Stewart Brand helped define the environmental movement in 1968 with the publication of his book The Whole Earth Catalog. The book was described in 2005 by Apple founder Steve Jobs: “There was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google existed.”
Brand’s new book, The Whole Earth Discipline: An Eco Pragmatist’s Manifesto, seeks to redefine environmentalism and offers an optimistic view for humanity. He addresses some interesting and important questions such as how to shift the stand-off between corporations and environmental groups to achieve positive outcomes, (Brand suggests that the hippie mindset helped engender innovation and that the first segment of American society to accept hippies were business people). This is as timely an issue as ever, particularly in midst of the BP oil crisis.
Brandt also has some unexpected views, that we shouldn’t be worried about GM food, that the developing world engenders significant creativity, and that nuclear energy might just save the earth.
Brandt spoke at TED in 2009, for more visit ted.com
Finding and owning expertise can often turn into a category or genre exercise and this is a challenge for many thought leaders. What I do and what am I really great at are uncomfortable bedfellows against the vexing question of how this differs from other people or businesses.
Once we figure out what our deep expertise is, we often become so wedded to it that it’s difficult to define ourselves in any other way. Sometimes we need the perspective of someone else to see things in us that we cannot see in ourselves. This is often the case in the world of classical music, and for the high-brow, Juilliard trained artists of the grand art of opera. As a result, many have been surprised by the recent release Dark Hope by the American darling of opera, Renee Fleming. Encouraged to try a project worlds apart from the opera stage, producer David Kahne has worked with Fleming to produce a CD of songs by some of rock’s greatest songwriters.
The narrow interpretation of Fleming’s expertise is as an opera singer, but the core of it is a voice and intellectual sensibility that can produce the most astonishing music. Instead of just doing ‘crossover’ where performers sing popular music in a classically trained style, on Dark Hope Fleming “wanted to bypass the middle ground and get to the other side of the divide completely”. She sings in her speaking voice, two octaves lower than her soprano voice.
The middle ground should make us all nervous. Staying within the lines means that we can be in danger of thinking the same way as everyone else and offering similar solutions to our clients. If we are all reading the same books and watching the same talks, we are coming at problems in ways that can limit our thinking.
I am an organisational ecologist, a field that looks at how the planning, management and design of organisations impacts individual, team and organisational performance. From an academic perspective, this is a relatively new and narrow field.
While I need to immerse myself deeply in the research, my expertise has been enriched by so many different things that other academics would probably discard as irrelevant. Some of these include riding Olympic level dressage, an Arts degree in Japanese and passions for sword fighting, Buddhism, truck driving and philosophy. I get lots of ideas from magazines like Dazed and Confused. I love wandering around fringe festivals and exhibitions and talking to people who don’t inhabit my world. For me, all of these things are massively relevant to my field and I force myself to never settle on a boundary as to what ‘fits’ my expertise and what doesn’t.
I am asked to design workplaces precisely because I am not an architect or formally trained as a designer. I approach the work with different eyes, very different questions and fresh assumptions about what is possible and what will create the result the client wants. How else might you define your expertise and apply it in new ways that re-invent possibility?
Don’t be afraid to think differently and seek everyday to do things that might enrich your expertise in surprising ways. Blur the lines, be intellectually curious and have the courage to take risks, especially when you aren’t sure what the outcome will be.
Fleming is a thought leader, claiming ground where few opera singers would dare to tread. Being a thought leader demands you inspire others with your fire, soul and sheer originality. Take a leap of faith, shun the middle ground and go to the other side of the divide. No matter if you are a devotee of KD Lang or Jeff Buckley’s versions, or if you’ve never heard the song, it is difficult not to be transported by the application of Fleming’s expertise to Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. A revelation indeed.
From article by Libby to be published in July edition of Thought Leaders Magazine.