This Man Spent 4 Years With the World's Most Innovative People. Here's What They Taught Him.
We can learn a lot about what creativity takes from the people solving the world's most difficult problems.
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People call Mark Stevenson a futurologist, but he wishes they wouldn’t. He isn’t in the prediction business after all. Instead, he helps governments, creatives, investors and corporations become what he calls “future literate.” His job is to help people architect their lives and businesses to build a world that’s not only sustainable but also equitable and humane
For his latest book, We Do Things Differently, he spent four years talking to people who were trying unexpected solutions for the big problems we’re facing around the world. To make it into the book, the solutions couldn’t be theoretical. They had to be things he could see and touch. They had to be making an impact -- and he wanted to meet the people benefiting. His purpose? To see if these unique individuals had created a window into a better future.
The research brought him to a town with a mayor and a basketball player who took its residents off the power grid, the founder of an online network which allows medical patients to swap treatment stories and share knowledge and the maker of an engine that runs on liquid air made from a lawn mower and a can of antifreeze.
While different, each innovator was an outsider of a sort. Each was forced into a situation where there were few options but to find a solution to a problem no one knew how to solve.
These innovators know how to push beyond the status quo -- with a type of tenacity most of us only marvel at. “All of us have good ideas. And guess how many of them get implemented -- almost none,” says Stevenson.”
And despite the havoc their work brought to their relationships and professional lives, the innovators in his book were also among the happiest people he’d ever met. They knew how to push beyond the status quo, along with the hard moments when money was tight and times were difficult. They believed a solution was possible and that they had a role to play in finding that explanation.
“They have a real fire in their belly, a real sense of purpose,” says Stevenson. “It’s tenacity that translates an idea into something we can actually use.”
It’s group that was never afraid to push, to ask questions and be challenged -- and one that didn’t mistake experience for ego. But most importantly, it was a group that knew how to laugh. Stevenson says that seeking out laughter in the midst of difficulty won’t just keep you going, it will keep you open to the widest range of new ideas
To learn more about Stevenson’s research listen to this week’s podcast