He drew out a prettier version of this graphic for me on his laptop.

Now Near Far

Jim Hackett, CEO of Steelcase, explained to me how most of the world is working on the NOW and CONCRETE. As leaders, he explained to me, we have to solve the problems that reside in the FAR and AMBIGUOUS. Jim was sharing with me how Design Thinking is a discipline that is used to solve the problems residing in the outer right corner of the axis. As a leader, our ability to deliver results in the NOW and CONCRETE give us the license to do the work in the FAR and AMBIGUOUS.

Recently, I read a Harvard Business Review article on how the world needs Tri-Sector Leaders. Individuals who understand and can move in all three sectors: public, private and non profit. As the lines blur between sectors, a leaders fluidity and skill to navigate these unique cultures and requirements will stand out.

But, I think as important, leaders who know how to manage the Now, Near and Far are the ones that get the organizations to perform today, but positioned and ready for an ambiguous future. I have had the chance to meet leaders from all sectors and industries over the years and I would say it is rare to find the leader with skill in the Now and the Far. Usually, those are opposable tensions. And to operate in the NOW is a different skill mix than shaping and understanding the FAR.

My observation is leaders usually have a bias of strength in one domain or the other. Skilled and successful leaders are those that understand themselves, have an acute awareness, and an ability to augment capacity or to make visible when help is needed. As Jim says in a recent NY Times article, ” I need your help in making it more concrete.”

In the future, however, the leader who can move in all three time zones will be the one who creates a more enduring organization. Why?

Well, as Jim summed up: “What I’ve argued is that you have to train yourself to work in all three dimensions simultaneously. It’s human nature to get pulled into the now, and the reward systems are built that way. You have to think of it in terms of making good on this notion that if you’re really a great leader, you’re going to be noted for it long after you’ve been gone. That’s because you actually reached out and imagined the state of things in the future.”

We here of training for a triathlon. More and more, there will need to be skill development for the next kind of athlete—-a Tri-Zone Leader.

Other Blog Posts on Social Impact Design and Design Thinking:

Social Impact Design: A New Way

Social Impact Design: Design Thinking

Design + Social Impact: Why They Belong Together?

Job #1 : Design For Joy

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