3 Ways to Expand Your Future
Previously published on Inc.com
By connecting with people who face hurdles similar to yours, you can vastly expand the possibilities for your own future.
Books about innovation fascinate me because they help me understand how
people come up with new, world-changing ideas. At the top of my pile is
Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From
In it, he talks about the ‘adjacent possible’ -- a sort of shadow
future that is just at the edge of today’s present and offers immense
Think of it like this: You are standing in a room with four doors. You
open and walk through each door, and on the other side is another room
with three more doors. As you open door after door, entering room after
room, you will soon find yourself in a room that you did not have access
to from the room where you started.
That’s your adjacent possible.
You can’t see it today. You can’t get to it today, at least not
directly. But you can get there. The reward for doing so is access, not
only to a wealth of new ideas, resources, expertise and opportunities
you would have never known were available, but also to a world of people
who are eager to learn from your experiences and teach you about things
you know nothing about.
The most successful executive and
entrepreneurs I know understand this model. So when I work with my
clients, I push them to think about and explore how they can open lots
of doors and tap into their adjacent possible as often and as broadly as
How can you do that? Here are three steps everyone can take:
Begin by convening and collaborating with those people within your
own organization who are tackling other parts of the same challenge that
you are. Identify like-minded individuals and invite them to lunch or
organize a call to explore the idea of knowledge-sharing on a regular
- Build your personal network by identifying others
outside your company who share the same job title as yours or who are
facing a similar next hurdle in their company or their career
progression. LinkedIn is a great tool for this. Ask for a call, meeting,
or get together at an upcoming trade show or industry event. Build a
connection and agree to collaborate or share ideas whenever possible.
If you are tackling a big challenge (clean water, global poverty,
technological advancement), convene those in your industry, including
those at competitive organizations. Set a simple agenda of sharing what
your organization is learning and ask others to do the same. This sort
of co-opetition model will help everyone expand their adjacent possible
and create a more robust set of solutions for the entire industry.
matter what issue, challenge, project or initiative you are working on,
you are not alone. There are always others in your wider ecosystem if
you begin to open the door to those possibilities. But you need to open
the first door.
What will you do this year to connect with those in your ecosystem and broaden your own adjacent possible?
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