Tim Longhurst's Blog

Early thoughts for NEXT Question conference with Richard Branson

May 9th, 2013 · 2 Comments

In just under an hour, I’ll be on stage discussing trends and opportunities with a panel that includes Richard Branson. My hosts at the University of Queensland Business School have sent the themes of the discussion ahead of time, so I’ve been sitting and reflecting on each in turn.

The audience is a mix of business people and high school/university students. Most of the audience live in Queensland.

I’ve decided to quickly blog a opportunities for each topic area, so here goes:


Education isn’t something for kids… It’s something for each of us throughout our lives. But since we’re going to be talking about formal education today; we’ll know we’re rocking formal education when kids are RAVING about what they’re learning and participating actively and with energy in their learning. Frankly, if we’re going to lock people up in an institution for 12 of the best years of their life, we owe it to them that they have an amazing time that allows them to develop their understanding of themselves and the world. The qualities we ought to instill in learners include: curiosity, collaboration and creativity. Curiosity, because it’s the spark that turns us into lifelong learners—essential in a fast changing world; collaboration because knowing how to bring out the best in others and work in team environments is such a big part of realising our own potential; and creativity because that it is an act that puts these amazing supercomputers between our ears to work in ways that inspire ourselves and others. We want to create a generation of creators of amazing content… Not just consumers.


I don’t accept the next 100 years will be the “Asian Century”… Why should one geography get all the fun? No, this will be the “connected century”, where power is distributed around the world and we share the best of ourselves and learn from the best of others. We’re already seeing people collaborating in teams that defy geography and culture… And we’re just getting started. If we are to learn from Asian cultures, the long term thinking that defines many of the choices made in Asia would be a great place to start… The infrastructure investments we in Australia know make sense—but can’t seem to get right (think renewable energy, high speed trains) are good examples of areas that China is able to invest heavily in, at least in part, because of their cultural capacity for foresight. 


The vast majority are only motivated by money to a point. When I ask client and colleagues why they’re putting so much of themselves into projects, the rewards listed include: contribution, legacy, connection, the reward of making a difference.

It used to be that if we cared enough, setting up a not for profit seemed like a good way to go. Today, with the emergence of services such as change.org, the boring back office stuff is taken care of by others and allows us to express our visions for a better world with a few taps. I’m seriously excited by how many people are becoming activists on their mobiles and at their office desks throughout the day… demanding change on important issues and throwing their weight behind important campaigns without having to quit their day jobs. Not for profits will always have a role, but they’re not the only structure that creates change!


Leadership is a behaviour, not a position! We are presented with opportunities to lead every day of our lives, and it’s ok if we don’t seize every opportunity. We know we’re leading when other people follow. Whether it’s an idea for a new product or a suggestion for a system improvement… We’re increasingly realising that power is something we take, not something we are given, and there’s no need to wait for a job title or a better position in the hierarchy to make amazing things happen!

Three qualities I’d look for if I was hiring a CEO: charisma, humility and foresight. Charisma is because as much as the technology around us is changing, our physiology and social needs are going to be here for a while. Charisma will count for a long time yet! I chose humility because CEO’s increasingly need to defer to their networks. The wisdom is in the group, and that means listening to customers, activists, front line staff. Finally, foresight: leadership is as much about pattern recognition, sense making, visioning and storytelling… And that’s a big part of what foresight is about.


The possibilities available to the web are only just starting to be realised… My friend Eddy Harran says we’re at the “Stone Age of the Internet” and I couldn’t agree more. We’re just getting started. We know there are so many challenges we face as humanity, but just at a time where we’re recognising the major challenges, the tool that is informing us (the web) is also the tool we can harness to address them. For every challenge we face in our community—name one— there are literally thousands of people connecting, collaborating, scheming, to address it! Paul Hawken reckons that in our simple acts of collaboration, exercise and generosity we are rising like an immune system to heal the planet. He’s onto something. Our next big leap is to see the major challenges our planet faces as tasks worthy of our best efforts. The next big leap is for us to recognise our capacity to seize this amazing opportunity to create a legacy of contribution that echoes through the ages!!!

Well, that’s what I’m off to share. The panel will be on Sky Business News in the coming days. Will update this post with times and then the link when it’s on the web!


Category: Communication and connection

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