This past May, I video-called my 93-year old Grandmother for our regular monthly chat. I moved to Amsterdam from Vancouver two years ago and one of the things I left behind was our various grandmother/granddaughter rituals, so being able to see her face when we spoke was a poor replacement but the only one we had. During our last conversation, we spoke for nearly two hours with my uncle by her side, operating the iPad. One week later, she passed away. And although I was grateful for having had that last conversation with her, I deeply regretted that it had been mediated by distance and digital technology. I wish I could have sat in her presence one last time, reveling in all the minutiae that constitutes a relationship I’d known since birth.
The power of community in scaling our humanity
Last weekend, 150 THNKers — members of THNK’s alumni community — gathered together in Amsterdam for the annual THNK FSTVL. THNKers in various cities collaborate remotely, across time-zones, throughout the year; they are each others’ peer coaches, mentors, consultants, business partners, and deepest confidants. But when THNKers gather in person, in plenary, the result is often magical — their ability to deeply connect with each other in a short amount of time is remarkable.
One prerequisite to becoming a THNKer is to have completed THNK’s Executive Program, meaning all THNKers have committed six months of their lives, mid-career, to investigating their edges, their individual purpose, and their deeply held beliefs. They create room for themselves to grow and adopt new mindsets, often manifesting a new project or career-direction in the process. So, when THNKers are together, the shared six-month experience translates into a delicious shorthand. During FSTVL, I witnessed them initiating long, complex, and rich conversations, then breaking out in laughter because they realized they hadn’t even formally introduced themselves yet!
We know that climate change is the biggest issue of our time, and we also know its complexity is stammering. Systemic solutions lie not only in leaders’ capacity to scale enterprises, teams, or technological solutions, but also in their collective capacity to scale their own humanity, to connect dots without ego, to influence and infect their organizations, projects, and teams with curiosity and openness.
My Grandmother operated with this mindset at a foundational level. She was trained as a social worker in the 1940s and I often saw her embody an openness and way of listening as a way to empathize with different types of people. Anyone who wants to lead in this century needs to practice this constantly—being in-relationship with each other, in-person, especially when it’s difficult to do so. And when we can master this, there is no limit to our scale.