Incite Edition #3 - exploring ways to think about future relevance

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The recipe for our annual event Incite has remained the same each year:

  • mix a group of diverse, curious people

  • talk about what we all learned in the previous year

  • have a thoughtful theme, with prompts for discovery and discussion

  • a platform for conversations and 'structured randomness'

The third edition of Incite was held on 19 Jan, 2019. Our overall theme for this Incite was ‘Thinking about Future Relevance’. Here are the top highlights from this edition.

Opening Moves

Each year, the way participants introduce themselves is different. This year, this involved talking about the origins of each participant’s first name, a recent ‘daredevil’ act, and a game of mass Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Next, Harish did a quick recap of CTQ’s 2018, a year in which we turned five:

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(subscribe to The Upleveler here, check out Pause at Yellow, and learn more about compounds)

What we learned in 2018

Omkar Dhakephalkar hosted the learning segment.

Omkar Dhakephalkar hosted the learning segment.

In past editions, CTQ members have pooled in ideas and insights that they encountered in the previous year, through books, course, travel, and work. In this Incite, the interesting tidbits came from two sources: our Reading Compound (where we read one book summary each day) and our Arts Compound (where we learn about one new aspect of different kinds of arts). Here are three of them (in the form of questions - answers are a few paragraphs below):

  1. Like fingerprints, this is unique to every individual. Collectively this ‘print’ would be three times your size. Zachary Copfer, a developer of living art, uses this as his medium. He said “People have this sort of bipolar relationship with them.” What are we talking about?

  2. The valley (or mountain), the pleat, the rabbit ear, the outside reverse, the inside reverse, the crimp, the squash, the sink and the petal are the basic 'folds' of which art-form?

  3. From a purely evolutionary perspective, it is one of the most successful plants in the history of the Earth. Worldwide, it covers about 2.25 million square kilometres of the globe, or about 70% of the area of the entire country of India. Which plant, which was discussed in the book ‘Sapiens’?

In addition, some of our participants spoke about their 2018 and a challenge they are taking up in 2019:

  • Arun Iyer made the shift to a startup from a large company. He also published a novel, fulfilling a long-cherished dream. He spoke about the challenges in both, and how he is now working on his next book in the series. (Arun’s first book can be purchased here.)

  • For Prajakta Panshikar-Divekar, 2017 was a year of transition, geographically, career-wise, and mentally. That period of reading, contemplation, travel, and new experiences led her to taking up doctoral studies in the field of Heritage in 2018. She spoke about dealing with this change and what she’s looking forward to doing.

  • Dhananjay Muli has been dabbling with ways to teach biology, especially to audiences more comfortable with learning in Marathi. In the coming year, he’s looking at ways to use video and see how he can have a greater impact in this mission.

  • Well-versed with the medium of video, since 2018, Tanay Ingale has been exploring his way through the world using a new medium: podcasting. His podcast is here.

ANSWERS

  1. The human microbiome, the bacteria in our gut and body.

  2. Origami.

  3. Wheat. In 'Sapiens', the author asks: "Did humans colonise wheat, or did wheat colonise humans'?

How to think about future relevance?

How does one think about the topic of what will keep us relevant in the future? In many cases, relevance is affected by changes in the world we live in: there are unexpected events, slow but definite trends, or decisions by other entities that affect us. So how do we ensure we don’t get ‘Kodak’-ed i.e. find ourselves irrelevant through a combination of our own blind spots and via external threats?

We explored this using four approaches, a mix of the whimsical and the serious:

  1. The Future Game: Teams were asked to imagine a future profession and then react to trends. A mysterious ‘wheel of fortune’ then pronounces judgment on their choices.

  2. The Ikigai Diagram: this Venn Diagram is a popular choice for those trying to map their interests in life, their skills, and how they overlap with what the world thinks is valuable. One way to think about future relevance is to compare your present Ikigai and one which responds to a future world with a different set of trends in place. (This was to be an input to a new ‘Future Relevance Canvas’ that we’ve designed, but we didn’t have enough time to take that up.)

  3. STEEPV Trends: Practitioners of the disciplines of ‘foresight’ and ‘futureproofing’ have evolved a few maps and techniques to think about the future. One of them looks at trends (social, economic, values etc. - dubbed STEEPV) and then place one’s relevance in them. In this exercise, Incite participants talked about possible trends in these six areas. Some of the trends that came up:

  • Increase in Remote Working and Gig economy. Unionization of freelancers

  • More “Winner takes it all” in businesses

  • Increased Personalization in everything

  • Fluidity in gender identity

  • No book-shops

  • More polarization due to limited ideas all around us

  • More Machine learning, AI etc. Tech. will become all pervasive

  • Increase in impact of biotech; Bespoke organs, CRISPR

  • Tech. will help us solve energy and water problems

  • Internet will become a fundamental right

  • Better decade for Africa

  • Patriarchy will go down

  • Micro administrative units where people will decide what's best for them at a local level

4. 10 ways to think about being ‘future relevant’: Based on our exploration, CTQ curated a list of 10 ways to approach the topic of future relevance. We discussed each of these ideas, how platforms like Good Judgment Open help and mental models, and how some of these could be put into practice. Here’s a quick summary:

Endgame

Omkar Yarguddi on the essential books for 2019

Omkar Yarguddi on the essential books for 2019

Incite #3 ended with a list of books we thought everyone should consider reading in 2019, spanning five buckets. Some of the books are: “A Field Guide to Getting Lost”, “Influence”, and “Factfulness”. You’ll find the complete list here.

Finally, it was time for our customary ‘fun predictions for this year’ (we think we know who will be PM of India, who will win a Nobel for Economics, and what Patanjali will do next).

That brought us to the end of another Incite. Our thanks to all the participants and also the invitees who couldn’t make it, but sent us insights and recommendations to share at Incite.

No, this is not participants being thankful it was all over. (OK, it was more of ‘yippee, lunch has arrived’!)

No, this is not participants being thankful it was all over. (OK, it was more of ‘yippee, lunch has arrived’!)