The business models and technologies that dominate the later part of this century will transcend old-fashioned thinking about value management and resource allocation. Connection and ephemeralization would make them appear downright magical to us. Four critical capabilities that will drive these trends: Anything can be made anywhere. Technical knowledge can reach anywhere. Advanced services will … Continue reading The Magical Future of Smart Energy
All the building we have to do…
For many years, the engineers of the United States have warned that infrastructure urgently needs trillions of dollars in routine maintenance, and trillions more in updates and upgrades. Infrastructure is the shared framework on which we build a thriving economy. Businesses of all sizes are able to compete for market value, in part because the quality of transport, electrification, and communications infrastructure is of world-leading quality.
Future-building does not happen only in the halls of government.
The quality of life in my hometown was designed by many people deciding many different kinds of things at different levels. Our town acquired an important value added when Silvio, who ran the local pizza shop for three decades, decided, day after day, to commit his time to doing something of real quality for everyone else. I had the good fortune to grow up in a place where parents are involved in how the schools work, and a wider community of intellect and good will supports success.
When galaxies collide, tens of billions of stars pass close enough to each other that the immense gravitational fields encompassing entire solar systems push and pull on each other, tempting planets to change orbit; few stars or planets actually collide. Gravity is a structural design element that expresses and defines systemic shape. It makes room for reliable order.
Some major oil companies will thrive in the emerging low-carbon economy; some will not. Even the most profitable will face tough choices between a varied array of complicated transition pathways: some will remain large, global, and centralized; others will function more like associations of smaller businesses; the least innovative will eventually cease operations. The difference between thriving and obsolescence will be business model innovation.
A few weeks ago, former Minnesota Governor Al Quie said to a small room that the climate issue requires the same approach he believes should drive all public service, and he expressed that approach in three simple ideas: Radical integrity, creative collaboration, and no excuses. It struck some of us as the most clear-headed, forthright, and appropriate way to talk about how to solve big problems and be of service in the world. With the Governor’s permission, we adapted it to be the theme of the Minneapolis 2015 Climate Action: Last Stop Before Paris.
The pessimist argues: most things don’t work out in an ideal way, and entropy is the way of all systems, so to be realistic, let’s err on the side of lower ambition. Pessimism, which often calls itself “realism”, is a claim to prophetic vision. The pessimist becomes invested in the reliability of negative prophecy. So the … Continue reading Optimism: Valuing Success Honestly
Lake Superior is the largest body of fresh water in the world, by surface area, unless you count Lakes Huron and Michigan as one lake, because they are connected by an open flow of water 5 miles across. Where we draw boundaries determines how we rank the objects of our experience and exploration. On my first visit to Lake Superior, I had the privilege of being with two friends, who have redefined boundaries in ways that bring benefit to the wider world. Paul is a brilliant convener of friends and citizens, who brings people together, with a unique confidence in their ability to find each other’s virtues and build on them, together. David is a sailor and Arctic explorer, whose voyages have taken him through the Northwest Passage, in both directions, and around the Americas, fully 28,000 miles in one trip. Our time together in Minnesota reminded me that we are always at the edge of our prior experience; we are always exploring. We tend to think of our lives as bounded by known quantities, by economic limitations, political prescriptions, and the strict definitions our choices subject us to. We often fail to see how we can transcend systemic limitations. So, it becomes important to think about how our experience is exploration, and how our way of thinking about possibility matters.
[ The Note for March 2015 ] We need non-expert voices in the room. No individual expert knows everything, many decision-makers are themselves non-experts, and considering stakeholders’ voices leads to more legitimate, relevant and viable policy outcomes. Significant improvements in the prevailing condition require disruption of the status quo. The status quo implicitly extends from … Continue reading Disruptive Optimism for Serious Change
[ The Note for May 2014 ]
When we try to judge what comes next, economically, scientifically, politically and culturally, we have some very specific and significant limitations. We can only use past experience and our perceptions about our current situation to make judgments about what has not yet happened. We can only quantify what is quantifiable, and what is not observable can hardly be quantified. When we think about future roads, we tend to look at roads we have now; when we think about future energy, we tend to look at combustible fuels as the most commonplace and naturally occurring way of harvesting energy for human uses. When we think about economic behavior, we tend to assume that all future values will be related to what we are already observing now. The intangible element of human thought, innovation, collaboration and discovery, is generally left out, leaving us looking through a very problematic blind spot.