Harry Potter is the perfect metaphor for the contemporary hero's journey. How many of you have read the books? How many books do you know of that are printed in such large quantities? We are enamored with stories, and for good reason. When the human emotional component cannot process technology and the onslaught of learning anymore, you go back to story.
Every so often you come across a concept, a turn of a phrase in a conversation, that will forever change you and the way you think about everything. The energy released by that thought and the revolution it brings to your thinking makes you leap forward. It is very likely that it would be transmitted to you by a person who releases her/his energy in the form of message. Today I had the privilege of meeting two such people.
Jennifer James calls the release of energy progress. Dr. James is an urban cultural anthropologist, a lecturer, a writer, and commentator. What I learned from her about communicating a compelling story:
- This is a set of ideas that fit reality and the marketplace -- we create reality, now
- It has to resonate to a deep set of values
- The person telling the story has to be believable, authentic, and genuine -- there has to be a level of trust
Why do we need to tell compelling stories? People cannot synthesize anymore, our brains are full. Culture is a story that you have in your gut about the way things ought to be, a story of the future. Now I ask you, do you see that future? Or are you worried that the cultural tapestry of mythology and stories of the past is being torn up too rapidly? Our learning curve is straight up these days.
Dr. James and I share a love of learning. Specifically we admire the leadership qualities that make a person future-oriented, rapid-bonding, and an extraordinary communicator and negotiator. Someone who understands both the skills required for the current business environment as well as where the organization is as respects the local and global markets. What I learned from her about thinking in the future and the adaptive process is:
- The technological change linked to the environment concentrates energy and changes everything -- intelligence, attitude, personality and also character. A measure of character is what you do to the community.
- Economics uses the energy effectively
- Demographics are loosening up -- it means we can bring into the equation people who can do the job. For example, when women went into the practice of law, we had the development of mediation. I know you'll relate to this, women can talk men into anything. It was a survival skill.
- Culture is in the gut -- you cannot process it in the brain. There is a considerable time gap between this development and the former three stages. Shift happens and it takes time.
We want to produce reality. How many times have you felt connected with someone who was like-minded? If we have common interests, we also have common concerns. What we're doing with blogs and social media is by and large testing reality. But Harry Potter is not real, is he? He and his world are more real to us than you think.
Your job every day now is to morph. We're at the same time dinosaurs and high tech specialists. Harry Potter tells us something about the future. He's an orphan, whose parents got killed by evildoers, and lives in an abusive home. He is rescued from this place by knowledge, the school. We live in a world of magic where we keep seeking knowledge to learn and test what's real. Potter's chimeras are the new people who walk into our lives --if you can be courageous and have teachers and leaders that will tell you the truth. Finally, Potter and friends will redeem the lives of Harry's parents.
I am not surprised to read that Dr. James always receives standing ovations, she got one here. Her knowledge of the topic is a good start; what gets an audience to attention is the unbridled passion and love she radiates for them, for us. She embodied the new age of compassion.
Kare Anderson completed those ideas a little later today. The big thought is to seek a sweet spot of mutual opportunity and support. I've already probably violated her first principle, which is to say less, better. Her lessons, however, have not gone lost on me. My three key takeaways:
- look to someone's positive intent even if they appear to have none
- practice talking about "you" (the other), "us" and then "me"
- look for extremely unlikely allies that have different temperaments to yours for smart partnering
The reality world is possible. Who can tell the new story? Who can see the future? It seems odd that we can extract a business lesson from a children's book. Yet is is precisely the Harry Potter metaphor that can teach us about our current yearning for heroes and truth.