I have to tell you, I am absolutely loving the Digital Outliers podcast series and I hope you are too. In this episode, I get to talk with Brenda Cooper who among many things, is the CIO for the city of Kirkland, Washington. She is also a futurist and the author of nine science fiction and fantasy books. Her most recent novels are POST (Espec Books, 2016) and Spear of Light (Pyr, 2016). Her other works include Edge of Dark (Pyr, 2015), The Creative Fire(Pyr, 2012), and The Diamond Deep (Pyr, 2013).
In many of my talks, I share why now is the time for the “I” in CIO to evolve from that of information to that of “innovation.” Brenda is the ideal subject for this discussion. The way she thinks and applies her work across all fronts is fascinating.
On the show, Brenda shares the many ways her science fiction writing parallels and even influences the nature of the digital transformation of her home city. Like you and me, she too faces the challenge of change. But she shares how notoriously slow-moving and bureaucratic cities, for example, can open themselves to a fast-arriving future filled with smart technologies. To do that, she believes that change agents must balance progress with addressing the fear of change as well.
One of the ways to rally innovation is to bring stakeholders together through the power of storytelling.
Brenda believes that more and more, scenario planning can be more effective when written out as a science fiction story. When it’s written out as a story, she goes through the process of introducing human characters, includes emotional content, and what the ending looks and feels like. Doing so makes it easier to put it in context faster for people.
“I’m seeing science fiction, the study of the future, and technology and strategic planning coming together.”
Even the best stories can’t come to life without bringing the right people to embrace and enliven the future…today. This is perhaps the hardest part. This is where her role as futurist comes into play. That’s a loaded title though. I too have had that label added to my work. But most futurists, at least those I collaborate with, agree that the mission isn’t necessarily to predict the future, it’s to plan for it. Brenda brings a humble perspective to the subject. She realizes that while it’s expected to paint a picture of what the future might look like, it’s should also be acceptable to be wrong about it. In her words,”there’s no absolute truth about what that’s going to be.”
“The future is about brokering how people accept the future and how people create the future. We actually create it with our attitudes, our choices and the places that we put our time and our energy.”
It takes more than visionaries to design the future. We all need to visionary and open to see and consider new possibilities. That’s where change begins.