We need to rethink our relationship with change in order to shape better outcomes.

We meet April Rinne, author of the book FLUX: 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change to discuss the future of work, climate change, technology and all things flux. April is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, advisor, global development executive, microfinance lawyer, investor, mental health advocate, certified yoga teacher, globetrotter and insatiable handstander.

How would you describe yourself and what are your professional areas of interest?

Today most people know me as a futurist. I help audiences understand what’s on the horizon and how people and organisations shape and fit into trends like the future of work, sustainability or wellbeing etc. in a time of flux. At the moment, my biggest area of interest is how to help people and organisations better handle change and uncertainty of all kinds. In the past, I have advised on how changing business models work in the sharing economy space and on microfinance exploring how to look at financial services differently in order to benefit the poor and underprivileged. My mission is to make a contribution to create a world which works better and for more people while helping organizations and individuals think differently about change in order to shape better outcomes for all.

You have published “The FLUX 8 Superpowers for Thriving in Constant Change. How did this come about and what inspired this book?

It is not a book about the pandemic as such, as I had started researching it as far back as 2014 and then took it up more actively in 2018. I like to say that it took 3 years to write, but was more like 3 decades in the making. It was inspired by the insights I’ve gleaned over the years which made me realise that I could help organizations and individuals deal and better relate to constant change. It is not a prescriptive book but rather it is full of “did you know that..” prompts which nudges the reader into reflection mode. Fundamentally the book is driven by my perspective on change which is threefold:

  1. As a futurist, I can see that every single organisation struggles with change in different ways. And after insightful conversations and analysis, we come to the realisation together that there is room for improvement in their relation to change.
  2. My international and multicultural background – having traveled to 100+ countries and worked in 50+ countries – provides me with direct experience about how all cultures and societies struggle with change. They have unique ways of dealing with it and we can learn from one another and join the dots.
  3. My personal experience of grappling with change when I lost both of my parents in a car accident at the age of 20. My whole world flipped upside down and I had to learn first-hand what to do when you don’t know what to do. Answering all those questions that young and working through that massive uncertainty helped me deal with change at a very early age.

My mission is to make a contribution to create a world which works better and for more people while helping organisations and individuals think differently about change.

Can you elaborate on the concept of Flux and Flux Mindset and what are your key insights to navigate this environment?

The concept of flux covers that space of constant relentless change. In English, it is both a verb and a noun. “To flux” means to learn to become fluid. In a world in flux we need to adopt a flux mindset so that we can, individually and collectively, reshape our relationship with change in order to have a healthy outlook. 

I have done more than 100 podcasts, interviews and keynotes since the book came out in the US last August. I love reaching new and wider audiences so every time the angle of the interview is different – ranging from discussing grief and anxiety, leadership, business strategy, the Great Resignation, Circular Economy and sustainability… all of these things, and many more, fit perfectly under the flux umbrella. 

Tell us about the writing process and your goal in writing this book?

As I mentioned earlier, in a way it’s been almost 30 years in the making. The writing process is almost always arduous in some way, but the hardest part for me was getting the proposal and structure right for my publisher. 

In a sense, the book is timeless, as it discusses the future of work, climate, the arc of history, etc. – all of which have been in flux for a long time. However, suddenly in 2020 “a world in flux” became something everyone could relate to right now, and my publisher started calling. It was finally due for publication in August 2021 when Delta struck, helping me in a way to make my point about the inevitability of constant change. The book is not about getting past change as the fact is that constant change is our future, change is not going away. Some people don’t want that to be the case but there is an opportunity for everyone to reshape change.

Everybody deals with change in different ways. Many people say to me, “but I love change!”  But in actual fact people love change that they can control and pick (such as a new job, a new relationship etc). Yet few people like change they cannot control, when they are surprised by it, one that goes against expectations and disrupts your plans. Change is not only a word or a thing, it is a messy and complicated spectrum. There is change we choose and change we are thrown into. With the pandemic, many people have said, “look how well we have done and adapted”! Indeed, humans are really adaptable when we’re forced to… but under these circumstances, it is not enjoyable. The book gives pointers as to how to reshape the relationship with all kinds of change, especially with the kind we don’t choose.

The book is timeless, as it discusses the future of work, climate, the arc of history, etc. – all of which have been in flux for a long time.

You speak to a very diverse audience of business, policy makers, and investors. What are the key areas of flux that they each worry most about?

From a big picture perspective, everyone is worried about what the future holds, but each person faces that uncertainty from a different angle. Business leaders worry about flux in their business models, prices, talent, supply chain etc. Policymakers are worried about wellbeing, inequality, tolerance and democracy in flux. Policy makers are the most concerned group about the overall pace of change as by definition their processes and infrastructure moves very slowly so they feel the gap more acutely. Investors worry about the financial markets and returns on investment flux. The concern has been exacerbated of late but my concept of flux is universal although it manifests itself in a different way in each domain.

Is the climate flux the biggest threat we have ever needed to navigate as humankind?

Yes, a flux mindset is key to avert climate change – and one piece of a bigger puzzle to tackle a range of societal issues. Climate is in what I call a mega-flux. It is a manifestation of other types of flux like individual, organisational, societal flux which are concentric circles to create a larger all-encompassing flux.  However, I focused FLUX on the individual level, because if a reader can’t make that connection, – and “see” themselves in a given future, it is difficult to get them to take action and prioritise flux at the societal level. Having said that, I have been asked to write a Climate in Flux Manifesto to discuss how individuals relate to change and better align to create a better future.

How has the pandemic impacted work, the workplace and what next after the Big Resignation?

I wrote the book before the Great Resignation actually occurred, but I discuss it in Chapter 7. As a futurist, neither the pandemic nor the Great Resignation was a surprise.  For many years, we’ve been seeing huge shifts in how, where and with whom people work. We’ve also seen growing disconnects and pressures. We knew the system was going to crack, and it did with the Great Resignation.  More broadly, professional identities are in flux and there is lots of soul searching within the professional community. Many people are questioning what they really want out of life and how best to contribute to creating a better world for all.

Indeed, over the past 10 years, lots has changed on how we think about our professional careers and this trend has exploded in the past two years. Actually I had written this article with a younger talent in mind, though the concept is applicable to everyone and all age. Organisations have realised that they have to look at people’s professional development more holistically. There are no longer strict career identities or clear and single paths to follow. Career paths have been limiting and constraining people to climb a single ladder, while we are now seeing the emergence of “portfolio careers” which can be curated to your unique identity and goals, like an artist’s portfolio (that highlights their best work) or an investor’s investment portfolio (that diversifies and mitigates risk). As opposed to a one-dimensional CV, with a career portfolio you have a 360 overview of what you are capable of. For instance, a career gap due to child raising it’s a red flag for a prospective employer – but from a portfolio perspective, it can be when great growth occurs. Parenting skills are not on your CV, yet they demonstrate high project management and collaboration competencies – things that are essential to a thriving workplace. People have a huge opportunity to learn to curate their career portfolios, while organisations have a huge opportunity to look at people as whole human beings with a whole spectrum of talents. When people are seen as full human beings they are more likely to show loyalty and stay at the organization.

People have a huge opportunity to learn to curate their career portfolios, while organisations have a huge opportunity to look at people as whole human beings with a whole spectrum of talents.

What’s your perspective about the flux in the new internet economy?

Tech cannot be the end in itself. We need to think about innovation and about what innovation actually means. Innovation is not inherently good or bad as every new tech can be potentially helpful or harmful. The critical factor is intention: of both the designer and the user. All of these examples can be extraordinarily useful, or they can be harmful. They can include or exclude. They can expand access or they can exacerbate pre-existing inequalities. The key is alignment of intentions between the two in order to keep humanism front and center of any new innovation and not to remove humans from the picture. 

What advice would you give to the new generations of entrepreneurs to be equipped for a world in flux?

This may sound surprising, but we actually have everything it takes to navigate flux. This isn’t about a new technology (that may or may not exist), or money (that you may or may not have), but rather what we really need is to awaken the human wisdom which has been buried by consumerism, consumer mass marketing, and certain aspects of capitalism and associated materialistic values. Individuals need to rediscover and tap into their inner wisdom and unlearn everything they assume as normalcy to embrace a new world of flux. We are continually told that we are not “enough” (this is a key target of consumerism and social media – in order to nudge us to “buy more stuff”)  but in fact we are – and have always been- – “enough.” We are far more capable and have more agency than we’ve been led to believe, and it’s time to put that potential into action.

We need to awaken the human wisdom which has been buried by consumerism, consumer mass marketing, and certain aspects of capitalism.

What are the new emerging trends you are seeing on the horizon?

The best way to put it is “more of everything”: More reasons to be excited and terrified. More tolerance and more intolerance. More collaboration and  more silos. More inspiring people and ways of being around the world, and more division and dystopian situations. This can lead to split realities or it can bring humans closer together. A Flux Mindset can hold this paradox… and the horizon is getting nearer every day.

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