Coming from a sheltered background, I wanted to explore a wider world of adventuresome, purposeful people. In this increasingly tech-enabled era, The Law of Unintended Consequences is increasingly becoming the norm, not the exception. Most new inventions can be used for good and bad things. Thus, our most noble calling may be our capacity to recruit apt allies to motivate more people and organizations to use technology and connective behavior for the greater good. That’s why my core mission is to motivate individuals to redefine their life around a mutuality mindset, seeking the “us” opportunity in every situation, to use our best talents together around strong sweet spots of mutual interest.
Some of the ways I support that core mission are to enable others to:
1. Cultivate extremely diverse allies so they can get unexpected help, discover more sides of a situation and solutions for it, plus attract more serendipitous opportunities, adventure, and accomplishment.
2. See the value and visibility-boosting power of unexpected allies taking a public stand or co-creating a service or product for a niche market they all seek to serve better.
3. Become more quotable, so that what they say sticks in other people’s minds and they want to share it with others. An example is when I worked with a hospital system to increase their blood drives, we created the Got Blood billboards in line with the “Got Milk?” campaign in the United States. It just stuck with people.
4. Practice the power of specificity in their messaging to boost self-clarity and reduce the chance they will be misunderstood—plus increase their message’s credibility and memorability.
5. Recognize that the healthiest relationships involve not a quid pro quo, but an ebb and flow of support over time. Hint: If you give enough other people what they need, you often get what you need too—sometimes even before you need it, and sometimes from people you did not know could provide it.
6. Identify ways to collectively act that are efficient and generate virtuous circles with benefits to all players.
A client of mine, the CEO of a large pharmaceutical company, spoke at an investors conference where each presenter had only 20 minutes to speak, He strolled onto the stage slightly slower than the others, stopped, and looked around at the audience. Then he rolled up his shirtsleeve and pointed to a patch on his inner elbow. “See this patch?” he said, then paused to boost interest. “When this patch goes on the market, users will feel the effects throughout their body faster than a Porshe can go from zero to 90 miles an hour.” As he spoke that last sentence, he swept his arm in a arc from one side to the other, making his body a “moving billboard” to reinforce his message. He was dancing his hands from left to right. “This will be the Porsche of the body.” (Porsches matched the aspirations of those in the audience at that time). The result? Even though his product announcement was not the most important news at the conference, it was the one most quoted by attendees and reporters in the audience.
Hint:Opportunity-makers are actively seeking situations with people who are different than them, and they’re building relationships. Because they do that, they have trusted relationships where they can bring the right team in and recruit them to solve a problem better and faster and seize more opportunities. They’re not affronted by differences—instead they are fascinated by them. That is a huge shift in mindset, and once you feel it, you want it to happen a lot more. This world is calling out for us to have a collective mindset, and it’s especially important now. Why is it important now? Because things like drones, drugs, and data collection are being created, and they can now be created by more people in cheaper ways for more beneficial purposes. On the other hand, as we know from the news every day, they can also be used for dangerous purposes as well.
More than traditional “leaders” the world needs apt connectors who can be the glue that can recruit and hold the right teams together to solve problems and seize opportunities faster and better than others. Such opportunity makers enable us to re-imagine a world where we use our best talents together more often to accomplish greater things together than we could on our own.
New ways of working: Gore-Tex and Saddleback Church are frequently cited as examples of the connective, giving power of small, strong, interconnected teams or groups within a larger organization. That’s why Gore-Tex can justify citing this core truth as their credo: “A unique, nonhierarchical culture fosters the innovative spirit of individuals and small teams.” As different as Gore-Tex and Saddleback Church are, in many ways, they share the core value of being part of a purpose-driven small group that interacts with other small groups within the organization, which boosts fresh thinking as well as a feeling of belonging. Some call this “approach-networked teams” or a “team of teams.”
Since more individuals are working and/or living alone in the United States, we need more mutually beneficial ways to create one-time and ongoing teams and communities. Some may exist online, others in person, and others will be hybrids of both. One of my favorite models to emulate is Quantified Self, as it spurs the desire to design a team of teams or community model, one that might be adapted to other situations in the future so that more people can benefit from it.
Opportunities to model 21stcentury leadership: As a reporter, I was covering Brazilian soccer star Dani Alves at a game in Barcelona. At the game, some sports fans in the stadium that day were yelling racial epithets at Alves. After a break in the game, Alves came back on the field and someone threw a banana down, landing a few feet in front of him. Without a pause, he walked forward, picked up the banana, peeled it, took one bite, and with a warm smile, nonchalantly threw it over his shoulder, then proceeded out to play. Many of the onlookers broke out in cheers and applause at his aplomb. “Dani Alves owned him,” tweeted his Brazilian’s teammate Neymar. “Take THAT, bunch of racists. We are all Monkeys. So What.” Former England international Gary Lineker, who played for Barcelona, also applauded Alves’ quick thinking. “Utterly brilliant reaction from Alves,” tweeted Lineker. The story of that incident spread far beyond sports coverage and enabled Alves to become a role model for far more people around the world.
People are increasingly living and working on their own, so they will crave community more and more. We haven’t gotten good yet at creating new kinds of communities. I believe in virtuous circles—methods and mechanisms that leverage greater value for all participants.
In our increasingly complex yet connected world, the key to a meaningful life may well be our capacity to instill a sense of mutuality in more situations. Speak sooner to the strongest sweet spot of shared interest. More than smarts, money, titles, or even charisma, our capacity to connect with diverse people is vital for leading an adventuresome, satisfying life with others. Become the glue that holds groups together. Be more deeply connected and widely-quoted. Then we can accomplish something greater together than we ever could on our own.