Brenda’s Blog

What’s in the minds of today’s greatest leadership and management thinkers?

December 6, 2023

Unpacking Thinkers50 2023: Part One

I recently had the opportunity to join the impressive Thinkers50 bi-annual gathering in London, where I was fortunate to attend as a nominee for the Thinkers50 Coaching & Mentoring Award. While I didn’t walk away with the award (😉), I did walk away with dozens of great insights.

Thinkers50 is a gathering that brings together some of the foremost minds in management and leadership. This year was the first time the event has been held since the pandemic, and you know what they say (or at least the musical Hamilton says): “You’ve got to be in the room where it happens.” So, I flew to London for the two-day event. (Of course, I also believe it’s part of my job as a C-Suite coach to stay up to date with the latest ideas and the status of leadership!)

I wanted to devote some time to sharing with you some of the fascinating insights gained from the event. I hope you’ll find them helpful. Because there was so much learning from the event, I’ll be creating two blogs to help explore the many diverse and impactful ideas discussed.

Here is my first sharing of important insights I gleaned:

1. Embrace Intelligent Failures:

One recurring theme that resonated deeply was the importance of embracing failure as a means of growth. Amy Edmondson, the pioneer of “intelligent failures” (and originator of the psychological safety movement) urged us to take risks, emphasizing that intelligent failures are driven by a goal to improve.

In turbulent times, innovation becomes even more important, requiring a shift in our perception of failure. Sheena Iyengar added her perspective, noting that the experience of failure helps us recognize patterns, and patterns contribute to strengthening our intuition.

If you’ve ever been coached by me, you will know that I talk about the three brains that our body has inside of us that help us make decisions: the head, the heart, and the gut. When we are tapping into intuition, that’s coming from the gut.

“Do one thing every week that scares you but that will build a better world.” – Amy Edmondson 

🌟Provocative Question: How can you cultivate a culture that encourages intelligent failures and truly values failures as steppingstones to success?

2. The Epidemic of Pathological Busy-ness:

Megan Reitz shed light on the epidemic of pathological busy-ness and “work devotion” in today’s business world. She challenged the audience to reflect on why pausing is seen as “weird and impossible” in our modern workplace, advocating for a shift in focus towards the inside – to our mind, feelings, and intentions.

The concept of work devotion and the belief in the need to “deserve success” due to hard work were discussed. The antidote? Leisure, modelled by all levels of leadership and ingrained in the company culture.

🌟Provocative Question: In a world obsessed with busy-ness, how can we redefine success to include intentional pauses and moments of leisure?

3. The AI Revolution:

After the (1) the Emergence of Agrarian Societies and (2) the Industrial Revolution, the third discontinuous revolution has now arrived:  the AI/Technology Revolution.

AI does not think linearly, but humans do. And as we navigate this exponential shift, it’s important to remember that AI is a mirror, not a window. It reflects what we already know and is an extension of us.

The consequences of technology keeping us constantly connected? An example: Today, when we have breaks, we reach for our phones, and when we are involved with our phones, we no longer see details. We don’t recognize what is happening around us.

🌟Provocative Question: How can we strike a balance between leveraging AI for efficiency and making sure we pay enough attention to the important details?

Here are some additional notable takeaways from the Thinkers50 event to share with your team members… more to come!*

  • A leader’s behavior is contagious.
  • Leaders have one job: to build a growing and healthy family tree of leaders behind them.
  • With ESG, expectations of companies are going up. Companies need to have a formal position on these types of topics because, with ESG, for example, not saying something is saying something.
  • When we are under pressure, we rely on habits. Repeating habits is like living in an echo chamber.

*Stay tuned for Part Two of my Thinkers50 Insights blog post, where I’ll delve into more groundbreaking ideas shared at the event.



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