almost all aspects of life. Or, as Heraclitus of Ephesus allegedly said
2,500 years ago, “change is the only constant.” That may or may
not have been true in ancient Greece. It certainly is the case today.
No one has thought more about the implications of accelerating
change for the work force in general and for the kinds of young
people I work with in particular than Gary Bolles, who is Chair for
the Future of Work at the Singularity University. Singularity is an
odd place. It doesn’t have a football team. It doesn’t even give
degrees. Instead, it helps prepare people to live in a world of constant and often mind-numbing change.
As Bolles sees it ( www.gbolles.com/speaking), to survive in
such a world, people will have to develop a new set of skills which
he sums up with the acronym, PACE which stands for commit-
ments to a lifetime of
• Problem Solving
We do some of that in the training programs we use with young
people, both inside and outside of the university. However, I am
not convinced that our Plan A jobs really call for PACE-equipped
people. Even worse, I’m convinced that PACE-oriented young
people will get frustrated by working for peacebuilding and
conflict resolution groups that don’t have accelerating rates of
change at the heart of their organizational DNA.
SOME NEW PLAN A/OLD PLAN B OPTIONS
So, now that I’ve depressed you about the state of our professional world, what should that new Plan A look like? What
are the alternatives young professionals could explore that
Craig and the others of us who have run those workshops
never find time to get to?
As I noted earlier, I have not (yet) practiced what I preach other
than in the first half of the final point. At age 71, I’m not likely (alas)
to have the opportunity to do so. But they do seem to be good
bets for today’s young people, and I can at least vicariously learn
something from their experiences.
Get an MBA (from the best schools)
If I were 31 or 41 and not 71, I would get an MBA from one of the
top business schools. Not because I want to get rich or love capitalism. Rather, some of the most creative new ideas for social
change and interpersonal relations are coming from B-schools,
especially those that have a D (design) school attached.
Over the last few years, I’ve learned more about peacebuilding and conflict resolution from the likes of Adam Grant, Amy
Edmondson, Sam Arbesman, Dolly Chugh, John Kotter, Clayton
Christensen, Peter Senge Jessica Wattman, Ravi Venkatessan,
Chip and Dan Heath, and Steven Johnson than I have from people who have those terms in their job descriptions. The bottom
line is simple. Many of today’s MBAs are being prepared for a
world of constant change. And, even without selling their souls,
their graduates can make enough money to send their kids to
Think Like a Start Up
This is actually something I should have learned in the 1980s
and first became a peacebuilding professional through the
Beyond War movement, led by men (and a few women) who
were in the first generation of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. I still
find myself drawing on what I learned in two ways, despite the
bad publicity some particularly avaricious startup executives and
their venture capitalist funders get these days.
First, startups have to be built around what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls a growth mindset. If you don’t want to
create a cool product and take it to scale, it isn’t worth thinking about the startup world. We peacebuilders often talk about
scaling our initiatives. It’s rare that we actually do something
about it. There are a few exceptions to that rule, such as Build Up
( www.howtobuildpeace.org), but it is no coincidence that several of its founders began their careers in corporate startups.
Second, I increasingly find myself suggesting to young people
who have adopted some aspects of startup culture that they
literally start up their own conflict resolution or peacebuilding
organization. This is not for everyone. In addition to Gary Bolles’
“E for empathy,” startups require an E for entrepreneurship,
which not all young people I work with are inclined to.
Build Up^ is a classic example of a peacebuilding startup.
When its founders first came together in 2013, next to no one
was thinking about the interconnection between peacebuilding,
technology, and the arts. Its small team of (then) four twenty
somethings did so. They have held five annual conferences
around the world, each of which has attracted a minimum of
250 people. It has raised money to have an annual fellows pro-
gram through which Build Up^ staffers mentor even younger
peacebuilders who live in conflict zones and have cool, scalable
projects of their own, most notably in Syria and Myanmar. It also
has an ongoing project in which it identifies potential extremists
in the United States on line and invites them into facilitated, long-
term dialogues with people from the “other side.”
There is no reason why today’s young people can’t emulate
Build Up^. After all, if they have gone to a school like Oberlin, they
will have been exposed to startup culture through campus incu-
bators that exist at every major undergraduate institution I know.
Build Up is a classic example of a
peacebuilding startup. When its founders first
came together in 2013, next to no one was
thinking about the interconnection between
peacebuilding, technology, and the arts.