By Dean Whittaker

It has been a busy month of learning for me. I concluded my year-long course in “Innovation Methodology” at the NewNorth Center for Design in Business by submitting my thesis on the use of a future scenario process to inform and engage education, governance, and business. My premise is that change is happening so fast we can no longer adapt to change but must anticipate it. We can do so using a systematic process for thinking about the future as applied to industry and occupation clusters.

One of the books I read while writing the paper for the Innovation Methodology course was Cecily Sommers’, Think Like A Futurist. She presented a frame work for understanding the source of trends: resources, technology, demographics, and governance. Resources are the raw materials we use. Technology is the tools that we use to shape the raw materials. Demographics are the people and cultures that use the tools. Governance is both the laws and market rules by which we agree to engage with each other. These four factors drive the trends that are shaping the world around us.

Another learning opportunity this month was to hear Daniel Pink present a summary of his new book, To Sell is Human. He contends that we all “sell.” We all “sell” ourselves, our friends, co-workers, and our clients and customers. Anytime, we are engaged in moving people to take some action we are “selling” them. His premise is that we are all engaged in selling, and therefore, we need to remember our ABCs: Attunement, Buoyancy, and Clarity.

Attunement is ability to bring our actions and thoughts into harmony with other people and the context they are in. Buoyancy is our resilience to bounce back when we experience setbacks. He suggests that we prepare to move others by asking ourselves “Can we move this person?” and then give five reasons why we can do so. To manage the occasional setbacks he reminds us to recall that the setback is not pervasive, permanent, or personal. Clarity is the ability to help others see their situations in a new way and to discover problems that they didn’t realize they had. Problem finding is often more valuable than problem solving. Often times the most valuable role of the salesperson is to help define the problem in such a way we can solve it ourselves. A good sales person can help us to be sure we are solving the right problem by defining it. Are you trying to solve the right problem?