radical Insights.

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

Shifting Overton Windows.

Jul 25, 2022

Dear Friend,

Many of us just endured a very, very hot week — temperatures in many places across the Northern Hemisphere this last week were close to unbearable. From my mother-in-law’s glass patio door shattering due to the heat warping the frame (she’s in the middle of the UK), to constant temperatures above 95F here in Boulder (CO), to a friend reporting on the fires in California — it definitely has been a week. Our neighbor, a scientist at CU Boulder, commented on the unusual spread of the heat to many places at the same time. As Ernest Hemingway once had one of his characters remark: Gradually, then suddenly…

And now, this…

Practical Futurism // Decode. Disrupt. Transform.

A few weeks ago, we wrote here that the world could be entering what we called a Residual Era, as it emerged from a period of time very significantly defined by the centrality of COVID-19 to just about everything. We argued that “many of the experimental surges of the past two years have receded, but the world being revealed is not quite like the old one — we have a residue of permanent change, of altered expectations and perhaps an expanded sense of what is or isn’t socially / politically / economically possible.”

Another useful way of thinking about this is as a shift in Overton Windows. The Overton Window (named for the late lawyer and public policy thinker Joseph Overton) refers to the idea that for any policy debate, there exists a range of generally “acceptable” positions or arguments, with anything outside that range generally regarded as untenably extreme or radical. Overton recognized that these windows tended to shift over time as previously acceptable positions became no longer acceptable or previously unimaginable or infeasible policies entered the scope of possibility and debate.

One sure residual effect of the COVID-19 years will be an enduring shift in Overton Windows as a result of the economic and policy responses that were debated and in some cases deployed and the previously unthinkable work arrangements that were explored, etc. And it will be interesting to see how this shift in permissible policy positions (and thus, visions of the future) is compounded in the next few years by the radical shifts that will be driven by, say, the climate crisis on one hand and the expanding scope of the technologically possible on the other.

Perhaps the real thing to watch – and something I hope to explore more in detail later – will be how the tension is managed when leaders and their constituents (or stake- / shareholders in the business environment) have different ideas of what falls within the bounds of a shifting and contested Overton Window. This will likely become a key aspect of both maintaining stability and leading transformation. (via Jeffrey)

What We Are Reading

🧑 Organizational Transformation Is an Emotional Journey Yet another reason for workplaces to ensure they take in to consideration the humans in their workforce. New research from EY and Oxford University investigating what it takes to lead a successful transformation finds leaders must approach it in ways designed to mitigate emotional harm to — and drive emotional commitment from employees. JaneRead

💪 Warren Buffett Says 4 Choices in Life Separate the Doers From the Dreamers Four pieces of advice from Warren Buffett that are common sense, but not necessarily common practice. MafeRead

It’s Time to Stop Living the American Scam An update on the famous “Busy Trap” essay published ten years ago argues that the clock is ticking on civilizational problems while many of us are engaged faux-productively but not usefully or meaningfully. JeffreyRead

📚 Sustainable Business Reading List This is a compelling collection of new and unique viewpoints and perspectives on the matter of sustainability and business. JulianRead

😱 The world is awful. The world is much better. The world can be much better. An important and timely reminder that in the grand scheme of things, the world is getting better. And that there is an enormous amount of work left to do — plus, we do go backwards in certain areas. PascalRead


📵 Does TikTok spy on you? The FCC thinks so.

⛵ First radar, now AI: Is the age of “stealth” over?

🚁 Honey, the drone just dropped off your parcel!

🚚 We have been there before — the end of rapid delivery startups.

🛩️ Have plane, will fly — even if it’s just for 17 min.

Internet Finds

After exploring why rollercoasters aren’t circular, here is a haunting collection of abandoned amusement parks around the world. 🤡

In Case You Missed It

🏴‍☠️ The Heretic:  Nothing Matters — Everything Matters 

🧨 Disrupt Disruption: Last week we got to speak with Hemali Vyas from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. In our conversation, we explore (no pun!) the future of space exploration, and what companies and leaders can learn from NASA.

Radically yours, take good care, friend!

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