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When I first arrived in Poland in 1997, change was all around me. It was like watching a society transform itself through time-lapse photography. Everywhere you looked, the country was shaking off decades of post-communist rust and striving to make good on the promise of 1989’s historic Round Table Agreement.

Yet it wasn’t until the fall of 2004 that I truly understood the power of change. By then, I was living in Kyiv, Ukraine and the entire country erupted in protests now known as the Orange Revolution. …


It should be clear by now we are entering a pivotal era. We are currently undergoing four profound shifts, that include changing patterns of demographics, migration, resources and technology. The stress lines are already beginning to show, with increasing tensions over race and class as well as questions about the influence technology and institutions have over our lives.

The last time we faced anything like this kind of tumult was in the 1960s which, much like today, saw the emergence of a new generation, the Baby-Boomers, that had very different values than their predecessors. …


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Early in my career I was working on a natural gas trading desk and found myself in Tulsa Oklahoma visiting clients. These were genuine roughnecks, who had worked their way up from the fields to become physical gas traders . When the NYMEX introduced “paper” contracts and derivatives into the market, however, much would change.

They related to me how, when New York traders first came to town offering long-term deals, they were thrilled. For the first part of the contract, they were raking in money. Unfortunately, during the latter months, they got crushed, losing all their profits and then…


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“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas,” said the computing pioneer Howard Aiken. “If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats,” and truer words were scarcely ever spoken. We tend to think that if an idea has merit, everybody will immediately recognize its value, but that’s almost never true.

Ignaz Semmelweis, quite famously, advocated for hand washing at hospitals, but was ostracized, not celebrated, for it and would himself die of an infection contracted under care before his idea caught on.


Image: Wikimedia Commons

We need to learn how to rebuild trust, even with our enemies and the best — perhaps the only way — to do that is by focusing on shared values. We might, for example, disagree on exactly how our criminal justice system should function, but we can all agree that everyone has the right to live in a safe community. We may not agree on the specifics of a “Green New Deal,” but can all see the importance of investing in our rural communities and small towns.

Most of all, we need to rebuild a sense of connection. Fortunately, network…


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The statistician George Box pointed out that “all models are wrong, but some are useful.” He meant that we create models as simplified representations of reality. They are merely tools and should never be mistaken for reality itself. Unfortunately, that’s much easier to say than it is to practice.

All too often, models take on the illusion of reality. We are trained, first at school and then on the job, to use models to make decisions. Most of the time the models are close enough to reality that we don’t really notice the discrepancy. …


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I was working on Wall Street in 1995 when the Netscape IPO hit like a bombshell. It was the first big Internet stock and, although originally priced at $14 per share, it opened at double that amount and quickly zoomed to $75. By the end of the day, it had settled back at $58.25 and, just like that, a tiny company with no profits was worth $2.9 billion.

It seemed crazy, but economists soon explained that certain conditions, like negligible marginal costs and network effects, would lead to “winner take all markets” and increasing returns to investment. …


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When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, one of the first things he did was develop a marketing campaign to rebrand the ailing enterprise. Leveraging IBM’s long running “Think” campaign, Apple urged its customers to “Think Different.” The TV spots began, “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…”

Yet Jobs actual product strategy did exactly the opposite. While other technology companies jammed as many features into their products as they could to impress the techies and the digerati, Jobs focused on making his products so ridiculously easy to…


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In 1929, just before the stock market crash, Louis Bamberger and his sister, Caroline Bamberger Fuld, sold their department store in Newark to R.H. Macy and Company for $25 million ($343 million in 2015 dollars). Grateful to the people of Newark for their support, they planned to endow a medical college in that city.

Things didn’t turn out that way. They were convinced by Abraham Flexner to create the Institute for Advanced Study instead, and to build it in Princeton. …


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In 2014, when Silicon Valley was still largely seen as purely a force for good, George Packer wrote in The New Yorker how tech entrepreneurs tended to see politics through the lens of an engineering mindset. Their first instinct was to treat every problem as if it could be reduced down to discrete variables and solved like an equation.

Despite its romantic illusions, the digital zeitgeist merely echoed more than a century of failed attempts to generalize engineering approaches, such as scientific management, financial engineering, six sigma and shareholder value. …

Greg Satell

Bestselling Author of Cascades and Mapping Innovation, @HBR Contributor, - Learn more at www.GregSatell.com — note: I use Amazon Affiliate links for books.

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