This is a guest post from Bianca Rothschild, reporting from #Purpose2018
Sitting in an inner city warehouse in Sydney, with the sun beating down through the skylight, were gathered some of Australia’s most dynamic and interested creators of our future. Entrepreneurs with purpose. Driven to find a way to build a new future for the planet, this eclectic and inspiring group of people spanning generations, industries and borders were attending the 2018 Purpose Conference. With a mission like that, you would think there would have been 5000 people in the room, with a waitlist. But this is a small pack of committed visionaries and leaders who are the ones that not only see the future and the road map to it, but are taking the challenge and building the businesses that can change the game. Solving pressing social and environmental problems, they are also creating the business models and infrastructures others can follow.
So how do you begin to make these changes, and turn ‘titanics’ around to meet the the sustainable goals we need to survive as global citizens on a healthy planet? The theme across the board was to create the correct goals. The future can only be created if we start with the right end in mind. In these circles, it’s almost unnecessary to recite the story: the dumbest idea of the 20th century was the notion that shareholder value is the purpose of a business. Which has now proven itself to be a globally detrimental goal. So that we all agree on. Now the opportunity being called forward is for us to think big and dream up the future. Playing with new rules and taking into account the lessons we have learnt from what has gone before. Including what we know now about technology and its positive and negative impacts.
These are some of the core messages shared at Purpose in how to begin this visioning:
1. Design the future, literally.
Dr Cameron Tonkinwise, professor of art and design at UNSW, was clear and inspiring when he stood up and said, with all due respect to systems change process, but let’s get visual. Let’s inspire designers to visualise the future, to create rich, dimensional future worlds in pictures, colours and textures. “Design with a sense of granularity so that people can feel what it is like to live in that future world.” Pictures that begin to ask the design questions of: How could we create that? Where could we build that? How would that best serve a community?
2. Reward the behaviour we want more of.
In the panel exploring Ethics and Tech, the point was made, and reiterated in many other speaker sessions, that when you incentivise a business to sell advertising you create the conditions to fulfil that goal. Businesses that want to make a positive impact need to be very clear on their goals and ensure rewards are weighted toward achieving those altruistic goals and not in old paradigm ideas. “People alone cannot achieve altruistic outcomes in business, if they are not incentivised to.” A subtle shift from generating advertising revenue, as a goal in a social network, toward fostering community and rich conversation on and offline would yield a very different product. The question was asked, “if you don’t want your own child to be glued to a mobile device and give all their attention to a flashing widget, why would you build it?” Ensure you are creating goals that build the future you want to see and be part of.
3. Know how technology shapes humans.
“Technology is neutral, BUT…technology favours those who control it.” Dr Fiona Kerr, neuroscientist and systems complexity expert, highlighted the different ways humans are shaped, by reiterating that humans shape humans in an amazing way! And now that we have more visibility on how technology also has an influence on the ways humans are shaped, we need to “pay attention to how we shape technology.” She mentioned that every medium we use changes us and this is something to keep in mind as we build new technology for the future.
4. Ethics and technology
Just because we can build something does not mean we should. Max Stossel from Centre for Humane Design, spoke about his history as a developer in the tech world, being incentivised to build the most sticky and immersive app features he could, and he could! In hindsight he now considers how ethics can be applied to development projects at the top, and is seeing an opportunity for new levels of accountability and responsibility on behalf of the developers to make ethical and informed choices, based on what we now know are the impacts of technology, especially mobile apps, on society and human development.
5. Remember the poetry.
Dr Matthew Beard, moral philosopher from the Ethics Centre, in his research into ethics in technology, found that technology has innately assembly line thinking. A process motivated by strategic optimisation of an outcome. Then he reminded us after the powerful spoken word performance by Max Stossel, that poetry reveals truth and gives voice to things that cannot be given voice to. What technology does is that it changes the world to what we want it to be. Poetry exposes us to the world as it is and shows people as they are, technology encourages us to change them. As a society we have reframed our experience of living to meet the purposes of technology. This subtle yet powerful force is something, he says, “is pulling us off purpose.” We need to know how technology is influencing our experiences, and he says, tech is not value neutral, it’s mere existence signals a permission that its end use is ok. As future makers we need to once again be mindful of what kind of technology we are creating, and find ways for it to amplify the truth rather than create more illusion.
6. Collaboration not competition.
Ralph Ashton and Chloë Spackman from Australian Futures Project showed the immediacy and power of collaboration for solving big problems. Working within the framework of building future cities, over 80 people moved swiftly and collaboratively toward naming and outlining solutions that could be prioritised and actioned. Collaboration is a key to moving forward with speed, synergising efforts and empowering the best ideas to come to fruition.
7. The future is net positive.
Stephanie Draper, chief change officer at Forum for the future, once again affirmed the resounding message, “when we change the goal of the system, the system changes.” And she took the message one step further asking, “what are the conditions we need in order to create businesses, cities and communities that are not only sustainable but are regenerative?” We have reached a point where sustainability is a worthy goal, but it’s not going to change the game. Initiatives now need to consider ways they can have a restorative impact. Leave the equation net positive and give back more than it takes. This is the step change from sustainability.
The two day event was an impeccable illustration of purpose in action. Thoughtful and meaningful in every detail. A unique synergy of humanity, technology and the future dream. The team at Wildwon, delivered on their goal! If this event is a microcosm of the new ways to live and do business in the world, then we are in good shape. And in the closing words of Purpose 2018 MC Matt Wicking, “It’s game on for purpose.” As we choose to follow the feminine into future with indigenous wisdom as our guide.
Bianca Jane Rothschild
Creative. Futurist. Non-Conformist.
Tech entrepreneur turned cultural futurist. Bianca’s mission is to inspire people to create an evolved future for our world through new paradigm entrepreneurship, purposeful career choices, and paying attention to a daily inner practise, championing the courage, innovation and frameworks that are needed to change the very fabric which defines HOW we succeed.
A serial entrepreneur of over 15 years, she is a world-bridger, demonstrating how to succeed in business while navigating its challenges with awareness, love and purpose, and maintaining an authentic inner connection. Her personal journey spans over 23 years, dedicated to truth seeking, yoga and meditation.
She sees the spirit and future of business as a game that transcends money and is rooted in creativity, the hero’s journey and service to others.