radical Insights.

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

The Prepared Mind and Lessons from Paul Polman.

Feb 14, 2022

Dear Friend,

Throughout the first year of the pandemic we produced a series of free online courses on topics ranging from Practical Futurism to Polarity Management and Disruption Mapping. Over the last week we made access to these courses trivially easy — simply pick your course of choice and get learning. And while you are at it, check out our free field guides by scrolling down our online learning page.


How can we learn to recognize the future when we catch a fleeting glimpse of it? In his new book on venture capital, Sebastian Mallaby describes an approach known as “prepared mind” (a nod to Louis Pasteur’s famous assertion: In the fields of observation, chance only favors the mind which is prepared) that was developed and practiced by partners at the VC firm Accel. Essentially, they would research emerging technology shifts with the goal of understanding the implications that the coming change would bring to a broader ecosystem, industry, or market. Partners would then be primed to recognize and quickly respond when they encountered a start-up “poised to surf the new wave profitably.” We can generalize this approach to futures-thinking beyond the VC world of startup bets to ask ourselves: What futures are we anticipating, and how are we preparing our minds to recognize and respond effectively to emerging opportunities? (via Jeffrey)

Disrupt Disruption

Focusing on change within the organization, an HBR Idea Cast episode from last October with Paul Polman broadens the field of view and motivates large-scale system change. Let us quickly share some takeaways: Polman is known for his tenure at Unilever, where he installed a long-term orientation and a focus on all stakeholders. He removed quarterly reporting, which was an initiation of change, and at the same time, a lever in the system to truly support a long-term perspective. Polman does not only focus on change within an organization but calls for organizations to cooperate with each other as well as with governments. By doing so, they can evolve, create a greater good, and tackle our grandest challenges. It’s not only a perspective that recalls the parable of the Cowboys and Pet Tigers of corporate change but supports the relevance of leadership that addresses first principles beyond the organizational boundaries. Changing a business together with society is maybe a little more complicated than ‘just’ hard, but it is based on leadership that dares to make a change and does not refrain from asking the tough questions within the organization and its environment. (via Julian)

What We Are Reading

🔭 To Find Creative Solutions, Look Outside Your Industry The chaos of the last two years have created all kinds of questions for leaders and organizations. One of the biggest is: Do we have new ideas about where to look for new ideas? Often the answer is hard to come by, but one of the fastest ways to make sense of challenges is to survey unrelated fields for ideas. JaneRead

😶‍🌫️ It’s not just you — we are all more forgetful during the pandemic, experts say. Here’s how to fix it Feeling forgetful? It’s not just you. The sameness of every day takes away the anchors that help us organize our memories. To keep your brian healthy use the SHIELD strategy. MafeRead

💭 The Power of Product Thinking Becoming skilled at product thinking (or “product sense”) comes down to developing learnable habits of observation and inquiry. JeffreyRead

🏭 The Off-Site Is the New Return to the Office The pandemic has made us more aware of the way we work. These examples show how the role of the off-site might be instrumental in making the most of a hybrid / remote workforce. Allowing for flexibility but also fostering company culture in a rather suitable zeitgeist manner. JulianRead

🤔 ‘We conclude’ or ‘I believe?’ Study finds rationality declined decades ago A fascinating data point into our collective psyche — and possibly a preeminent indicator for what is in store for us. PascalRead

Internet Finds

Absolutely amazing hyper-resolution image of Rembrandt’s Night Watch — keep zooming. And zooming. Until you (eventually) get to the end of this 717 Gigapixel (!) image, sampled at 5 micron (!!). 🧑‍🎨

In Case You Missed It

🏴‍☠️ The Heretic: Imagining a Better Future (With Kraftwerk)

⚠️ Disrupt Disruption: Last week we got to speak to acclaimed futurist Cecilia Tham, cofounder of Futurity Systems. In our conversation, we look at the world of innovation and disruption through the lens of a futurist, and explore the models and frameworks Cecilia and her team bring to her work in anticipating and creating the future. 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)