Do you want to spend your life eking out barely better solutions to problems we’ve already solved?

What does it take to be selected as one of the world’s most influential management thinkers?  You think and write like Umair Haque.  Someone who freezes you in your tracks.  And makes you ponder deeply.  This man operates in rarefied air.  This is the second of his posts that I’ve come across from the HBR Blog Network.  Skip my excerpts below and bang on this link to read the full post: The Next Big Thing.

Perhaps we’ve gotten a little too seduced by the quest for the Next Big ThingWhile it’s certain there will be a next big thing…that will redraw the boundaries of productivity, efficiency, effectiveness — perhaps, the biggest thing we need to face next is us.”

“…Not “us” in the vague, internetzy sense of “the collective.” But “us” as in the even more imprecise, yet razor-sharp sense of what pulses through you and me when we feel most alive; what ripples gently through us, when we feel alone, hurt, small, afraid, taut with grief. The stuff that makes us us: not just well-behaved, obedient, productive atoms in the economic world, but feeling, thinking, doing, living beings in the human world.”

“…If you want to reduce it to a caricature, then sum it up thus: “the next big thing is meaning; mattering; the art of human significance”.

“…There are existential questions searing every human life, burning billions of times through every second — and while five seconds of either reality TV or cable news might suggest they’re trivial, disposable, or superfluous, they are what give us, in the brief moments we enjoy here, a sense of imperative.”

“… I do offer the heretical proposition that the highest purpose of human life isn’t merely turning disposable diapers into designer diapers, but, fundamentally, to discover a sense of possibility, to expand the boundaries of human potential, to earn and offer one another that which means something. And in that case, the first great concern isn’t how we organize — for surely there are infinite permutations to be explored — but why we’re here: what, as a first approximation, elevates you and me in the human world. What makes us, in the dismal, clanking, haywire logic of the industrial age not merely productive, efficient, or effective — but searingly, painfully, achingly, enduringly, joyously human.”

“…Hence here’s a minor challenge. Unless you want to spend your valuable life painstakingly eking out barely better solutions to problems we’ve already solved which give us answers that fail to matter in the enduring terms of the questions which do, consider the following: If we’re going to reboot our institutions, rethink our way of work, life, and play, then what are we going to redesign them for?

Or, more sharply: what makes us human? One word, preferably.

Related Post: I don’t want a revolution. I want a million tiny revolutions…

Image Source: Thank you Seattle Inspired


  1. Wow! You’ve said a mouthful in this post. I prefer to keep it simple. Leave the big naive questions (Who am I? Why am I here?) for the young immortals. I just want to go through life having done good wherever I am. It can be in small ways every day.Kind of like erosion – until everything is smooth. Little kindnesses in every interaction every day. And above all, enjoy the short time I have on this earth.


  2. Giveback


  3. Perhaps it’s our ability to “inspire” others — like you do every day. Thanks for sharing this article — definitely worth reading in its entirety. Very thought-provoking.


    • I hope no one took my comment as meaning that I think you quote unquote inspire — I put the word “inspire” in quotes because it was my “one word.” I think that being able to “inspire” and “be inspired” (but that’s two words) is a unique and beautiful quality of being human.


  4. My first one word answer: PURPOSE, as in “What is the purpose of life?” My next one word answer: CONTROL, as in “How can we control the criminals in high places who want to control us for their own selfish purposes?”


  5. Wow – serious and terrific food for thought. I love this post David – this demands more thought (and I’m reblogging this on because I truly think that the more people who read this, will think about it too). At first blush, I think companies, firms, etc have to step back for a little while and re-define their values and purpose. Rather than re-inventing wheels that ultimately are no more round than the ones before – what do we care about as we move forward in this life? How does that resonate in the for-profit world? By paying it forward, infusing the workplace with an emphasis on quality production (of whatever) without compromising professional development, growth and community involvement? Gotta think some more and have to have more coffee…


  6. Reblogged this on Waiting for the Karma Truck and commented:
    I rarely re-blog, so you should know that when I do it’s because the post has quality content that prompts thought and consideration. No one offers this up better than David Kanigan’s blog Lead.Learn.Live – 🙂


  7. Alex Jones says:

    I got this neat cell phone that I like, I soon after have the same cell phone company trying to convince me to buy a better cell phone.


  8. David, your blog is once again very deep but thought provoking. If we have to reboot our existence, we have to redesign it so that we are in harmony with each other and the universe it self.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: