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Tech & Innovation
AUG 29, 2017

Singularity University Global Summit: 10 Takeaways for the 21st Century

By Dr. Jorge Calvo
Photo credit: Jorge Calvo

Singularity University does not fit the mold of a classic academic institution. Its mission may sound familiar: to “educate, inspire, and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges.” However, the university is not technology-driven, nor is it merely innovative. It aims for large-scale disruption―what Joseph Schumpeter, one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, called “creative destruction.”

The 2017 SU Global Summit certainly aimed to deliver on this goal. Here are ten ideas to help us understand the new exponential paradigm.

1. Moonshot thinking

SU co-founder Petre Diamandis explained moonshot as a mindset in simple but inspirational terms: “A moonshot is going 10x bigger while the rest of the world is pursuing 10% bigger. When you try to do something 10% better, you’re putting yourself in a ‘smartness’ competition with everyone else in the world―a competition you’re unlikely to win. When you instead try to get 10x bigger, you’re forced to approach the problem in a radically different fashion. The result is 100x more worth it, but it’s never 100x harder.”

2. Faster, cheaper computer power

Boosting the exponential growth is more accessible computer power being put to work on a multitude of technologies, including networks and sensors, synthetic biology, robotics, 3D printing, virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. The unexpected convergence and consequences are seeing a rise in new business models.

3. A new entrepreneurial mindset

A new mindset is needed to convert big problems into big opportunities for a better world. Business leaders should focus on the things they can make an exponential impact on.

As humans, we tend to think linearly. As entrepreneurs, we need to think exponentially to take advantage of the potential of emerging technologies and work together. SU co-founder Ray Kurzweil said, “Our intuition about the future is linear. But the reality of information technology is exponential, and that makes a profound difference. If I take 30 steps linearly, I get to 30. If I take 30 steps exponentially, I get to a billion.”

4. Exponential leadership

Over the last 10 years, leadership has been about coping with change and doing the right things. Exponential leadership is about coping with non-change: it stops the things that are wrong, for everyone.

5. Irrational transformation

The exponential transformation process is not rational—it is fully emotional, and people and policy can either develop it or block it. Diamandis put it this way: “Ideas are easy, culture is hard. Creating an ecosystem for rapidly evaluating and testing ideas is much harder than finding the idea. Filter weaker ideas early by running a ‘pre-mortem.’ Predict in advance why an idea is likely to fail, and celebrate and reward ideas that the team kills early.”

Exponential leadership comes in a variety of forms:
– The futurist, who imagines bold ideas.
– The humanitarian impact-driver, who makes choices that positively impact people and communities
– The technologist, who accelerates possibilities with technology
– The innovator, who brings ideas to life

6. Speed

Speed is the critical currency of our time. The pace of change is accelerating exponentially, and we are painfully and detrimentally slow. Technology is growing faster than individuals, individuals are growing faster than businesses, and businesses are growing faster than public policy and regulations.

7. The 6Ds

The future world will be characterized by the 6 Ds: digitalized, deceptive, disruptive, dematerialized, demonetized, and democratized.

8. Accurate forecasting

Understanding customers’ needs today doesn’t ensure success tomorrow. The strategic advantage belongs to those organizations that can forecast future customers’ needs and respond in advance.

9. Long-term goals, short-term steps

Exponential strategies pursue long-term goals, but dynamically focus on short-term steps. It’s a constant zoom-in and zoom-out: think big, but start small, managing volume, velocity and complexity:
– Your customers: Look for the future jobs that need to be done.
– Your future: Track your progress and map the road ahead.
– Your organization: Build and xEnterprise.
– Your people: Train xLeaders who do the things that make the new obsolete by making products exponentially accessible.

10. Strategy

There are four convergent forces for exponential health:
– Psychology
– Neurology
– Technology
– Pharmacology