Steve Hedley, CEO, discusses the need for hope, optimism and courage when working out how to solve the world’s problems
“Yes, we can.” Obama said it, Nike trade on it, Coaches coach it and all optimists believe it. I was called an optimist last week, and yes, I am. For me, a life without hope is no life at all. It reminds me of the story – the pessimist says “things can’t get any worse” and the optimist says “oh yes they can!”
It doesn’t matter what the issue or situation is, problem solving seems to follow the same pattern – hope provides a solution which then turns into a plan and in fruition this is largely lifted out of the arena of hope. It’s those situations where I struggle for a solution. What I have realised is that it is exactly this struggle which requires the most hope – it requires learning, understanding, philosophy and logic and ultimately belief that there is a solution – hope.
When Jimmy Carr told friends he was going to be a comedian he said that they laughed at him, ‘well’, he said ‘they’re not laughing now!’. It’s true that I have laughed at people in the past who have said they will end homelessness, it always seemed like such an incredible claim, like stopping dependency on oil or ending war or achieving peace on earth. Yet solutions for all of the world’s biggest problems do exist and they are all surprising simple; talk, listen, love; let go, forgive, celebrate and cooperate.
I was asked a question recently that, embarrassingly, I have never asked myself, “What would it take to put a roof over everyone’s head in the UK?” It took me two hours, a little research and a spreadsheet to come up with an answer … so that was easy, what’s next, hunger, poverty? Obviously it’s not that simple. Numerically there is an answer though: £7bn, 36,000 empty homes and 10 years (adjusted for inflation). It’s not the maths that’s the problem, it’s the willingness to do what needs to be done.
It seems now more than ever people are more interested in their purpose and their life having meaning. We’ve moved on from simply being satisfied with making money, we are seeing a purpose economy develop where big business will have to align their brand with social outcomes or risk losing market share and the best recruits. It’s these new leaders who care more about society than salary and who will have the courage to take the big decisions to solve the world’s biggest problems.
John Kennedy said he would put a man on the moon in 10 years, and he did, even though at the time they didn’t have the technology. We need courageous leaders who, in spite of the barriers, will set bold deadlines to achieve daring dreams – how does 10 years to put a roof over everyone’s head in the UK sound?