The world today is more dynamic than ever. This tumultuous change not only can frighten, shock and force changes on dozens of levels, it also amazes, delights and enables as well. What strikes me is our all too common propensity to acknowledge as such but to not seek a better understanding of that world and its likely affect to our every day lives and the institutions we lead, guide, work and volunteer for. Indeed, far too few firms, institutions and governments seeking to survive, let alone innovate, let alone reinvent themselves and their worlds seem to understand that adaptively innovating means getting truly in touch with our world.

This applies from the the hyper local to people, cultures and ways of life 12,000 miles away on the opposite side of the globe. It’s the modern world. It’s not like it was in 1500 when exploring the world was filled with uncertainty, death and fright. There are no imaginary sea monster maps…

This global culture, inter-industry, inter-technology understanding – it’s to me the challenge of all challenges.

It’s all about respect, understanding, listening and being open – all of the time.

In far too many parts of the world, the opposite takes root and thrives today. Intolerance, political correctness, the destruction of a billion’s rights in the names of giving rights to the very few. The ideas of debating, listening, analyzing, proposing and compromising seemingly loses out to a false starkness, to a black and white where there is none. What happened to compromise?

Finally, with today’s information technology, we see not the proliferation of truth but rather entire movements supposedly striving for freedoms built upon overt lies, distortions and grabs for wealth and power supported by said wealth. If it’s posted, it must be true.

Why? While I cannot even begin to fathom stopping the sad, pathetic, lie based movements of the day, I can say absent pure power and wealth supporting same, we can, as individuals and as companies and non profits do some things to make a difference. These seemingly little, yet also hard, intensive efforts, could transform your life, your loved ones and maybe even your company’s future.

Step Outside…It’s O.K…

Far far too many people, let alone firms, governments and other institutions stay in their safe space and don’t dare view the world from another’s shoes. Indeed, this is the key to adapting and surviving in real time – being highly in tune with the entire world, not little self selected pieces. Making and selling products simply on big data or what you think or what everyone else is or has been doing is nonsense.

Steven Johnson’s seminal book and short video “Where Good Ideas Come From” shines the light brilliantly here. The $40,000 baby incubators sent to Africa in our modern day to save the children that fail in days, weeks or months in poverty stricken, powerless, often lawless regions with no viable training or technical support let alone cultural fit, understanding or dare I say respect resulted in almost total failure by a global, unified effort thinking it knew better.

The second look with all of those considerations properly in mind reveals incubators made from old, Africa ubiquitous Toyota Forerunner parts that almost anyone can power, repair and operate with almost no training and supported by even overt theft and black parts markets if necessary. The key truth upon truly listening? Understanding Adaptive Innovation’s “what must be trues”

Had this latter global effort set aside its well intended, but we know better ways, they would have lived those African lives, listened, watched, experienced and learned to develop the rigorous yet sometimes obvious insights to abstract the required product on a high level, developed the specifications abstractly – those what must be trues – and had a sufficient frame within which to develop something culturally and societally transformative.

Read, Study…Travel and Immerse

Stepping outside as a thought means going the extra mile, hyper-locally or globally. Travel and immerse yourself in not just other countries, but even simply within your own nation and even neighborhoods. Within the 50 miles I live in Cincinnati there are a dozen or more sub cultures, demographics, economies and ways of life where that uniqueness translates into not just markets and customers, but unique outlooks and approaches to life and thus problem solving and opportunity identification.

Moving state to state, region to region and continent to continent, these opportunities blossom. Especially if you are young and have foreign language skills, take the dive and move or take overseas assignments early and often if you can. Learn the cultures, how business is done, how life is and business conducts itself.

Even if you can’t get abroad or two states over, the net provides immense opportunities to learn and then compare and contrast, to interact and observe. Do it. Take classes, study at universities, maybe even add a degree in a regions politics, history and culture. Join local country missions and attend their domestic trade events, meeting and networking gatherings. Just immerse yourself.

It’s not just culture – it’s industries and technologies as well

Move through your industry’s value chain, through your technology’s varied industries of application or even from one whole industry to another. From work to networking to reading, studying, taking classes and attending industry events locally or nationally, immersing yourself into all aspects of commerce will again expand your world and facilitate, enable an understanding of the globe and how you or your current firm fit in ways you may not be able to imagine. What’s common, what’s not, what’s new, what’s different, what’s an opportunity, what is not.

Seeing varied technologies, from chemical to software to automation to food to sales and services and how they apply across industries and supply chains again provides unique insights. Don’t fear being uncomfortable – get out there and try and surprise yourself. Most technology, especially the basics, are not so complex but their application insights are windows into a complex world can simplify your understanding and maybe again provide answers to solve your own current challenges or those of your customers.

Engage Everyone…Everywhere

We all know a lot of people, far more than we realize. Engage them. Talk to them. Take them to breakfast, lunch, dinner or ask for a Skype call. Even if you cannot travel everywhere or touch every industry or technology in depth, some answers are only a note, a message or a phone call away. People love to talk, to have positive interactions, to learn. Give that and you will receive it in return.

I’ve learned more in the last decade from my LinkedIn connections than I ever could have imagined and spoken and interacted, collaborated with literally hundreds of people across the globe. I may not have been there, but seeing the nightlife in Paris or the orange groves of Israel while talking to overseas colleagues just seemed amazing to me and brought a certain life to our conversations.

I always look at things this way – in every conversation, message, every interaction, do I leave you better off for having interacted with me? I actually ask that more than half the time. The idea? Every interaction should be a value exchange – leave people better off, with something new, useful and positive and it’s likely you will be a longer term success with a willing network of support. Ask and never give, demand, demand, demand and I’ll guess that success and network will be a failing cause.

Stop fighting and focus on success…everyone’s success

To engage positively, one has to begin and persist at not fighting, not arguing, not trying to always be the sole winner. Instead, focus on how all in the game can win and be better off for you to succeed. Not everyone gets this nor do they see the world this way.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to “beat” my competition, but within your world, your business world and personal, the king of nothing is just that – the king of nothing. Align everyone’s efforts, give everyone a piece of the pie, a gain and a fair one at that and success will be assured barring poor ideas and technical glitches. Great teams with so so ideas more often beat bad teams with great ideas.

So go ahead, change yourself and then change your world…..

One step at a time – with everyone in mind.

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