Hello from Aspen: Where ideas (even bad ones) are celebrated #AspenIdeas2016

I just wanted to give everyone a big shout-out and Lots of Love from Aspen, up on Colorado’s scenic Rocky Mountains, where I am soaking up a treasure trove of ideas from some of “the most inspired and innovative thinkers, writers, artists, business people, teachers, and other leaders” who have gathered here from around the world. #Aspenideas

This is The Aspen Ideas Festival 2016, where ideas – big and small, good and bad – are celebrated in a safe and festive environment. It’s true what they say: everything begins with an idea, and the best way to find a good one is to have lots of them. Some of you might say, “Wow, that sounds like a really expensive way to brainstorm!”  Trust me, it’s priceless.

It has been an inspiring experience so far.  I must have seen over a hundred VIPs getting planed in on private jets the past couple of days, but up here we all stand on equal ground as we share ideas that address the immense challenges facing America and the world: inequality, justice and the call for action, the crisis of trust, a displaced workforce, anger and the language of hate, the reversal in the traditional order of influence, permanent changes in the social contract, fostering a moral and inclusive economy, and re-imagining capitalism.  It’s a huge, sometimes intimidating, and diverse group that is united by the common goal to do good.

Some of my key takeaways and “messy notes” from the thought-provoking discussions so far…

Aspen: Day One

On Reimagining Capitalism and Justice, a Call for Action

  • Proximity and how important it is get up close and personal to the roots of injustice, and to have visibility and dialogue on the ground, while also stepping back to see the bigger picture.
  • The importance of narrative in fighting injustice – or promoting it, e.g. politics of fear and anger, “the burden of our history”, idea of white supremacy.
  • Being hopeful. Justice may disappear but hope prevails.  Hopelessness is the enemy of justice – you cannot change the world without hope. You must be willing to do uncomfortable things.
  • The opposite of poverty is not wealth but justice.

On Augmented Intelligence vs. Artificial Intelligence, and the Mobility of Human Experience

  • Technology-driven “personal assistance” to give us back our time, amazing tools to enable creativity, etc. – the possibilities are limitless, but also calls for constant re-skilling, learning / unlearning habits.
  • On expensive space programs to answer the question, “Are we alone in the universe?” The very low probability of discovering extraterrestrial life is compensated by the sheer significance of it.
  • Leaders have a shared responsibility in a globalized world. How do we create economic opportunities locally to drive global growth?
  • A position of privilege can make a difference. But first recognize: human value of empathy.
  • Empowering everyone and every company to achieve more
  • The fallout of Crisis is Progress. What happens when a crisis does not lead to progress?
  • Self worth is not measured by who and how many love or like you. Self worth is measured by who and how you love yourself and others.
  • The most valuable currency today is friendship.

Aspen: Day Two

  • Growing inequality of trust magnifies the gap between an informed audience and the mass population in terms of trust and institution. Rising economic opportunities lead to a narrowing of the gap.
  • The illusion that “someday I can be the elite” has disappeared since the 2008 crisis.
  • Pyramid of influence has just been turned upside down – a reversal in the tradition of influence.
  • Now: Power of peer conversation.
  • Experience trumps knowledge.
  • Non-government organizations are the most trusted institutions.
  • We now live in a World of Self Reference. A horizontal world.
  • Employees are your most trusted spokespersons.
  • What do people want from the CEO? Integrity, empathy and honesty.
  • Just making money is not enough. Societal involvement raises the motivation of employees.
  • Trust is not a new thing. Trust has tangible benefits and must be earned by your actions.
  • How do you explain who you are?
  • The Gig Economy – 35% of the work force is now ‘contingent.’

Okay, I’m just rambling at this point and my notes don’t do justice to the level of discussions at the Festival. That’s what happens when you find yourself in the middle of a maelstrom of ideas.  It will take me some time to digest everything and articulate something more concrete in a future post, so stay tuned.

The best ideas are useless if they are not put into action, but sometimes, to make one good idea fly, you must be prepared to ground them first.

Lots of Love,