Chief Dreamer: A Businesses Case for Hiring Science Fiction Writers
I read quite a bit, but not much fiction — the exception being Science Fiction. Some favorites are the classics of Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Philip K Dick, Ramez Naam, Dave Eggers (Of course, one can argue The Circle is not Science Fiction; for me it is).
I also work at a large software company, and regularly hire people. I love to think ahead and innovate with various products within my company.
The hardest part of innovation features two key problems:
- Hiring the right people who can think from first principles
- Hiring the people who can imagine what the future will look like ahead of the crowd
Typically these are two sorts of people. One is obsessed with execution and details, and the other is a dreamer. To be an innovative organization, you need both types of employees.
Innovation is an act of meticulously dreaming as well as executing. These two activities have to go hand in hand. Innovation also has to make business sense, and meet customer needs.
This is a complex balance to achieve. There are a lot of people who can execute flawlessly the process of understanding the problem, breaking it down to the fundamental blocks, rethinking the solution, and building back the fundamental blocks.
However, what we lack in some of our workplaces are the dreamers. The kind of people who can think far ahead in the future on a human scale, and dream about what is needed not today, or tomorrow, but 100 years ahead. Some exceptional people have both skills, and are familiar, household names like Jobs, Musk, Gates …
Why hire somebody to just dream — after all, it’s not affecting the bottom line of companies — or is it?
If a company needs to move ahead in its’ market, over a period of time, it strives to become a leader. What’s next? There could be critical innovations at the fundamental layers of the software, but in spite of all this, the product or company stalls in that field/arena.
This is when dreamers are most required (of course they are required at the beginning, too). Dreamers have the ability to see far into how the function can pan out. Maybe the function would die, transform, and reform. Maybe how humans behave changes completely. This type of planning requires a certain discipline to dream and construct compelling stories.
Who better to do this than Science Fiction writers?
These writers can inspire engineering teams, draw visions of the future for management to make better decisions, and inspire customers and the public.
To hire these kinds of people, management must have the will and vision to want to see far ahead, rather than looking at bottom and top lines alone.
Hiring such people may sound like a risky proposition, but without the dreamers, the doers might never achieve the fullest potential measures of success.
Perhaps it’s time to have a Chief Dreamer.