To Succeed in the 21st Century, Leaders Need to Apply 'Exponential Thinking'

I just returned from Singularity University hosted by Jim Gianopulos, Chairman & CEO, Fox Filmed Entertainment at Fox Studios. Leading technologists and life science innovators such as Craig Venter, Founder, Chairman & CEO, JCV, and Dr. Dan Berry, Co-Chair Al & Robotics, among others, presented their most recent findings to captains of industry, entrepreneurs, and inventors. These are all prominent leaders in their respective fields. Many who attend, myself included, feel like we are drinking from the firehose of exponential thinking. What is that you ask?

Let me explain. Exponential thinking is the discipline that Singularity University founders Ray Kurzweil, author of Singularity is Near, and Peter Diamandis, author of Abundance, teach to incorporate the rapid development of technologies in industry and science. Exposing leaders in industry and innovation to understand the great potential we have at our command today is critical to their mission to improve the human conditions for the 7.2 billion people on earth.

It sounds like a lofty goal, but it is possible. Since there will be more progress in science and technology in the next two decades than there has been in the last 200 years, the exponential rate at which technology is changing gives us the tools for advancing the health and well-being of mankind at rates never before seen. So you see, exponential thinking "math."

Here's the reason I love to attend these sessions, which I sometimes refer to as a candy store for the mind. They really give me insight into how technologies and science are developing. For example, I learned about 3-D printing from Ping Fu, the Founder and CEO of Geomagic, a 3-D printing company, who is also a Springboard Enterprises alumna, who recently sold her company to 3-D Systems. It is great to listen to Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems, talk about all the industries incorporating 3-D printing into their manufacturing. Industries from aerospace to homebuilding, fashion to computers, rely on 3-D printed supplies.

But it is the idea of 3-D printed organs for human transplant that just blows me away. The impact they will have on people waiting anxiously for donor organs will be immense. When brought to market, this will be a giant step forward for humankind.

Who could not be inspired by Dean Kamen, founder and president of DEKA Research, when he shares his 15-year journey to bring portable water supplies and energy production to remote villages around the globe? He has teamed up with Mutar Kent, CEO of Coca Cola, to distribute these units to villages around the world. In doing this, Coca Cola expects to empower five million women to be entrepreneurs, providing both water and electricity to vast populations who previously have been without either. How inspiring is that!

So how do leaders bring exponential thinking to the work we do every day? For me, this means working with corporations on whose boards I sit, or guiding entrepreneurs to make sure they are going to succeed in the world of exponential growth. This is the challenge. I sit on the board of a successful apparel company. Is 3-D printing going to be incorporated into just in time manufacturing sometime soon? Or for my software board, how is the rapid movement to everything mobile going to impact the rate of change the company needs to master? For the more than 500 Springboard entrepreneurs that we have brought to market, are they adapting the newest technologies? Are they thinking far enough ahead of the curve to be relevant as they scale? What can I bring back to them that will guide them to create not only great businesses, but which will have positive impact on humanity in the decades ahead?

This is not only my challenge, but one for all business leaders, as we figure out how to incorporate the idea of abundant knowledge into practical life. Business leaders in today's world need to understand and respond to the speed at which technologies are changing our world.