Have you ever heard of someone share an idea as to what should be done or how things could be made better? I have. Hundreds of times. Yet, most never happen. Why is that?
An epiphany occurred while listening to a podcast interview of Peter Thiel. He is a super successful venture capitalist and company builder. He was an early investor in Facebook, worked on Paypal early, and other ventures.
The interviewer asked him how soon he felt we would live in a world of autonomous vehicles. He said that he was not sure. He wasn’t sure if the future described will actually materialize. While it was true that progress is being made on solving the technological challenges, he said that we are missing a very important point.
He first said that he believed that the future is not fixed. And that there was a sense of agency that needed to be present for the autonomous vehicle scenario presented to him to be realized. So that is where I stopped. What did he mean by agency?
In looking up “sense of agency” what I found on the internet was that it was defined as “the subjective awareness of intitiating, executing, and controlling one’s own actions in the world”.
And then it hit me. In plain English, someone has to be willing to see the idea through to benefit from the merit of the concept. To be its champion in both good times and bad. When there is no agency, no identifiable primary person to carry through the idea, the future will definitely turn out differently than described by the initiator of the idea. The idea will simply die untested.
This is what Peter Thiel was trying to convey. That is why he believes the future is not fixed. It all depends on who is involved and what they commit to working on. Through the obstacles and hardships that will present themselves along the way.
This all then circles back to the universal need to always take action when you want things to be different and better. Consistent, direct action to see your ideas come to life. I have been in so many organizational meetings where ideas get thrown about, groupthink voices support for them, and then nothing happens.
In science, a condition can be described as necessary but not sufficient for something to occur. Having a new or different idea is necessary to invoke change or improvement. But the idea is not sufficient to take life on its own. It needs the critical help of agency. Of a primary person or persons who will see the idea through for it to work and for others to benefit.
Makes sense. Such a simple idea. Yet never explored or considered during the excitement of thinking out of the box, and brainstorming tomorrow’s utopian existence in what amounts to, most times, as simply empty dreams.