If you thought Cassandra was a Greek myth long ago consigned to classical history with little to teach us about today you’d be wrong.
Simply told, Cassandra, because of her beauty, was granted the gift of prophecy by Apollo. But because she didn’t return his love he placed a curse on her so that no one would believe her predictions.
This combination of real insight and powerlessness is one of the most frustrating positions someone can be in.
Every organisations has their Cassandras, we find they fall into two types:
These Cassandras focus on explaining why the world will fail, why things don’t work and why new ideas are dangerous.
These people in influential positions can be very damaging. Their power of argument can be highly developed, the problem is they don’t put it to constructive use.
Passive people give up the fight of taking their arguments on so an atmosphere of negativity and helplessness takes hold.
These Cassandras foresight needs to be given an outlet. Some of what they say will be genuinely visionary, some will be wrong. Often the most common mistake is one of timing. They turn out to be correct but get the year or the speed wrong. Remember Apple’s 1990s Newton PDA, a visionary product without the technology to deliver it. iPad is the Newton realised.
These are exciting people to be around, they are full of ideas, some that can be heretical, challenging the orthodoxies of the day. We call this process of evaluating these ideas, risk calibration, allowing enough of the creative flow to turn into something worthwhile.
Organisations that find a way of giving the best of these ideas traction are the ones that control their futures.
Can you indentify your Cassandras?