There’s a long list of traits prevalent in the explorer, people that are naturally inclined to overcoming challenges and seeking new discoveries in any field, place or time. Those traits that stand out for me are the joy of mastering new skills or knowledge, an insatiable desire for uncovering truth and new things and stoic perseverance.
No matter how you define it, you sense whether you have it from an early age. I remember as a little boy, wondering the savannas of Southern Africa where I grew up, feeling like Livingstone even though I was only in open fields (veld as its called) immediately surrounding my home. In the early days few houses had been built where I lived and it was more savanna than suburb.
And far from new lands, wild animals and indigenous peoples it was ants nests, puddles with tadpoles spawning, old ruins and early constructions of the new house being built in the twilight hours, after the builders had left for the day, that I was exploring.
I spent hours there. In the holidays it stretched into days.
The joy and thrill I felt has never left me and I know I am not alone in this feeling.
It has guided me in everything I have done since. Leaving the country of my birth to explore London with my new wife a month after we married. A changed career from advertising to technology supported by new studies there. Again leaving for new lands, this time The Netherlands, for new work opportunities and to build a family, three wonderful children all born there. Then after 7 years, back to the UK starting my own business which I ran successfully for a similar time period. Since then it has been forging new paths in customer success management, in itself a new career type.
Being an explorer is part nature part nurture. From a work point of view, my experiences transcended into making me an accidental intrapreneur.
I’m not sure we (as workers) have a choice any more.
I remember reading an article back in 2013 by John Hagel, John Seely Brown, Tamara Samoylova called Unlocking the passion of the Explorer.
It resonated powerfully with me. It captured the essence of what I was and how I approached things. I’m an explorer. I’m passionate.
It captured beautifully the era we live in and the shift we are undergoing, especially in the world of business.
In my mind, the shift refers to the transition between the industrial era into the one we are now in, the digital era.
The Digital Era
Digital explorers have advantages over our industrial era forebears. In the digital era, things can be measured more easily (response and feedback loops are immediate and traceable). It’s all manifested through data. Insights are the outcomes you achieve once you have sifted the data tea leaves. The digital world is more open to more people and experimentation is rife. Experience is more malleable and accessible to more people.
Digital explorers can learn more quickly by doing. They create meaning as they experience. They are data driven and entrepreneurial. They learn from and are driven by others like them who share their learning openly.
Oh what a joy to be a digital explorer 🚀
I put this daneldoodle together to characterise some of the different traits I think are important. Other than the traits needed, whatever you think they may be, the one other factor that you need to consider is speed and agility.
So get cracking fast or face extinction. Being a digital explorer has to be a given in today’s business world if you want to be successful.
And build the capabilities of the explorer that will allow you to discover your place in the next era.
The Next Era
As the industrial era ended, so too will the digital era.
We are well into the digital era and feeling the early impact of the next era.
The next era will be characterised by intelligence, automation and creativity.
The intelligence will be artificial. The automation will be machine led.
The creativity will be human led.
Explorers of all era’s but even more so in future, will have to rely on their imagination, their passion, their humanity and most importantly, their creativity. Things machines are not great at.
I’ve written more about that here: The post robotic AI age and the role of creativity and innovation