Thursday, 11 January, 2018
Summary: Without strong and effective thought leaders, we have a problem, as it’s these people who provide direction. I’m concerned that while we may have many specialist thought leaders providing thought leadership for their specific discipline, there is a lack of depth and quality of thought leaders for the broader issues facing us. This is the most critical thought leadership of all, so where is it???
My understanding of a thought leader is somebody who tackles the big issues, providing insight into how we should approach the wider problems or opportunities facing us. By definition, this would exclude experts from within specialist fields who make predictions regarding their discipline, such as AI, robotics, medicine, environment, etc.
Without wider contextual considerations (or thought,) specialist thought leadership is potentially flawed because their predictions are made on limited contextual assumptions. Therefore, it’s critically important that we have thought leaders who query and challenge the broad context, as it affects everything and everybody. Our primary thought leaders are those who tackle the big issues. This does not diminish the role of specialist thought leaders (far from it,) but simply highlights the importance of primary thought leaders in providing greater understanding and insight into different possibilities.
However, here’s the worrying thing - where are these primary thought leaders? There appears to be a serious dearth of them. Perhaps if I explain what I believe is the broad context which requires significant thought, we can agree there is little, or no thought leadership, within these areas.
There are two important aspects which directly affect our future. The first deals with the ideology under which business/society functions. For the vast majority of us, this is Capitalism. The second deals with us as individuals and our role and responsibilities in ensuring a sustainable and fair existence for all.
Calls have been made from all quarters that Capitalism is not fit for purpose. Some are anti-Capitalists in every respect, while others acknowledge its problems, but point to its merits as well. Their call is “Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
However, whatever way we look at Capitalism it doesn’t appear to be working for the majority, or the planet’s well-being. Alternatives, such as Socialism, have already proved disastrously inadequate.
This leaves us trundling towards an unknown, less favourable future, with no credible thought leadership to provide alternatives. The frightening aspect of all this is that revolutionary change faces us, in the form of AI and robotics. This will herald in a new business epoch, which will vastly change future employment, economic growth and the social landscape, and we will introduce this into a dysfunctional ideology - Capitalism.
The powder kegs are in place - the only unanswered question now is what will light the fuse?
We need genuine thought leaders who will tackle the so-called problems of Capitalism and come up with an ideology, or solution which will serve the needs of all. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any who have provided any insight into the problem.
This leads me to the second big issue which needs addressing. We need to tackle the problem of unbridled consumerism. The harsh reality is - global resources cannot sustain ever-increasing consumer demands as emerging economies emulate those of developed economies.
Just because we have the wherewithal to consume does not give us a right to do so. We, as individuals have to accept responsibility for our consumption and its consequences. This is not the sole responsibility of business. It’s a shared responsibility.
Rather than celebrate opulence, we need to re-educate people to celebrate frugalness, product longevity and be resource conscious. How forcefully are thought leaders promoting this idea? Not very well as the celebration of opulence is still manifest in every facet of life. Take popular TV programmes as evidence that the message is not getting through, in fact, the opposite is happening. As an example, consider the BBC TV programme called “Master Chef.” It’s a programme which encourages opulent waste of resources to serve the palate of the well-to-do, commonly referred to as “fine dining.” As a national programme, it should encourage taking simple, inexpensive, sustainable foods to produce exceptional meals within an affordable budget. The winners should be those who produce the best from the least. Poorer nations, such as India, Mexico, Thailand (and others) have proved that taking simple, readily available ingredients can produce exceptionally tasty meals. This food example is applicable to all facets of life. We, as consumers, need to cut back and learn to live a more minimalistic lifestyle.
The message of frugalness, product longevity and resource-conscious consumption has to permeate every facet of life to support a sustainable, high quality of life for all, not just a select few. Our current mentality and behaviour is the antithesis of this.
So those are the two broad issues we need to address to ensure we can all live a prosperous, sustainable life. If your only objective is a prosperous and sustainable life for you and your family, then prepare yourself for the complete opposite. We have to think of collective good and collective consequences.
Adrian Mark Dore
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