Reflections from FutureTalks Arctic Expedition

End of August I went onboard an old vessel gathering a group of 100 engaged people from 42 countries in Svalbard, completely disconnected from WiFi and phones. The purpose of the expedition was to identify the key questions of our time. And back home, like a glass filled over, thoughts and words just flood out. So I wanted to share some general reflections as well as some personal stories today..

FutureTalks Arctic Expedition was a brave and different experiment initiated by Silje Vallestad and Camilla Sørli Hagen, gathering people across very different backgrounds, expertise and perspectives. And featuring a very different mindset; Most high-level initiatives like these generally include people in powerful positions, with some young people, yet lacking the intention of actually giving them an equal seat at the table.

On the ship was a mashup of global executives, former refugees, leaders students, tech stars, human rights and environmental activists, influencers, Young Global Leaders, scientists, investors, academics- and even an astrobiologist. All (or most) leaving titles, power, egos and achievements in Oslo, stripped of our normal kit, just being humans together in the same boat. Sharing and respecting each other’s perspectives and contributions on equal terms.

And so the key difference with FutureTalks is both the number of students and young minds, but also that they were joining as peers. And what could possibly be more crucial; the key problems are their future, so we basically need them joining to find new solutions. We can’t do it ourselves, neither can they.

Being used to filling the “young alibi” role in my own industry, I’m used to being called naive, less competent, not humble enough, being too passionate, talking too much, or in some settings simply feeling that I’m not fitting in. Or that my mindset, perspectives and ideas aren’t understood (which often triggers more senior people to disregard or belittle you, raising eyebrows, talking above your head, or making fun of you). As humans, we tend to reject what we don’t understand. It’s only natural.

But that’s exactly why it’s so important to bring generations together on equal terms, across borders, continents and backgrounds. My generation has some strengths, the younger ones have other – so does the more seasoned. To make things happen, whether global/societal changes or changes within a company, Davids and Goliats must collaborate and understand each other. If we see each other unconsciously as rivals, we won’t succeed. We need to work shoulder to shoulder, creating healthy group dynamics. And that requires openness, communication and trust. Bridging the people who are representing the different groups.

And this exactly was the most surprising part of my takeaway from Svalbard. Very often, I just wanna fix things quickly. I’m impatient (as we should be!), cause I see that we need to create environmental and societal change NOW!

I have been focused on working “against” conservatism, bureaucracy and established truths. Not realizing to the full extent how important it is to create trust and dialogue first. Because just like with Trump’s negotiation fundament, it seems that most of us for decades have been programmed to think that if you win, I loose. And vice versa.. My perspective has been that we can achieve so much more, better and quicker results together. But I haven’t used the empathy focus enough – often so focused on the goal that I can forget to build joint commitment (with those of the opposing view) based on these very basic yet difficult things; security, trust, openness, communication.

Now, let’s see how the FutureTalks Expedition insights and conversation will form my efforts and approach onwards – not to mention; how will we collaborate across fields and borders?

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