There is something that binds Richard Branson, Elon Musk and the Dalai Lama together. I believe it is their bold and influential brand of thought leadership. This is the kind of rule-breaking and disruptive leadership we need to emulate: The kind that is both astute and authentic in its approach to problem solving; the kind that is not afraid to take impossibly hard decisions. Only then can we expect truly remarkable breakthroughs: space tourism, driverless cars and a world that places conservation above consumption.
Visionaries like Branson, Musk and the Dalai Lama are changing the world through their brand of leadership. They provide us the inspiration to expand our own vision. They encourage us to examine data with wondrous eyes and to come up with transformational ideas. Above all, they show us that it is possible to place compassion above commerce and yet emerge winners in business.
It is amusing to note that the audacious ideas of these leaders have always appeared to be wild flights of the imagination. Their ideas don’t evoke an ‘aha’ moment. They evoke complete incredulity. This is not surprising for these ideas are not meant to make money, they are first meant to change the planet.
And as everyone knows, you can’t change the planet through incremental change that improves an algorithm here and a silicon wafer there. Changing the planet begins with a strong foundation of transformational thinking. Investments, talent, management, data, algorithms, bots and markets follow.
Take technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, 3D printing, Internet of Things, block chain, facial recognition, quantum computing, wireless charging, drones and botnets that are mainstreaming (yes, botnets are back with a vengeance — be very afraid of the dark power of the Botnets of Things). These technologies will never let the world stay still again. They have set the wheels of turmoil in perpetual motion. Combine 3D printing with sensors that are surgically wired to nerves and you have prosthetics with a sense of touch[i]. Combine drones with hyperspectral imaging and methane sniffing capabilities and you can send them off to explore places so dangerous no man would dare go.
Notice how the world of possibilities and value expand at the intersection of technologies and data streams. To convert the vision of the emerging breed of new age leaders like Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, Vijay Shekhar Sharma and Brian Cheskey, we need expertise and experience that will flawlessly integrate and stitch these technologies and data streams together into a handsome tapestry of the future.
Today, harnessing these diverse technologies is at the core of translating leadership vision into reality. This is what makes recommendation-driven shopping, digital wallets, algorithmic trading, mobile healthcare, digital governance, space tourism and solar powered autonomous cars—things that consumers absolutely love and crave–possible.
Admittedly, there is no single person, company, organization or think tank that can hope to bring the philosophical depth but practical and industrious application required to achieve such dramatic breakthroughs. This kind of innovation, that shakes up traditional tenets and buries them forever, calls for a special creed of believers, tech warriors and curious tinkerers to collaborate. So the next time we see a visionary leader showing us a glimpse of the future, also look for the practitioners of the future, the eco system that is forging their vision into reality.