The term “hyperthinking” represents the mindset needed to thrive in today’s world.
In a talk called “Forget thinking… try Hyperthinking,” Belgian entrepreneur Philip Weiss outlined the paradigm as it applies to modern communications.
Weiss is the author of HyperThinking: Creating a New Mindset for the Age of Networks and the founder of ZN Consulting. A former Chair of IABC Europe and member of TEDxBrussels, Weiss is this year’s speaker at the Corus Entertainment’s Distinguished Speakers Lecture.
The Black Swan Effect
For Weiss, the rise of social media is a clear case of the black swan spreading its wings.
The metaphor of the black swan applies to phenomena that defy all prediction and probability.
No one could have foreseen the growth of digital communications channels like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. It was inconceivable that a single search engine such as Google could know more details about us than our colleagues and loved ones. Yet, this is the reality of digital communications today.
Like the advent of the printing press, the use of social media has revolutionized the way we share information, educate ourselves, administer businesses and organize our lives.
To thrive in this environment, communicators need to do more than adopt tools. We have to do something that is inherently difficult: change our mental frameworks and perception.
To make a long story short, we need to engage in the practice of “hyperthinking.”
The Internet = Power
Hyperthinking is based on the premise that the Internet is an agent of change and mechanism of power.
For Weiss, having access to information is the single most important factor in gaining influence. And since the Internet is the largest source of information, it has the power to shape behavior.
He points to several global movements that have affected major change in the 21st century: the Arab Spring, England’s Broomstick Revolution, the discredited “KONY 2012” campaign and digital activism techniques employed by groups such as Greenpeace and Oxfam.
These tactics were dismissed at first because they broke the conventions of mass communications. They clashed with established institutions. They were makeshift, underfunded and disorganized. They didn’t employ large teams of staffers. Their key messages were spontaneous, often unscripted.
But this is what made them effective. By adapting quickly and employing a decentralized model, campaigns waged over the Internet eclipsed those employed by the mainstream media.
When it began to work, the world took notice. Movements like the Arab Spring can arise spontaneously because real people are sharing ideas online – and demanding change. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey, famously condemned Twitter as the worst thing to have happened to his nation.
The tools of mass communications now belong to everyone.
Our Education System is Broken
To communicate in the digital world, we must unlearn what we have been taught. Weiss asserts that our education systems are out of touch with present realities.
Conventional teaching methods were designed to train factory workers. They emphasize obedience, rote learning and routine. Grades are rewarded for memorizing logic. Students were trained to be great at following instructions.
The system is inherently averse to change.
Yet, today’s reality is marked by change. For Weiss, this contradiction is very often what prevents individuals from adapting, and businesses from growing. We fail to make the transition because we do not develop creative faculties.
Today’s world is much like the Internet - loud, unpredictable and unstable. In such an environment, creativity is not only favorable, it is a core survival skill. Without creativity, individuals don’t change. New ideas are unborn.
Reaching Our Potential
This is where hyperthinking comes in. Through his research, Weiss has developed a practical model that helps us adapt to change in business and in life.
There are four dimensions:
Let go of outdated perceptions. (That is hard.) One thing that can help is to look to the corporate sector. Companies like TED, Google and Apple didn’t fit into the “traditional business models.” They have proven to be successful nonetheless.
Be a “self-learner.” Do not rely on educational institutions, which are slow and reactive to new forms of knowledge. The pace of learning needs to be much faster today. It also moves in all directions.
Connect and engage with others – especially with those who are different from ourselves. The Internet is making this easier than ever.
Embrace the possibility of mistake or failure. Don’t be nervous about taking that risk. It takes many failures before success occurs. So the ability to act is your best chance at reach success.
This 2014 Corus Entertainment’s Distinguished Speakers Lecture was presented in partnership by MacEwan University, the University of Alberta’s Masters of Communications and Technology program and IABC Edmonton.