If you see how the world is improving more than we think, you can make it even better
We humans naturally distort our perspective of the world towards negativity and fear (just as I did in the previous post I wrote). This is why bad news, fake or real, always sells more than good news. Evolution has made us this way. The current parallels we see in our societies to the imaginary worlds of classic dystopian novels might alarm us, but despite the tragedies and conflicts we hear about daily, the world is actually improving more than we think.
In Peter Drucker’s Entrepreneurial Society vision from 1985, creating and renewing businesses became the new normal. Optimism reined as societal entrepreneurship unfolded. More than three decades later, entrepreneurs are modern-day heroes, and entrepreneurship is a hallmark of great companies and a popular subject of secondary and tertiary education. Few argue against Drucker’s wise counsel to focus on the behavior of people, the benefits of decentralization, respect for workers, the social responsibility of corporations, and need to draw management lessons from a range of disciplines.
The late physician and TED star presenter Hans Rosling used data to visualize human progress in compelling and entertaining ways. No matter how it is measured, he showed that humanity is progressing in terms of poverty alleviation, crime reduction, and improvements in health and education. Notwithstanding our many problems, the world is becoming a better place and we have helped improve it.
A year after Aldus Huxley’s book Brave New World was published in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law reforms that provided relief for the unemployed, boosted recovery in the US economy, and reformed the financial system to prevent another Great Depression. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the world has enjoyed tremendous growth since, despite a few financial crises. Even national economies and the Euro has recovered after the crises in PIGS countries (Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain). According to Carlita Perez, we are facing two to three decades of substantial entrepreneurial growth and Hans Rosling’s graphs are pointing at the world we are improving. Business and entrepreneurship have prospered, and the future seems promising for many.
Microsoft founder and mega philanthropist Bill Gates recently summarized why it is important to recognize how the world is improving:
It’s easier to accelerate progress if you know how far we’ve already come. If you don’t believe the world has improved, you’re more likely to look at a tragedy and think nothing can be done. But someone who knows how much progress is possible can look at a bad situation and say, “How can we make this better?”
Action points for managers:
- Help your leadership team see the glass half-full rather than half-empty.
- Encourage “factfulness” in everything said and done.
- Contribute to positive actions that help improve our common good and defeat the dystopic view.
 Drucker, P. 1985, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Harper & Row.
 Rosling, H., with O. Rosling and A. Rosling Rönnlund, 2018, Factfulness, Flatiron Books.