Smarter than the Average Bear

Yogi Bear was a very wily and resilient cartoon character from my formative years.  As the theme song proclaimed, Yogi was smarter than the average bear.

Those childhood lyrics inexplicably popped into my head as I pondered a month’s worth of signals about what the future association CEO will need to succeed.  She (or he) will have to be smarter than the average bear to create value for members and stakeholders. Just like in Jellystone Park, the future is rich with opportunity but the world won’t necessarily be designed to assure any association’s success. 

To be smarter than the average bear, association executives will need to be digital and data literate, good futurists and capable systems thinkers. They will have to be extraordinarily adept at abductive reasoning to read the patterns of possibilities in a complex world and create new approaches one step ahead of disruptive changes.  

While at DigitalNow last week I came to a deep realization that any association executive planning a long career better become both digital and data literate. These new technologies can amplify for-purpose organizations and make once impossible missions possible.     

These technological disruptions create winners and losers as I shared in my review of the Second Machine Age by Brynjolfsson and McAfee. Also writing in response to this book, Tim Laseter gives us a long read on how management practices are evolving and concludes: “Managers need to develop hypotheses of what will work in the future in order to set the company’s current strategic direction. Instead of simply testing hypotheses, management must create the future. The future can’t be created (or even uncovered) by simply examining the past… even big data computers don’t form the hypotheses needed to develop new strategies designed to break existing constraints and create new business models. Accordingly, managers who seek to break constraints and embrace a hypothesis-driven approach will not face extinction but will instead create the future.”

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of leading from the emerging future after reading and writing about Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer’s book of the same title.  “This inner shift, from fighting the old to sensing and presencing an emerging future possibility, is at the core of all deep leadership work today… When operating with eco-system awareness, we are driven by the concerns and intentions of our emerging or essential self—that is, by a concern that is informed by the well-being of the whole.”  Working for the well-being of the whole is exactly what gives for-purpose organizations their power within society. 

Yogi Bear was quite wily and resilient despite the ranger’s attempts to thwart him in stealing the picnic baskets.  The persistent cartoon plotline featured Yogi improvising yet another way to get the goodies despite the odds. If I recall correctly his faithful sidekick Boo-Boo Bear usually voiced the world’s reservations.  I don’t intend to re-watch these childhood cartoons to confirm that Yogi practiced abductive reasoning.  I do recall he spent a lot of time up in trees scanning the possibilities and coming up with some very creative and occasionally really bad ideas. He succeeded more often than not.