Author Q&A with Yancey Strickler: Time to Start Thinking about the Future

Yancey Strickler explains the importance of people in a financially-driven society and culture.

This Could Be Our Future is a book that not only excites and rallies us to create a better society and future for all, it’s a must-read for all business leaders as we head into 2020. We’ve been living in a world that is increasingly focused on the bottom line and profits that benefit only the top echelon of CEOs and employers. In Yancey’s new book, he talks about his experiences at Kickstarter and how these principles can be applied to our culture and society today in order to improve not only our current lives but the lives of future generations.

 

We absolutely loved your book and believe it should be on the top of everyone’s list of books to read.  When did you realize you had a book on your hands that needed to be shared with the world?

It happened the very first time I shared its ideas—back in 2014 at a tech conference called Web Summit. I was the CEO of Kickstarter then and was expected to use my speaking slot to talk about the platform. Instead, I talked about the challenging context that we all lived within: a world where we believed that the correct choice in every decision was whichever option makes the most money. I was extremely anxious to share these ideas, but they ended up resonating strongly with the audience, and a transcript of the talk went nerd-viral online a week later. That told me that I’d found a way to make something that’s very hard to see more tangible. I’ve been pulling on that thread ever since.

What’s the one thing you think other companies could learn from the example Kickstarter has set as a Benefit Corporation?

Balancing a financial goals approach with a non-financial goals approach is far from crazy—it’s how businesses have been run for most of human history! The best businesses balance their own financial sustainability by providing a non-financial benefit to the public. It’s what defines market leaders in almost every category, and yet the business dogma of today says the whole point of a business is to maximize profit. This is a mentality we’re in the early stages of evolving beyond.

You are so right in your assessment of the shift in our societal values, and how we’re much more focused on financial gains and personal maximization.  What’s the best thing we can do in today’s world to change this back to a values-oriented society?

I think many people can feel that we’ve gone off course. The United States is the most profitable country on Earth during the most profitable period in human history, and yet 43% of Americans today cannot afford their bills each month. The dissonance between those two facts is stunning. What we’ve lacked is a language to talk through this challenge, and an idea of what we should work towards instead. This Could Be Our Future introduces the concept of Bentoism as a way of expanding our self-interest and what we think of as being rationally valuable. I am convinced that expanding how we view our self-interest and what’s valuable is the key to continued human progress.

When did you turn to Bentoism to begin reshaping your thinking and decision making?

A year ago I had the eureka moment when the idea for Bentoism came to me. I was considering this question about defining our self-interest when I had this flash of insight: we were restricting our idea of self-interest to what we want and need right now, ignoring the needs of the future and our obligations to each other. This is why our society is richer than ever and yet we’re struggling to respond to the climate crisis, loneliness and depression are at all-time highs, and so on. We’ve trapped ourselves with a limited perspective. Bentoism is an attempt to break that open once again.

Do you think the widespread adoption of Bentosim and this kind of thinking is essential for us to pivot from our society’s financial maximization mindset?

Whether Bentoism is the exact tool or framework is less important to me than a growing understanding that our self-interest and the spectrum of rational values are bigger than we think. What we want and need right now is the most immediate form of our self-interest, but it’s not the end of the story. Similarly, financial value is the first value we’ve learned to rationally define and grow, but it’s not the last. Just as our ancestors did, it’s our responsibility to keep pushing forward the human experience, seeking ways to better it for generations to come. Making the needs of the future a core part of our thinking is the best thing we can do for future generations.

What’s the single most important thing you believe adults can do today to help the next generation?

Consider our decisions not just through the prism of what we want right now, but to play out the future implications of our choices. This sounds like a tall order, but it’s just like anything else: with practice and muscle memory, it becomes second nature.

Is there anything else you’d like to share or leave with us today?

The world is not as solid as we think! My big takeaway from cofounding Kickstarter was a feeling of shock that three people could propose an idea (as Kickstarter and crowdfunding were) and it could become real solely by other people choosing to believe in it. We mistake the status quo for not just how things are, but how they’re supposed to be. It’s not. Our capacity to affect change and evolve our communities and society at large is way bigger than we realize.

 

Thank you, Yancey, for giving us a deeper look into This Could Be Our Future! To order copies of this book for your organization, visit our website.

 

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This post was written by Karlyn Hixson, Sales Director at BookPal.  She is currently reading The Iconist by Jamie Mustard.

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