This piece was originally published on the Frost & Sullivan New Product Innovation & Development newsletter. A big thanks to Patricia Jacoby for editing and feedback.

The “never” normal, the age of disruption, late-stage capitalism, VUCA world: our era is not lacking in labels, nor in excitement. The apocryphal “Chinese” curse definitely applies: we’re living in interesting times. If you’re a median manager, you’ve spent most of your life in a stable, democratic country, as part of an educated elite; you may have seen true disruption on the TV, but you’ve been continuously shielded from the worst effects of it…


I’ve written about the resurgence of morality in economic and business thought. It’s a crucial and long-overdue evolution in our social mindset, and by and large, I welcome and embrace the growing body of work and discourse on the topic. However, as the meme spreads and evolves, it becomes increasingly slippery, and too much of the present conversation is dangerously close to throwing out the baby of hard-won economic and systems wisdom with the bathwater of our dysfunctional current system. Thus, today more than ever, leaders and thinkers need to relearn and apply the lessons of history: the Law of…


We now have the will to invest in service of ourselves and the planet. The establishment’s slowly taking note of it

Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen’s most recent article has been making the rounds with a bold premise: it’s time to build. The Western world, and the US more specifically, have been systematically under-investing across all sectors of the economy. Both the private and the public sectors have been failing to allocate the fantastical surplus of economic growth into productive investments at home that would enable continued prosperity and welfare — preferring instead to spend on wars, bailouts, trade wars, dividends, share buybacks, and other money sinks.

Andreessen argues that this — a monumental failure of social choice — is at the…


For many people these days, it’s hard not to feel like the end of times is at hand. Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion have brought extreme climate concerns into the mainstream, big-time. Global catastrophe and the collapse of civilization have made the leap from fringe to commonplace so quickly that the new talk is about “climate trauma” and “climate grief” — coming to terms with the impending apocalypse — as well as the “courageous” wartime measures supposedly necessary to survive it. …


“We are as gods and have to get good at it.” — Stewart Brand

The system that learns to see itself

We are deep into the age of cybernetics. It started with a set of subtle but persistent ideas that were gleaned as early as the 17th century — notably by Thomas Hobbes, André-Marie Ampère (the first to use the term “cybernétique”), Erasmus Darwin, Alexander Humboldt, Samuel Butler, among others — before being brought forcefully into the mainstream with the emergence of computers, telecommunications and systems theory. Thanks to thinkers like Herbert Simon, Peter Drucker, Donella Meadows, and Friedrich Hayek, the ideas of cybernetics rapidly crossed over…


Imagine a group of people with a reasonably large amount of resources woke up tomorrow and decided to solve some of our big problems. For the sake of argument, let’s say that they’ve landed on the following goal: Reduce atmospheric warming and ocean acidification to within certain levels, while minimizing the loss of human lives and ensuring economic prosperity. Let’s call this “saving the world”. What is the best way for this group to achieve their goal?

Obviously, this is not a hypothetical scenario. There are many well-meaning and competent organizations out there, whether governments, corporations or non-profits, devoting substantial…


In Towards a theory of superminds, I describe a theory of collective intelligence based on the active inference framework pioneered by Karl Friston. As required by active inference, that theory implies that all collectives (such as teams and organizations) operate on the basis of an implicit collective model of the world — which provides them with the ability to make sense of observations and to predict outcomes of alternative courses of action (“policies” in Friston-speak).

If we buy into the theorem that any Markov blanket (causally atomic subsystem) can always be described as performing some form of approximate active inference…


The California superbloom of 2017. (RMFstock / Alamy Stock Photo)

After writing “Business, management and strategy in the new paradigm”, I realized I’m really talking about a “sociotechnical operating system”, one founded on the principle of openness. Where the “old OS” is about carefully controlling the environment (internally via organizational silos, externally via competitive moats) to extract value, the “new OS” is all about giving up that (illusion of) control and embracing the positive externalities of exchange.

Of course, that view is heavily shaped by my experience in the software industry: like most people in that field (and many in adjacent ones), I have been a beneficiary of the open…


The recent statement from the Business Roundtable to “redefine the purpose of a corporation” vindicates those who have long advocated a new paradigm of business and management. Although tentative and fuzzy on the specifics, the statement is a giant step for a movement that until very recently was described as “fringe”. Now it is no longer a question of whether a new business and economy are seriously conceivable, but what this new model will look like, when it’s coming, and how to bring it into life. Some call it “conscious business”, but that doesn’t capture the full spectrum of what…


I have always wondered about our willingness to think of business and markets as amoral, leading to predictable and repeated conflicts between those who consider that a good thing and a bad thing. Of course, the practical success of our economic system in generating prosperity for the vast majority of people on the planets is undeniable; but I’ve always felt that the repeated waves of critics, from Malthus to Marx to Greta Thunberg, have their pulse on an undercurrent of anxiety that is legitimate, even if their analysis and solutions are often sorely mistaken.

In particular, with industry’s failure to…

Rafael Kaufmann

Product Operations at Google. Past lives: entrepreneur, CTO, consultant, mathematical physicist. Building the global mindmeld. Contact info at http://rkauf.me

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