Episode 8

Margaret Heffernan: How to navigate a complex world to map the future

In complex times we’ve come to expect the future to be predictable, as strange as that sounds. Seduced by an algorithm or the prediction of a confident economist we think less, become more anxious, and lose some of our creativity and imagination. We become passive and gullible, relying on simplifications or false determinism.

My guest in this episode is Margaret Heffernan, six-time book author, mentor and former CEO of three companies as well as a BBC producer. She argues that we must get comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity about the future, especially when facing complexity. And we need to be prepared to experiment, explore and question. To shape better futures for ourselves the coming generations will require leaders to have a backbone — to care — and to have the courage to experiment, not rely slavishly on lessons from the past or promises for the future.

The best bits of these conversations are captured in my newsletter Flashes+Sparks.

Further resources

VIEW RUNNING ORDER

02.57 What prompted her to write her book.
06.30 What gets in the way of intuition not leading to action.
11.33 Companies responded to the pandemic in two ways.
14.36 The power of relationships in the John Lewis Partnership.
19.24 Convening people to share their perspectives.
22.37 How to encourage junior people to speak up.
25.28 Being comfortable with disagreement and conflict.
29.46 What lunchtime manners tells you about somebody’s values.
35.27 How to develop fascinating stories for the book.

“When trying to do strategy in a complex world, thinking of it as complicated won’t work…what disturbs me is seeing 20th century management being deployed in the 21st century.”

Margaret Heffernan, author, mentor and former CEO

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