Culture Shock

We're Not In The Information Age Anymore

The world is shifting from an Information Age culture to a new age of creativity, innovation and intuition. It’s going to be as challenging as moving to another country.

If you feel your organization is not creating enough sparks, that disruption is happening too fast, that innovation seems to be rolling in from outsiders more and more, then you are experiencing the shift to the Age of Creativity. I see this very much as culture shock, the move from one culture to a very different one, where the language, thought patterns, and way of life are unfamiliar and disorienting.

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon exemplifies the current culture. He is worried about having his business stolen by tech startups, natives of the new culture. "There are hundreds of startups with a lot of brains and money working on alternatives to traditional banking.” says Dimon. "They all want to eat our lunch.” He then adds a few words that position him firmly in the past: “Rest assured, we analyze our competitors in excruciating detail, so we can learn what they are doing and develop our own strategies accordingly."

His is a very logical and analytical mindset that served us well the last 40 years. But we’re in a new place now. The startups that Jamie Dimon fears are operating under a very different mindset.

"When I was 23, I woke up from a vivid dream, thinking: what if we could download the whole web, and just keep the links … I grabbed a pen and started writing!” That’s Larry Page, describing how Google was invented. How the heck do you analyse a dream? Never mind the excruciating detail bit. Where do you even start?

During the Information Age, competition was about harnessing data more effectively than others. Today, analytical skills are no longer enough. The most intriguing and unexpected innovations now come from businesses that combine left brain logic with right brain intuition, creativity, empathy and dreams.

We’ve heard over and over what Steve Jobs has to say: "Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That's had a big impact on my work."

Here is Marc Benioff of Salesforce.com: "One of the most important things is to take a step back, clear your mind, make room for some new ideas, and get back to a beginner’s mind."

And even Elon Musk: "Data informs the instinct. Generally I wait until the data and my instincts are in alignment. If either the data or my instincts are out of alignment, I keep working the issue.” Recently, he canceled a rocket launch because of a bad dream. The press release actually said that, and then added the following: "We are not aware of any issue with Falcon 9.... but have decided to review all potential failure modes and contingencies again."

In the same vein, mindfulness and meditation have suddenly become mainstream, filling up workshops at Davos and Wisdom 2.0 conferences around the world and appearing on the covers of Time and National Geographic. Google has a highly successful “Search Inside Yourself” mindfulness program that has been released to the public in the model of open source software. What used to be a quirky California cultural oddity is now seen as the actual source of the creativity and intuition driving the startups that make Jamie Dimon worried about his lunch.

How can enterprises make the transition? Left brain analytical innovation is often incremental, getting better at what you already do. Right brain innovation feels like walking on a tight rope without a net. How can we challenge conventional wisdom to come up with new ideas? We want to disrupt the competition, but we don't want to risk our own business at the same time. What are the beliefs that are limiting our potential? How can we encourage robust, authentic and controversial discussions without falling into unproductive conflict?

I faced this transition early in my career as founder and CEO of payment software companies in Europe and Asia. In the process, I discovered a love for executive coaching and leadership development. I had many dreams at the time and kept a dream journal, but very rarely shared that with colleagues. It was too weird. I saw the power of intuition and gut instinct, and kept it to myself. I’m thrilled with the developments today. We now have techniques and tools that fit the mainstream business world, many of which I have developed and used myself in my coaching and training. Tools that were designed for today's globalised and hyper connected world, where empathy, flexibility, resilience and curiosity are critical to success. And where the distinctions between "work", "life" and "play" have blurred. Tools that help executives learn to develop their own intuition, become authentic leaders, and achieve their biggest dreams.

This is a very exciting time for me because I get to “come out of the closet”, so to speak, and share publicly the intuitive insights that have driven my life to amazing places. 15 years ago, I had a dream that profoundly marked me. I was on a busy street in a financial district like New York or Singapore. Executives in suits and ties were waiting for me to help them cross the street. That was my job. Helping people cross from the left side of the busy road to the right side. I had no idea what that meant. At the time, I was building my company and planning for an exit. The dream did not relate to anything I was doing. But it felt important. As the years went by, I slowly began to see that it related to coaching and training. Helping people move from the left brain focused Information Age, to the much more creative and intuitive age that we are now moving into.

Today I coach executives, startup founders and entrepreneurs of many nationalities and from all walks of life. Individuals who are powerful and inspiring and asking what's next? People who are always seeking to develop their deepest talents and dreams, continuously reaching for the stars.

My greatest passion is to inspire people to live big lives, defying barriers and conventional wisdom, full of hope, so that the world may benefit from each individual's unique talents, experiences, and interests.

A whole brain mindset is critical to our success as a species. The empathy that comes with the right brain package is critical not just in understanding customer needs, but also in creating a more tolerant world. We’re over 7 billion people now, double the population when I was a kid (which wasn’t so long ago, really). 54% of us live in cities. In a couple years, half of us will be on the Internet and a couple years after that, half of us will be on mobile internet.

We’re no longer in the purely logical and analytical Information Age anymore.

Welcome home.