On Preparing for Change…

In 2008 the Pew research group asked a group of us how much change we thought there would be in the 21st century compared to the 20th century?

We were given three options. How would you have voted?                                                           

UnknownChange in the 20th century was rapid. Think of the fact that at the beginning of the century, we could not yet fly. The Wright Brothers had their first successful flight in 1903. Then, 63 years later in 1969, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. That’s blazing fast change happening. How many of you remember the world before email?  How many of you have actually used a landline to make a call? How many of you used to read an actual newspaper with your morning coffee? Those things all seem so long ago. When it comes to change, the 20th century was a blur. How fast will change come in the 21st century?

I think that “We will see more change in the next 100 years than we have in our first two million” as a species (from Makers of Fire, June 2014). The technology behind drones is outpacing the technology behind mobile phones. (And think about how they changed in the last five years). Soon, UAVs (think flying robots) will take to our commercial airspace. The race for genetic enhancements will be for the 21st century what the space race was for the 20th. And much, much more….I’m not sure that we’re prepared for the changes we will see in the next 10 years much less 100. How are you preparing for change?

What do you think?

(PS. I’ll post the answer the Pew Research Group gave us on the follow up post, On Preparing for Change – 2.)


On Becoming Human


Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1.26)

Three Ideas to Ponder on Becoming Human…

There’s a saying you’ve probably heard: God’s not finished with me yet. What if that were actually true species wide? What if the creating God began in Genesis 1 is still ongoing? Perhaps the whole of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is a creation story pointing towards the goal to be accomplished far in the future: to give birth to the human. So, this short post is just a brain twister, the kind of thing I think about late at night.

Here are the three ideas:

1. We are not human yet…

To be human is an aspiration, not a present reality. Think about this word, inhumane. It means “not human like.” Why do we even have a word that expresses the negation of what we are? When a lion makes a kill, we don’t think, how inlione. That’s just not lion like. When they maul another animal, they’re acting according to their nature. But when we are inhumane, are we acting according to our nature or contradicting it? Whichever way you answer, the result  is pretty scary. We are both “human like” and “not human like.” Perhaps somewhen down the road we will actually become human.

What do you think? Chime in on our survey below.

2. Neither are we human beings

Every now and then I’ll hear someone say, we’re not human doings, we’re human beings. Probably they’re trying to emphasize our identity, the priority of who we are, over our works, the value of what we do. However, this term human being doesn’t sit well either.  We don’t have “being” in and of ourselves. We’re not immortal “beings.” The term human creature is closer. Whether you’re a theist or not, you recognize that humans had a beginning.  Whether through an act of God or through naturally occurring evolutionary forces or both,  we came into existence. We are creatures just like all the other life forms that populate the eco system.

3. We are human becomings

Still even human creature sticks a little. How can we emphasize our creatureliness and the fact that we are not yet human? We are human becomings. We had a beginning and we are on a journey towards that which we aspire to be: human. We are a story in the middle of the telling. There is value both in what we aspire to “be” and what we “do.” Both are necessary for “becoming.”

So rejoice. God is indeed not yet finished with you. And, as I’ve often said, Jesus did not come to make the world Christian. We can set our sights higher. He came to make it (and us) human.


A Thanksgiving Proclamation from George Washington, 1798

The desire to give thanks is (to me) one of the more interesting of human compulsions. We give thanks to one another and that’s understandable. But what about those moments in which we encounter such beauty — like when, in the autumn of the year, we reach the top of a hill and a valley of color spreads out before us — and a feeling of gratitude wells up inside of us? Who or what do we thank?  We thank our lucky stars, the gods, nature, or our good fortune because our instincts, our hearts, our minds somehow know to reach out to whatever is the source of everything.

So, as Thanksgiving is my favorite celebration of the year, and, as I write much about the future, I thought I would offer you something from the past: A Thanksgiving Proclamation from George Washington dated October 3, 1789.


Thanksgiving Proclamation
President George Washington
City of New York, October 3, 1789

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation, for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord. To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

A rendering of Kepler 62f and two outer planets, which may lie in a habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface.

When it comes to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, Is the Universe “a lot of wasted space”?

A rendering of Kepler 62f and two outer planets, which may lie in a habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface.
A rendering of Kepler 62f and two outer planets, which may lie in a habitable zone where liquid water could exist on the surface.

About 10 months ago we discussed an article from the Guardian on the discovery of a planet that could possibly support life.

“A planet with conditions that could support life orbits a twin neighbour of the sun visible to the naked eye, scientists have revealed. The world is one of five thought to be circling Tau Ceti, a star just 12 light years away that is almost identical to the sun.”  http://alexmcmanus.org/2012/12/19/anotherearth/

This month’s New York Times reports:

“Astronomers reported that there could be as many as 40 billion habitable Earth-size planets in the galaxy.”

In the movie Contact, Jodie Foster plays Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, a SETI scientist who finds strong evidence of extraterrestrial life. Foster’s character suggests that if there is no other life out there in the universe, that it seems like an awful waste of space.

As you consider the night sky, do you resonate with Foster’s character? Are we the only ones to turn on a lightbulb in the universe? Or are we one of many? When it comes to habitable earth-size planets, it seems that number just got larger. God, I love this universe.


Human Nature Paintings, Susan Cohen Thompson.

Deep Forces Driving Cultural Change – 2

In my last post, “Deep Forces Driving Cultural Change – 1“,
I suggested that a deep force driving change is the human pursuit of a new way to live.

Today I want to follow up with a short extension of that idea by asking,
In what ways are humans pursuing this new way to live?

I suggest that we are turning

from “individual/tribal” to “communal”
from “above” to “within”
from “against” to “with”

From Tribal to National to Communal

There has been a progression in human history from radical exclusiveness towards growing inclusiveness. In other words, our sense of who is an “insider” and who is an “outsider” is changing.
In early days, those who belonged to the tribe or clan were insiders. This idea of who is an insider/ outsider would extend at times to a federation of  tribes of clans. Insiders were those who belonged to a family of tribes/ clans.

This understanding evolved with the rise of nations. Now inclusion was not limited to blood ties, but by belonging to a nation. Our identities extended themselves belong the tribe to include anyone who was our countryman.

In more recent times, due to the ubiquity of the web-based connections and social media, our sense of identity is expanding once again. Anyone anywhere can be our “friend”.  Citizenship is global and communal.  The sense of “us” and “them” is blurring and the sense of connection is growing.


From “Above” to “Within”

Humans see themselves less as “above” the natural world and more as “within” the natural world. Rather than “control” over the environment (and perhaps even  “leverage” over other nations, and “power” in our relationships), we sense that we belong to the environment (and to each other). People, like the citizens of Costa Rica that are in the process of closing their Zoos, want, in the words of one observer, “all of God’s creatures to live free”.

Human Nature Paintings

From “Against” to “With”

Humans are desiring more collaborative environments and ways to nurture the young versus the competitive environs we’ve been used to. Some moms in the USA would rather have their kids play in little league soccer games in which “everyone” wins and feelings are protected. Winning the World Cup is not a value in this shift. Making sure that everyone feels valued is.

To say that our sense of identity has evolved from tribal to global/communal is not to say that we don’t value and long for community. We still want to belong to a team. We want to be “with” each other instead of “against” one another.

What does this mean for leadership?


In this time of transition it is crucial to nurture the human spirit. The structures and programs that we have created no longer give us the space to be free, to create, to invent, to discover.  (Click on the last idea to tweet).

We are the only creatures –as far as we know– that ask, “why?”  The speed at which we live does not give us space to ponder this most crucial question. We can hardly breathe much less think. So many of us are so time-starved that we cannot connect, so wired that we are disengaged from the tactile world around us. (Click on the last idea to tweet). As a result, we have forgotten who and what we are and desperately long to remember.

As leaders, what values do we organize our lives around? What are the values our business culture organizes around? Are these values expansive enough to nurture the human spirit?

I sense that these are three ways that humans are looking for new ways of living. We want  …

to connect.

to reenter.

to belong again.

What do you think?

Click the image to tweet text.

Deep Forces Driving Cultural Change – 1

When we think about drivers of change, we often think about technology. The most primal and ancient technological advance, the domestication of fire, changed everything about us. Some of us think of change as a “top down” process and so our thoughts go immediately to government as the main driver. Futurists, who are all about studying change, scan the STEEP (Society, Technology, Economics, Enviroment, Politics) domains for drivers of change. Most of us so often think of the big forces that drive change that we forget the very human role in local and global transformation.

In that light, I want to lift from obscurity another profound force that is driving 21st century culture: Humans are looking for a new way of living. Click to tweet this idea. Thanks

Homo Erectus and Fire

The pursuit of a new way of being is why educated and motivated sales people go on vision quests, high powered corporate executives explore Buddhism, and intellectuals experiment with psilocybin.

It’s why the country of Costa Rica wants to do away with their Zoos and let wild animals live wild.

It’s why Millennials in the workforce want to volunteer for community projects and will work for less for an organization they believe in.

People want to feel whole.



In terms of religious change, there is a rise in the number of those who claim “no religious affiliation”. We call them the “nones.”

I know so many people of intense, vibrant faith who classify themselves as “nones” because they’re detaching from traditions in search of something authentic.

This leads me to suspect that the rise of those who identify themselves religiously as “nones” may reflect the rise of the discovery of a deeper spirituality as much as it signals an abandonment of the institutions of faith. Click to tweet this idea. Thanks!

We want to be healed, to feel connected. We just don’t know exactly what it is that ails us. We just know that being “friends” on social networks isn’t enough. The discovery of a new way of living requires a journey of discovery, and our whole culture is on it.



What does this mean for leadership in the 21st century?

To believe that “things” can “make sense” is quite a leap of faith. But all leadership is about “sense-making”. Leaders must describe reality (assessment), a preferred future (vision), paths to get there (strategy), and the non-negotiables (culture). In a world in which humans long for meaning and pursue a new way of being, leadership means both the way we talk about what ails us and the way we energize human community towards a commonly desired future.

Some of us witnessed, during the last two decades of the 20th century, the demise of centrally controlled hierarchical organizations. This demise was represented most visibly by the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980’s.

Q: What has been replacing these pyramids?

A: Experiments in ways to build community and attend to friendships in the context of our passions.

In a way, humans want to build that ancient tribal fire again. This is a deep driving force without which we cannot understand the world around us.

Idyllic and fanciful?


But changing the world does not begin with a plan. It begins with a dream. Click to tweet this idea. Thanks!

Click the image to tweet the text. Thanks!
Click the image to tweet the text


What do you think?


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