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The Big Metamorphosis


The Future comes knocking — are we ready for the change of eras? The world is moving out of lockdown into a new reality. What can we learn from the weeks of cocooning during the Corona-crisis for our ability to use imagination and innovation as tools towards desirable futures?


A change of eras — not an era of change.

If you were waiting for a sign, that the anthropocene is upon us, well … there it was. Covid-19 will be remembered as the brand name for the biggest change agent of our recent memory, … and we are still in this path of transition.

We have seen the upcoming changes and challenges: climate change, polution of oceans and the air, the burning of our planet from the Amazon to Australia, from Siberia to California. On top of that, the aging of our population in the western world and the uprising of emerging countries and new world powers.

These changes in our ecology have been accelerated by neo-liberal economies of scale and automation, but especially by the development of exponential technologies: artificial intelligence, robotics, synthetic biology, nano tech and quantum computing … plus the ravishing claw of the platform economy, cutely described as “software eating the world”.

Amidst these indicators of system change we felt that we are slowly getting sucked inside the eye of the tornado, clinging to some old paradigms of work and our worldview of economics and progress, values, rituals and fake security of normalcy. It was hard to imagine, how this change could erupt so suddenly into our daily lives — even 2019 came around and it did not feel like the Blade Runner movie, …yet.

I opened the first chapter of the book “Moonshots for Europe” by describing a scene from the amazing exhibition in Barcelona’s CCCB, aptly named … “After the End of the World” (not quite the REM song of similar name “The End of the world as we know it”). A superb experience curated to feel the anthropocene — the impact of the human species on our planet Earth and the beginning of this new era. After billions of Earth-years, the imprint of mankind was not only marked on the moon (50 years ago) but also giantly leaped onto every aspect on the only habitable planet that we know.

The Overview Effect

The corona crisis put us all in lockdown — a global rallying cry of #staythefuckathome. And we did, glued to our messenger groups with family and friends around the world, no contact even with people just stuck in the next town over. No planes, no trains beyond borders, no automobiles left the factories; but new pictures were imprinted in our minds of tanks taking death people out of Italian hospitals, the Chinese delivery heroes serving closed coffins of apartment blocks, the capitulation of the health system in New York…: in fact, the cities were put to sleep.

March 16, 2020 — the world as we know it got locked down.

We were all put into our cocoons: work from home, home schooling, pizza deliveries and the A-almighty store for everything got us covered, and was even #winning throughout the crisis. Malls closed. Restaurants closed. Schools closed. Factories closed. Beaches closed, park closed, playground closed — nowhere to go but stay put… #staysafe! We were waking up in a time capsule, inside our homes the time frooze, while outside the world became one. Pushed into a new trajectory, encapsulated and watching our national borders close off.

24. Dezember 1968 — Apollo 8 astronauts shot Earthrise picture

The overview effect is the phenomenon called after what astronauts feel when they are in space and look back home towards our tiny blue marble floating through space and time. Only around 500 people saw and felt this effect so far, and most tell us from the overwhelming experience to see that we are all one and that from space there are no boundaries, no difference to see in countries, religion, race, above them only sky, … imagine that!

But back to #now. Back to March, April and May of 2020 — did the world feel the same as one? The cocooning of these few months, including the insecurity, the concerns for our health, wealth, jobs & family … did this in fact help us see the bigger picture? Do we feel the challenges that we face and the need for a bigger transformation than just getting back to our desk, the workbench and getting the kids back to school?

Did we fall hard enough to feel the overview effect?

I sense, that we are at the cusp of a new ground zero. If we can grasp the energy that was released in this transformational time, can we jointly apply it towards a better tomorrow and address what the world needs now and what future generations demand from us?

24. Dezember 1968 — Apollo 8 astronauts shot Earthrise picture

The overview effect is the phenomenon called after what astronauts feel when they are in space and look back home towards our tiny blue marble floating through space and time. Only around 500 people saw and felt this effect so far, and most tell us from the overwhelming experience to see that we are all one and that from space there are no boundaries, no difference to see in countries, religion, race, above them only sky, … imagine that!

But back to #now. Back to March, April and May of 2020 — did the world feel the same as one? The cocooning of these few months, including the insecurity, the concerns for our health, wealth, jobs & family … did this in fact help us see the bigger picture? Do we feel the challenges that we face and the need for a bigger transformation than just getting back to our desk, the workbench and getting the kids back to school?

Did we fall hard enough to feel the overview effect?

I sense, that we are at the cusp of a new ground zero. If we can grasp the energy that was released in this transformational time, can we jointly apply it towards a better tomorrow and address what the world needs now and what future generations demand from us?

Transformation vs. Metamorphosis

What we need now is not a mere transformation but a metamorphosis of a bigger kind!

I have to admit, I have a personal aversion to the word transformation anyway, and especially digital transformation. I am very much for progress and modernization but, if you ask me, the term digital transformation is the investment & innovation lockdown of the industries over the last 20 years. Lots of industry and government services should be more digital since decades. A deer in the headlights looking at shiny objects from the IT industry that was never really important enough to be on the CEO agenda during the past decades. The C-DO of the decade is C-ovid-19. Pardon my frustration here, but we see now with this special Corona-lens, that platform players like Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Alibaba, Tencent or Baidu are winning exponentially. Computers started in the sixties, the internet launched commercially in 1993, but the digital transformation initiatives of the past years are a slow paced catch-up programme but with a fancy name. Oh, so modern…

Reality check: schools are not digital, education is at a crossroad. Tesla’s market cap is bigger than all German automobile companies combined. Zoom is more worth than all American Airlines plus a few Europeans as well. Elite universities are zooming online as Prof. Galloway predicts their demise and someof us a calling for an EU–Marshall plan for training & education.

At the same time, Silicon Valley is doubling down on progresss: Twitter announced that their people can continue to work from home indefinitely, Facebook wants to follow suit and to hire more talent outside of their HQ. Amazon declared to invest in becoming the first vaccinated supply chain globally: “Amazon’s $4 Billion Coronavirus Investment Will Shred Its Competitors”. That is equivilant to the current $4BN market cap of Lufthansa!

What is going on?

Transformation means to go from one thing to another. Metamorphosis is to transform from one thing, into something greater. Metamorphosis (Greek word meaning transfigured — meta/after — morphosis/beautiful form) describes the conversion process from caterpillar to butterfly. But this is a very interesting process. You see, the slimy caterpillar of no particular beauty, crawls along the ground until eventually entering it’s temporary prison. The chrysalis, or cocoon. It resides alone and in darkness, not knowing what lay ahead. But when the time is right, it emerges as a beautiful winged Monarch Butterfly. Not merely a transformation, but a beautification … a metamorphosis.

Justin Taylor

We ain’t see nothing yet.

The big metamorphis has started and you, me, we — especially in Europe — have to decide on where we go from here.

We seen the writing on the wall. We know the challenges. We have seen solutions, ideas and innovators pushing for the next wave of new business models, triple bottom line and circular economy plus the United Nations’ SDGs. A declaration of grand challenges for mankind and the napkin sketch for any business savvy entrepreneur: the UN SDGs — especially solving climate change — is not only a multi–trillion Dollar business, according to the UN, but a blue print to save the blue marble!

Well, here is where the trick is in the details.

We are in this slimy gue-stage of the metamorphosis. The messy part. The state where all the data is there, the cards are on the table the building blocks are ready. But there is no design spec, actually no blue print for this new house but just the delivery of the bricks. We have to take the right turns, put the theory to the test and start envisioning how this new phase is working out. The house is still on fire, but the rescue team is on site. The tools are there, the urgency has never been greater… well now, who is in charge?

If we wait for the maestro-architect to appear and help us exude the confidence and roll out the plan that we need to follow and take the first brick according to plan … we will be disappointed.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Alan Kay

We, you and me have to take the first brick to build! It’s up to everyone to be part of the solution. From today on, we all have to be futurists, envisioning how we want to live and how to secure the breath of this planet for future generations. There is no higher power that has the blue print. We! have to pick up the shovel and do our part to become the co-creators of our desirable futures.

Power of Imagination

Guy Kawasaki famously evangelized his startup ecosystem at Apple to let a hundred flowers bloom (admittedly stolen from Mao). He encore ideas, imagination and going with the flow of innovation to find new markets, new meaning in technology for customers, that might not be the intended use case.

Now is the time to let a million butterflies rise.

Photo: DRZ, Unsplash

This is the new ground zero, or nicer — a spring of new ideas and a rise of new imagination. A cross-pollination opportunity to push ahead towards the new normal within our planetary boundaries.

What we need now is all the energy to push out of the cocoon stage into the light. Butterflies metamorphed into the next reality, new paradigms and new markets.

Are you still in the cocoon stage? OK, good. Stay a bit longer, think hard if you want to put your energy into the next big thing or a 5-min faster pizza delivery app. Please dream bigger! Don’t waste your talent on the business model of the caterpillar. You will not go back, you can stay and linger or you can go onward. This is the time to envision, dream and develop your moonshot idea. Get into the trajectory of the new era, don’t cling to the past.

Here is where the speed of change in startups is the unfair advantage vs corporates. Use the nimble team, brainstorm into the future and be the architect of your future (well our desirable future, please!).

The times of crisis and change have always been the creative hotbeds for new startups, services and new generations of products. Economies came back with new leaders after a big push back. This is your time!

Google accelerated and went IPO in 2004 after the dot.com crash and 9/11 shocked the world. Tesla was founded 2003, and it now light (6) years ahead of the competiton of Toyota and Volkswagen. SpaceX was even founded 2002, and is now bringing US astronauts to space from American soil. While Tesla took 17 years to sell less than a million cars a year — it is the undeputed king of software in electric cars. On the other hand, selling 10 million cars a year does not make you the undisputed leader in the cars industry, especiually if your new electric cars are stuck with a software glitch that prevents you to get into the market, as VW is experiencing it with the new ID.3 model as well as the new Golf 8 software. Get out there now and plan your marathon with the latest technology understanding and the aim for the right thing in mind.

This is the time to dive into green tech. We saw already exciting clima-tech startups in hydrogen, climate metrics, new mobility or energy storage. Add the #GreenNewDeal of the European commission to the mix plus the new R&D budgets of the €100 billion Horizon Europe programme and you got your self the next big wave to ride (in startup terms) or better: the opportunity to drive your triple bottomline to align profits, people and planet.

Use your imagination, the writing on the wall, the data, the urgency and your passion to get us of this lockdown. Peek out of your cocoon and become a butterfly and take on the challenge of your moonshot that we all need to bring home before this decade is out in 2030.

Moonshots for Desirable Futures

Fifty-nine years ago, on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy gave a historic speech before a joint session of Congress that set the United States on a course to the moon.

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

JFK, 1961

It was a time of crisis, a challenge about the new world order, the building of a wall and hard-hitted political superpowers using their might about inching forward towards making their nation the greatest … while the young generation went out to the streets. Sounds familiar?

The sixties were also the foundation of a decade of flower-power and a new countercuture that gave also birth to the design-genius of Steve Jobs, the rise of demin, Elvis, The Beatles and the hippie-bus — icon of the new culture.

🦋

Now, a new era begins to build beauty during the big metamorphosis.

This is your time!

P.S. Richard Brautigan’s poem, “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace,” was a beautiful epitome of the sixties, where technology was still a utopian dream and “back to nature” a new theme (excerpt):

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

But we talk about the trust into machines watching over us with loving grace another time 😉

P.P.S. this is a time stamp in our time machine. How will we feel when we re-read this in 2030?