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Five hundred years ago, the world underwent an upheaval, leading to an eruption of genius known as the Renaissance. Today we are in the midst of another paradigm shift. The danger is we will ignore what we know about the global climate system, the global financial system and intergenerational poverty, and repeat history's mistakes. In this article based on their book, Age of Discovery, the authors draw parallels between the past Renaissance and the present age to suggest what business leaders can do to address the big, enduring shifts of our time. By adopting a broader perspective of the complex human challenges before us, we may one day regard this point in history as our own Renaissance.

It seems that every day we wake up to a new shock. And shock itself is the most compelling evidence that the age we are living in is different, because it comes from within. Shock is our own personal proof of historic change -- a psychic collision of reality and expectations.

Take "globalization." In the 1990s, the word was ubiquitous. For many, it implied a global coming together, and it captured grand hopes of a better world for everyone. Today, the term has fallen out of favor, except among politicians who invoke it as a convenient scapegoat for the problems they can't solve. Both the political far right, which seeks to reverse society's opening up to immigrants and global responsibilities, and the far left, which seeks to reverse society's opening up to trade and private enterprise, enjoy surging popularity across much of the developed world. What we lack, and so urgently need, is perspective.

Perspective is what enables each of us to transform the sum of our days into an epic journey. And it is what improves our chances of together making the 21st century humanity's best. But where can we find guidance and inspiration to promote the possibilities and dampen the dangers, so that the 21st century goes down in the history books as one of humanity's best and not as one of its worst?

Five hundred years ago, the world underwent a similar period of upheaval that strained society to -- and often past -- the breaking point. Despite widespread cynicism and fear, humanity broke through to greatness in an eruption of genius known as the Renaissance. Exceptional achievements in art, science and philosophy were achieved, which surpassed anything ever seen before and which set the course for the centuries that followed.

Now we are in the midst of another such eruption. Each of us has the perilous fortune to have been born into this historic moment, a decisive moment, when the events and choices in our own lifetimes will dictate the circumstances of many, many lifetimes to come.

This article, based on our recently published book Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance, draws parallels between the past and the present ages to suggest what can be done to achieve the greatness for which humanity is once again eligible.

Winners and Losers
The present age is a contest: between the good and bad consequences of global entanglement and human development; between forces of inclusion and exclusion; between flourishing genius and flourishing risks. This is a common feature of a Renaissance age: it creates big winners and big losers. For every magnificent new possibility opened by the forces reshaping society and our world, there is an equal number of terrifying new threats.

Consider the winners and losers of our global economy. A person born in 1970 has seen the total human population double and per-person welfare increase some 40 percent. In short, there are twice as many of us, and we are all better off. For any civilization, that's a giant win. So why don't we feel it?

The answer is that, for all the importance we place upon concepts like gross domestic product and productivity, they were never intended as proxies for aggregate well-being, and are deeply flawed when we take them as such. Counting people's incomes is fairly straightforward, and right now such measures show a rapidly widening wealth gap.

That's a real problem, and it's fueling the present mood. U.S. citizens, once the world's chief promoters of free trade, are now increasingly against it. Industry around the world is accumulating or distributing record levels of cash, rather than investing it. Civic and political leaders lack a compelling vision that connects the big drivers of change with people's daily lives. And the chaos of 24/7 news and information makes it hard for businesspeople to make capable decisions.

Five hundred years ago, those who felt overshadowed by the brightest lights of the age fomented popular revolts that tore at the peace in which genius labored. Similarly today, marginalized voices are finding expression in extremism, protectionism and xenophobia, while popular discontent is sapping public institutions of the legitimacy needed to take bold actions.

We must not let ourselves get pushed around, bullied even, by these threats and the anxieties they provoke. We need to reach out, rather than retreat, so that the gains of our modern Renaissance are felt by many more people. Have we learned the lessons of history? Or will history repeat itself?

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This article is based on:  Tips to Become a Renaissance Manager
Publisher:  IESE
Year:  2017
Language:  English