Thinking Like a Paranoid Optimist

Thomas Friedman described himself as a “paranoid optimist” at Convening Leaders 2013. Photo by Jacob Slaton Photography.

When New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman spoke Wednesday at Convening Leaders 2013 about what it will take to survive in a hyperconnected, hypercompetitive world, he described a global shift from the three Rs to the three Cs — critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.

So it’s fitting that as Assistant Editor Sarah Beauchamp and I were pooling our notes after Friedman’s talk, Nicole Cozier, an account executive at Kuoni Destination Management in Washington, D.C., overheard us and offered to email her own notes from Friedman’s talk from her iPad.

The following list — minutely crowdsourced by Nicole, Sarah and I —  includes five ways of thinking that Friedman recommended we adopt in order to successfully navigate 21st century realities:

1. Think like a new immigrant. New immigrants are non-complacent and passionate about pursuing opportunities.  And all of us, Friedman said, are immigrants in the globally networked world.

2. Think like an artisan. In the preindustrial world, artisans made one-of-a-kind products, and created them with so much pride that they carved their initials into their work. We should do the same: produce work of such quality that we want to metaphorically carve our initials into it at the end of the day.

3. Think like a start-up. Never think yourself as complete; always be in beta, constantly reinventing and redefining your role and what your bring to the table.

4. PQ+CQ > IQ. A combined passion quotient (PQ) and curiosity quotient (CQ) trumps a high intelligence quotient.

5. Think like a waitress at Perkins Pancake House in Minneapolis. When Friedman and a friend had breakfast at his favorite restaurant, an enterprising waitress told Friedman’s friend, “I gave you extra fruit,” as she served his breakfast — and earned a 50 percent tip.

All of us, no matter what sphere we operate in, must deliver something extra, Friedman said. The days when being average was enough are over.

You’ll find full coverage of Friedman’s talk at Convening Leaders here.

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2 Responses to Thinking Like a Paranoid Optimist

  1. Joshua Ness says:

    Very nice! I think the artisan point is very true. Taking pride in good work is paramount! Wish I could have seen him live. Thanks for posting the video link!

  2. Thanks for stopping by Joshua. It was a great talk.

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