Please tell us a little about who you are and what drives your commitment to the planet.

I’m the CEO of Future Leaders Global. We’re a leadership community that wants to build a thriving world based on responsible action. We have a lot of different problem spaces right now with sustainability, political upheaval, and inequality in the world. 

The core of the question I’m always looking at is: ‘What is the future I want, and what is the future that I fear?’ Right now, when I do that exercise or when we do that in our programs at Future Leaders Global, the same thing comes up. We’re on the trajectory to the future that we all fear, where people are not happy, where they’re stressed, where they’re burned out, where we don’t know if we will have enough resources in the future to live a good life. And then the future we all want is based on community, doing meaningful work, and living on a healthy planet.

All of that supports my drive for the work that I’m doing. My personal curiosity comes from being an innovation manager by training. I studied innovation management. There is a natural inclination towards thinking about improving the future. With the challenges that we are having right now, we can also see them as amazing innovation opportunities and see how we can now build something that works better for all of us.

What are your thoughts on the future of business and the importance of self-development, particularly regeneration, and leadership?

It ties back into that idea of what future we want. Three years ago, I was working with an organization called Singularity University. We were looking at how we use exponential technology such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and gene editing to solve different problems in the world. And I felt these technologies were mainly used for the next productivity gains, but we never really asked the systems question. And then, the whole sustainability field started to bubble up more than before, and I had to acknowledge that I didn’t really understand what sustainability meant and the big problem spaces in sustainability. So I started diving into that.

The sustainability questions we’re mainly asking right now are: ‘How do we reduce carbon emissions? How do we have less waste in the world?’ So it’s always about less of something. If I’m very blunt about it, that shit is still shit. How can we rethink that whole system? How can we build positive contributions? And that’s where regeneration comes in. Regeneration as a concept goes beyond sustainability and says we don’t only want to reduce things; we want to build something positive. 

We want to build positive feedback loops and a circular economy. We can talk about the doughnut economics concept by Kate Raworth to acknowledge the planetary boundaries we have right now. We can then think about positive business models and groups that contribute to reducing environmental damage and are doing something good in the world.

The leadership component is who is driving the action. Proactive leadership. Many people say, ‘But I’m not a leader. I can’t drive that change; I’m not relevant to that.’ We are all leaders if we decide to take action. Otherwise, we are managers. A manager has people responsibility, but that’s more about navigating organizational structures.

Leadership is about asking: ‘What future do I want to see, and how do I get there?’ And then, we need to develop these capabilities. For example, how do I co-create with others? How do I become aware of the biases I might have as a white male from Germany living in Copenhagen? How do I have the right tools to drive the change I want to see together with other people?

What makes you optimistic about the future of our planet and society? 

I see many people driving positive change in my work with different organizations, but predominantly with Future Leaders Global. First, we work with young people who go through a volunteer-driven community program where they understand how to become a leader, decide the future they want to create, and how to get there. The second part is we work with organizations where we help them with the same questions with a business focus.

It is astonishing to see how much people care. In the business space, but also young people are standing up and saying, we want to co-create the future, and we are not okay with what is happening now in politics and businesses. 

This year we have worked with many organizations that have started talking about the triple bottom line (measuring success in three key areas: profit, people, and the planet), implementing ESG strategy, and having a people focus in their organization. Five years ago, that wouldn’t have been a conversation. It gives me hope that we are on the right track for the future and can co-create the change we want to see together.

From our Fellowship applications, we see a younger generation that is proactive and optimistic about the future. But the challenges can be overwhelming. What advice do you have for people dealing with climate anxiety and who aren’t optimistic?

Anxiety can inhibit any action. It can be paralyzing for us. So I love to reframe anxiety into looking at how we can work towards that better future instead of becoming inactive. The worst thing that can happen with climate anxiety is that it becomes so strong that we don’t dare to do anything and just become depressed and do not even try. So instead, let’s funnel that into going for it. Let’s try to get to that future that we want to see. 

Why have you committed your time and energy to support the beVisioneers mission? 

In the last 200 years, with the industrial revolution, we felt we couldn’t control the future. There is a term called VUCA, short for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. The way capitalism has shaped the values of our society, we always try to control the outcomes for the future, and we can’t because we can’t predict the future. What we can do instead is co-create it and develop new ideas. So if we want to live a green, climate-positive, or planet-positive future, how do we work towards that?

Empowering young people, using momentum and agency, and building up innovators with concrete projects are super important. I love being part of that initiative, bringing people in with the right mindset and giving them the tools and opportunity to drive change. 

What advice would you give to aspiring, positive innovators? 

I have three points. The first one is to work on the right problem. Effective change drives the change that we want to see. Especially in the entrepreneurship space, many people are working on amazing ideas, but they’re not working on the right problem space. Innovators need to understand how their project ties into the bigger system and if it supports the vision they want to see in the future. That is crucial. Regeneration plays a big part in that. 

The second point is to be bold. Be strong in your narrative because we’re trying to go against many old systems. Many organizations will not be pleased about young people trying to disrupt the systems and build up a new system economically or socially. But we need to do it because what’s the alternative? Otherwise, we have all of these challenges with the climate crisis. Self-confidence in spreading the word and building that narrative is crucial.

The third point is to co-create. We don’t know what we need; we don’t know what we don’t know. We need to reduce our biases, leverage the wisdom of the crowd and co-create together across cultures, professions, and organizations. Ideate, get feedback from each other and iterate the solutions.

Where do you want to see the world in 2030? 

Big question. 2030 is not far away anymore, so that’s a crazy feeling. I would like to see that we’re all working in the right direction, in the direction of a regenerative future.

There are too many conversations and not enough action in politics, businesses, and among many people. There needs to be more challenge of underlying business models and systemic problems. I would love for us to work together and drive that change, going beyond asking: ‘Do we need to do something about the climate crisis?’ That is not a question anymore. We know we have to do something. So instead of stalling, how can we get together and acknowledge that the situation we’re in right now kind of sucks because it gives us uncertainty for the future.

How do we work together? What do we want to tackle? How do we want to live? And I want to emphasize that it’s not about just driving some action and going out there and just doing something. It has to also fit the right problem space, only then is it going to be effective. So spend a bit more time thinking about what the problem space is and getting input before driving action, but once that is clear, go all in. I would love to be in that kind of place in 2030.

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