get to feasible answers. JaneRead

🦹‍♀️ I Gave Myself Three Months To Change My Personality About 30 to 50 percent of the differences between two people’s personalities are attributable to their genes. But just because something is genetic doesn’t mean it’s permanent. Those genes interact with one another in ways that can change how they behave, and ultimately change your personality. MafeRead

👑 The Myth of Tech Exceptionalism This is a great and perspective shifting argument for the idea that the stories we tell about the future and who gets to create it (and how) have tremendous practical stakes for markets, citizens, governments, and societies. JeffreyRead

👩‍🎨 How the passion economy is shaping the future of work As we’re in the midst of rethinking work, what picture might the passion economy paint for us? Considering the implications of that future opens up deep new paths and questions worthy to explore. JulianRead

👁 Their Bionic Eyes Are Now Obsolete and Unsupported A stark reminder that when it comes to healthcare, you just can’t run your company, products, and services like any other Silicon Valley startup. PascalRead

Internet Finds

On the topic of people (or as some still call it “Human Resources”), the craziness of 2022, great resignation, and an overall out-of-whack market for talent leads to things like this: “The New Hire Who Showed up Is Not the Same Person We Interviewed”. 🤷‍♀️

In Case You Missed It

🏴‍☠️ The Heretic: Obvious is Better

⚠️ Disrupt Disruption: Listen in on a fascinating conversation with EY’s Global Learning Leader Riaz Shah on what it takes to disrupt executive education in the latest episode of Disrupt Disruption. Listen on our website or in your podcast app of choice.

Radically yours, take good care, friend!

— Pascal, Mafe and the three Js (Jane, Jeffrey, and Julian)