Signs are appearing that the old order is crumbling and a new era is dawning – an era in which swagger, bullying, and deceit are being replaced by humility, service and community. In other words we are witnessing our transformation from un-cool to cool – from unconscious to conscious beings. Some signs:
Apple Inc. The coolest company on the planet just became one of the un-coolest companies on the planet. Playing games with taxes, exploiting legal loopholes to save $3.5 billion in 2001 and $9 billion in 2012, by setting up a holding company that has no employees, no income and no fixed address, but owns the global assets of Apple, is clever, but it is not cool. The $17 million a day Apple saves in taxes may turn out to be very expensive because Apple’s revenues will now stall. Why? People don’t buy a company’s products just because they are brilliant, or the advertising is engaging. A company’s products and services represent how people think about them. A company’s character, integrity and capacity to inspire represent how people feel about them. People are equally concerned about how cool they feel a company and its leaders are, and this is a key factor in purchase decisions. Customers – and everyone else – watch a company to see if the messenger and the message are aligned, and when they are not, they bail. Tax dodging will be practiced less in future because in an era of transparency - the Internet – companies will be judged harshly for cheating taxpayers and this will be bad for business. Besides, we need the tax revenues to pay for the services we are all demanding.
America. President Obama has just made what may turn out to be an epochal announcement: America, he proclaimed, must change its approach so that it is no longer, “on a permanent wartime footing”. He argued that America should use drones more to protect us from terrorists, and service personnel should be used less often in foreign territories to resolve their disputes. It is time for America, he suggested, to back off from its self-perceived role as the world’s policeman and bouncer, and let countries sort out their own challenges so that America can devote more energy and resources to diplomacy, aid, and peacekeeping. Of course, change will not occur overnight, and there are many interests who will strive to foil this new direction, but if this path is followed, America will gain in international prestige, influence and reputation – because it will, once again, become the coolest nation on Earth.
North Korea: Rogue nations make us nervous. Across the globe, a few rogue states flout international law and protocols and therefore risk escalating violence. In the case of North Korea, only China has the persuasive influence needed to change that country’s policies. This week, The Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, told North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, through his personal envoy, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, “The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and lasting peace on the peninsula is what the people want and also the trend of the times.” The message to North Korea from China - get around the negotiating table with the United States and get rid of those nuclear weapons. And this has led to an unprecedented thawing of relations between the two countries.
In each of their different ways, these are signals that the old paradigm of doing whatever we feel like, without considering or caring for others, is no longer a “cool” way to be, and there is a steep price to pay for not becoming a conscious leader. Conscious leadership is the new cool.