With the streams and volume of information coming at us today, how do you prioritize your attention and time?
This is a critical leadership question as we move further into the world of exponential growth and AI.
I don’t think most people are ready for it – and not because they don’t want to be but because everything we’ve been socialized for is about managing scarcity. Grading on a curve. Spots in prestigious schools. Hiring. We can’t ALL have a Harvard education. Everything needs to be filtered, prioritized, and sorted. Because of that, life brings a lot more rejection for most of us than acceptance. It sorts us into the haves and have nots. In turn, those that have access and acceptance are insulated from the experiences of the majority. It creates terrible blinders that people often cannot even see. All because some people fit our notion of success and some people don’t.
In a world of information scarcity, we created hierarchical and linear processes for evaluating and assessing who and what got promoted. Those in key structural roles amassed a disproportionate amount of power – and reinforced social norms like racism and sexism – not always intentionally but because we feel comfortable with people like ourselves.
Then technology and the Internet hit. Suddenly everyone could push information at us – and it just keeps increasing. It is overwhelming.
There are a few ways to handle this and trying to opt out of as much as possible is a common reaction. But suddenly, your hierarchical position that used to let you control the flow of information has made you a target. Even if you ignore many channels, you still have an overwhelming amount of information coming at you as people, still socialized to try and get your approval, vie for your attention.
One of the popular methods I have seen to address this is the “Hell Yes” approach – only pay attention to and engage with things that are obviously important to you. This IS a great gut check on what you should pursue but I actually find it incredibly limiting and it has the negative effect of reinforcing your own echo chamber and assumptions. It prevents you from learning.
Because the very things that drive innovation and change will make you uncomfortable.
New ideas also require engagement and conversation to develop into something valuable. Innovation rarely shows up in your inbox fully formed.
So if you only say yes when it’s a Hell Yes you are likely reinforcing your own information bubble and increasing the gap between what you think you know and what everyone around you is discussing.
… you could say YES to EVERYONE?
I know what you are thinking… government regulation won’t allow you to clone yourself yet so that’s a hard no.
But what if you could?!?
What if you had a way to enable everyone with an idea or a passion to purse it? What if everyone *could* go to Harvard?
Social media has played this role for many – breaking down traditional channels and access. But it’s turned into crazy town and it’s not efficient for deep collaboration, which is what is necessary to build value.
This week, I was interviewing a client who has close to 100,000 customers. Historically the number of customers the client has been able to engage in a meaningful way is around 500. It’s simply impossible to bring more of them into the conversation. The result is that only the customers that spend years establishing their credibility, spending a lot of money, and building relationships get access to influence the organization and its priorities. It’s too expensive to imagine anything else…. until recently.
We worked with them to build a strategy for a customer ecosystem of many communities and groups. This ecosystem gives every customer the space and access to pursue their goals and the opportunity to build support and advocacy for them – and they don’t have to wait their turn and pay their ‘dues’ to do it. If they have the expertise and ideas – they can start now.
This organization can now say YES to EVERYONE. Not by processing and approving every request but by enabling and empowering every customer, within the boundary of their shared purpose.
The role or the organization then changes dramatically – instead of arbitrating who and what gets attention, their responsibilities are to:
- Continue pursuing and investing in organizational priorities
- Provide the space and support for emergent opportunities to surface
- Listen and respond, as needed
- Make small investments in emergent opportunities that are growing
- Incorporate powerful emergent opportunities into corporate priorities over time
If you don’t have a community to point people to, you are stuck in the position of saying no – a lot. In the process, you will never know what you don’t know and that will increase your business risk dramatically as the pace of change increases.
Imagine the latent and potential value you could capture by engaging and empowering the other 99% of your ecosystem.
Wouldn’t it be nice to say YES?