Given my interest both in leadership and the futures, A Transformation Journey to Creative And Alternative Planetary Futures (Motti, 2019; Cambridge Scholars Publishing) caught my immediate attention. Futures and leadership are implicitly interwoven throughout this book. While I would have loved to see “the complexity of leadership” more explicitly being addressed and discussed, Victor only does so briefly in his description of the final leg of this fascinating journey. However, Victor’s book certainly offers a roadmap to leadership scholars and practitioners alike.
But let’s start at the beginning of Victor’s story and of his journey!
This book is as much about a journey to planetary futures as it is a book about Victor. To emphasize this personal approach, I will refer to “Victor” rather than to “Motti” or “the author” throughout the remainder of this review.
Victor V. Motti is a quadrilingual international writer, speaker and foresight consultant. Having been elected to the Board of the World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF) in 2013, the same year he received the WFSF President’s Outstanding Young Futurist Award, he now serves as the Federation’s director (WFSF, n.d.). A few years ago, Victor decided to walk the talk of “fluid identities” by changing his name from Vahid V. Motlagh to Victor V. Motti.
In his book, Victor invites us to join him on his transformative journey through “seven valleys” (Chapters): 1) The Quest for Integration and Wisdom, 2) Love of the Decentralized and Hybrid, 3) Understanding the Only Habitat, 4) Disconnecting Humanity from Killing, 5) The United Shift of Asia, 6) Awesome Intelligent Environment, and 7) Dissolving in Complexity and Creativity. Covering a lot of interdisciplinary ground and climbing numerous conceptual peaks in an often-breathtaking pace – all on merely 101 pages of text – certainly is both one of the perks and perils of engaging with Victor’s book.
In Chapter One, the author invites us “to undertake…the quest for integration and wisdom”, which, he warns us, will not be “an easy task”. He proposes the following three key principles of futures consciousness: The future is not trivial, it has priority now, and it is open to critique. Therefore, he calls for the inclusion of “reliable scientific and artistic methods that can be communicated and shared…[as well as] various value systems on which to base these critical views” that are central to a transformative journey. Victor further proposes to replace the neo-liberal term of globalization by the more integrative and inclusive term “planetary era”. Finally, he suggests “integral wise strategies”, whereby we all maybe transformed to become “enlightened individuals [that] can then lead and pull the entire world to a higher and better level of integrated consciousness.
Chapter Two enters the “Valley of Loving the Stranger”. Victor first describes how “scientific contributions have redefined who and what we are”. He then discusses how artificial selection has replaced natural selection as driver of evolutionary processes. Artificial evolution might even enable humans to overcome the skin color bias by creating colorless humans and a “colorless identity”. Finally, Victor describes a planning exercise with several plausible scenarios, where xenophobia may be overcome through multiculturalism, education, mobility, or even “placeless brains”.
Exploring the “valley of understanding”, is the focus of Chapter Three. First, Victor stretches our brain by showing in mathematical detail how including weights in our assessment of alternative options, rather than relying on probabilities alone, will make seemingly impossible views of the future more likely. Adding systems thinking will allow us to perform the necessary “jump to a higher level of complexity, creativity, and progress”. To achieve that requires “the education of the next generation of social innovators and leaders” by developing the following character virtues: self-responsibility, discipline and commitment, transcendence [of one’s own ego], courage, hope and optimism, love, temperance/balance, and wisdom; the latter for allowing ethical decision-making about the future.
“Disconnecting humanity from killing” is an “absolutely necessary” step of this leap forward and the focus of Chapter Four leading us to the valley of a “world with zero violence, zero killing, and zero war”. While the prevailing stories suggest humans are natural born killers, Victor holds that “there is no firm evidence to support the idea” and that the “silent majority” of “supporters of world peace” need to speak up and help “maximizing planetary not-killing”. Given my own work on values, “values-oriented leadership”, and leadership for the future (Mengel, 2004; 2019; forthcoming; Mengel, Cowan-Sahadath, Follert, 2009), I was particularly intrigued by Victor’s reference to “Value-Focused Thinking (VFT)”; VFT frames a decision for action by the values and the existing alternatives.
In Chapter Five, we journey to the “United Shift of Asia. To avoid continuing “the region’s poor record on the democratic system of governance and the lack of social freedoms”, Victor proposes and describes how “applying the ‘What If Mechanism’ (WIM)” may help identify trend-breaking scenarios and opportunities; it may also help create a culture that is integral of Western and Eastern values and help overcome the current (perceived) dichotomy of individual achievements vs. communal progress.
The resulting potential of an “awesome intelligent environment” is described in Chapter Six. In this environment, “access to simulation [including “mixed reality and designed lucid dreaming”] will be an essential part of the future quality of life”. Further, Victor describes how the “Neuro Revolution” – brought about through technological or pharmaceutical advancements – may enhance aesthetic experiences and help “overcome some of the limits of human cognition”. Finally, Victor discusses how a “largely female world” and “a largely jobless world” may lead to “the Conceptual Age” and a “self-actualization economy” where “creators and empathizers…focus on design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning…rather than [on] the old …binary opposites” of female versus male, digital versus physical, heavy versus weightless, and artificial versus natural.
In the final Chapter Seven, Victor explores how the individual “should … ‘dissolve’ into a higher and richer state of being in a world characterized by more complexity and creativity”. Victor concludes that futurists (and futures-oriented leaders I would add) are required to holistically “observe and make-sense” of the complex world that we are part of and to “obtain and maintain a helicopter view, a meta coherence of all human knowledge”. Explicitly touching on the “complexity of leadership” brings this “journey to creative and alternative planetary futures” full circle. Futurists (and all engaging in the complex processes of leadership, I would again argue) “should discard prediction…and emphasize the line of alternative futures”; they need to develop their “futures literacy” (Miller 2018) and to have “an unquenchable sense of humor and delight in the absurd (Dator 2018)”. Finally, I agree with Victor in stating that “deluding ourselves that our ‘Plan B’ is moving humanity to a ‘Planet B’ [e.g., Mars] is not … a wise approach”; moving humanity to the next level of consciousness may – at least for now – be the better option. As I have recently concluded my own thoughts about leadership for the future, “while human settlements on Mars – and even human travels to Mars – might be ‘way out there’, considering and moving towards a highly dynamic, participative and multi-dimensional leadership model for the future is not” (Mengel, 2019, p. 27).
While we may not agree with every step Victor suggests and while some of the options presented may confuse or even irritate us, they all require serious consideration on our journey into the future. With Tom Lombardo, another leading futurist who wrote the inspiring preface to Victor’s book, I wish that reading about this journey may “provoke you to take your own constructive actions toward the creation of a positive future and help you to create some new planetary resonances”.
Dator, J. (2018). Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies. Retrieved from http://www.futures.hawaii.edu/.
Mengel, T. (forthcoming). Creative Connections: Fiction, Futures Studies, and Leadership (for the future). Proceedings of the Creative Connections Conference 2019 of the Atlantic Centre for Creativity.
Mengel, T. (2019). Leadership for the future: From Earth to Mars and back. Human Futures, September 2019 issue, p. 25-27. Retrieved from https://view.joomag.com/human-futures-september-2019/0922687001568174220
Mengel, T. (2004). From Responsibility to Values-Oriented Leadership – 6 Theses on Meaning and Values in Personal Life and Work Environments. International Network on Personal Meaning. Positive Living E-Zine. Retrieved from http://www.meaning.ca/archives/archive/art_responsibility_T_Mengel.htm.
Mengel, T., Cowan-Sahadath, K., & Follert, F. (2009). The Value of Project Management to Organizations in Canada and Germany, or Do Values Add Value? Five Case Studies. Journal of PM, 40(1), 28-41. doi:10.1002/pmj.20097
Miller, R. (2018). Transforming the Future: Anticipation in the 21st Century. London, UK: Routledge.
Motti, V. V. (2019). A Transformation Journey to Creative and Alternative Planetary Futures. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. http://www.cambridgescholars.com/a-transformation-journey-to-creative-and-alternative-planetary-futures
WFSF. (n.d.). Director. Retrieved
About the Author
Dr. Thomas Mengel, APF is a professional futurist, a writer, and a scholar of leadership studies. He has been facilitating learning around leadership and project management for over 30 years. His degrees are in theology, adult education and psychology, history, and computer science (minor in business administration).
Before joining academia, Thomas has held project management and leadership positions and worked as an entrepreneur and consultant in Europe and North America. His major focus is on the significance of motivation, values, and meaning in the context of leadership and leadership education, particularly in the context of futures studies and foresight.
Thomas is an active member of the International Leadership Association (ILA), the World Future Society (WFS), the World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF), and the Association of Professional Futurists (APF).
More detailed information about his publications and background can be found here.