January 1, 2018

This morning, Frances Hesselbein asked me, as she regularly does, the Peter F. Drucker question:

When you look out the window, what do you see that is not yet visible?

As I looked out the window (literally), my attention was drawn to something very visible: a curled brown leaf dancing over a snow-covered field. That brought to mind an Einstein quote:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

If you don’t know Frances: You should. She rose from a volunteer troop leader to CEO of the Girl Scouts, which she turned around when it was on the brink of failure. She’s a leadership expert , who has taught at West Point and was the first woman on the cover of Business Week.

Anyway. I laughed and told Frances it feels like we are living a “back to the future” moment, like Americans did in the waning horse-and-buggy days. Frances asked, how are you seeing this in organizations? I responded: What is visible and not yet fully noticed is “Charlotte’s web” and “Marvin ear.”

Charlotte’s Web: That’s the power and promise of the connections that defines us now — artificial intelligence meshes; DNA databases, currency platforms, the innovative combinations that follow. These connections are changing our trust compasses, expanding what is possible.

An example: WhileI was staying at a hotel land tossedmy towel on the floor in the morning, I realized if I were staying at an Air BnB, I would never do this. I have an identity in an AirBnB. Charlotte would write “sloppy” in the web

Unilever CEO Paul Polman, who thinks and talks more about sustainability than all his predecessors combined, called on a network of CEOs from institutions growing beans to serving cofee. Together, they ]modified processes to save enough water for a million people every year. When he did the same thing with CEOs in Switzerland, they reduced the collective carbon footprint by a third.

And this: I recently read about the network for collective learning and scaling ideas that Teach for All is operating.

Sometimes I get frightened. Like when I read Scott Galloway’s book, The Four, about Uber paying its top executives almost $1 million an hour and its drivers $7.25 an hour. Or the prediction that Amazon will be sending me my needs every week, with a return box inside, getting smaller and smaller, as Amazon learns my needs better than I know them myself.

To anwer Frances: Looking out the window, I see a force that is changing the game, a force that can be incredibly good. And yet I see the downside: Ideas built for a time when we believed in freedom are upended. No business, no government agency is truly wired for this age. Frances, we are at a crossroads: We can harness the forces out there for humanity, or we can undermine democracy.

Marvin ear: is the cognition associated with everyone in an organization having a voice, creating tomorrow. Marvin Bower, McKinsey & Co’s founder believed that the Great Depression arose in part because employees in organizations failed to tell CEOs what customers were telling them, creating a gap in organization intelligence. Today, too, front-line associates know more about the day-to-day challenges than their bosses The truly responive organizations are embracing this.

For example Ultimate Guitar, based in Moscow, gives every employee two mentors — one in their area, such as software development, and a pitch coach, to work with on translating their ideas into experiments that are tried and from which the organization learns. Ultimate Guitar has pitch meetings once a week; every employee has to pitch at least one idea every six weeks.

Say what you want about Google’s innovations, but here’s what I like: , Employees spend 20% of their time dealing with the next challenge, not today’s routine work; the organizaiton has changed how they hire and develop eployees with an absolute emphasis on building employee voice and teams; Google has rules to help women self-promote and so forth.

Of course, Frances knew how to put all this in perspective: “Jim Collins calls those edgy companies.”

I turned the question to Frances, who was born before World War I. What is visible but not seen? “Millenals are the greatest generation of leaders since the Crucible Generation,” she said, referring to those associated with WWII.” I thought of you. Happy 2018.