Radical Realism: a Political and Leadership Philosophy?

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This summer, When Millennials Rule, will be published (Full disclosure: the authors are my sons, David and Jack Cahn). They focus is on identifying their generation’s values which affect their political and other choices. In it, they refer to Radical Realism – their generation’s political philosophy of facing reality and accepting nuances rather than aligning with ideologies that tend to paper-over them. (Spoiler alert: for instance, Millennials are in favor of people’s access to arms tempered by gun control which eliminates inappropriate (weapons of destruction.)

As I work with business leaders, who confront an increasingly VUCA world (e.g. Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous), it occurred to me that they are focused on facing reality by addressing nuances and inherent conflicts. At the economic level, it might mean protecting shareholders’ desire to maximize profits, by keeping revenues earned outside the United States off-shore, so as to avoid paying the US’s high corporate tax rates (e.g., tax inversion), rather than investing them in ventures with greater growth-producing opportunities. At the employment level, it’s the challenge of whether to hire people full-time, or engage people using the gig economy. For small businesses focused on growth, it’s the tradeoff that needs to be made between expanding by hiring people, but risking immediate loss of profits through hire employee-related benefits

As the world gets more complex, we’re all making more of these tradeoffs. Indeed, a study by IBM of 1500 executives in 2012 found that the biggest challenge that they faced was complexity; and that most felt they had not received sufficient training to prepare them for it. It may be that Baby boomers have been entering tis world gradually – like the frogs in a pot where the water is being heated gradually toward boiling, while the Millennials experience is that they are being “dropped” into hot water: thus forcing them to face the reality now.

While the book gives politicians insights into how they can better appeal to millennial voters, today’s corporate leaders might also consider how their companies should adapt to the millennial workforce.

What do you think Share your thoughts?