On this week’s episode of Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with April Rinne, Author of Flux: Eight Superpowers for Thriving in Change. April and I talk about what it takes to thrive in a world of constant change and uncertainty and explore some of the skills and tactics you can use to better prepare yourself and your organization for a world of flux.
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Interview Transcript with April Rinne, Author of Flux: Eight Superpowers for Thriving in Change
Brian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I’m your host, Brian Ardinger and as always, we have another amazing guest. With me today is April Rinne. She is the author of a new book coming out called Flux: Eight Superpowers for Thriving in Change. Welcome April.
April Rinne: Thank you, Brian. Glad to be here.
Brian Ardinger: I’m super excited to have you on the show. When I got a preview copy of the book, I started going through it and it’s like, ah, this resonates with everything that I’ve been talking about, and our audience has been talking about. This whole idea that the world is changing. I think we fundamentally or theoretically understood that 18 months ago, but now every individual has felt that we are in flux.
So, this is an amazing book. You start off the book with a gut-wrenching story that gives you immediate insights into what’s required to live in a world of flux. And I don’t know if you can share that story and maybe its impact on your life and your career and how you got to this place.
April Rinne: Yeah. Sure. So, it’s interesting. Just picking up on what you just said, which is I was actually working on this book for a long time. Long before the pandemic or lockdown. I like to say that the book itself was about three years in the actual writing, but it was more than three decades or close to three decades in the making. And that relates to my earlier story.
But it is kind of interesting where over the last 12 to 18 months, people are like, oh, world in flux, you know, welcome to my life. I’m sort of looking at this saying, Hm, there was a lot of flux before and there’s going to be a lot more moving forward.
But my entry into a world in flux or what I, what I sometimes call like my baptism, but my baptism into flux happened more than 25 years ago. I was in college, and I was a junior and I was studying overseas, and I’d had this kind of life expanding mind expanding year.
And just as it was wrapping up, I received a phone call and basically at age 20, both my parents were killed in a car accident. And that was that moment where whatever you think your future is going to be, whatever you think the world has in store for you. However you think the world works, like it just all changed.
You know, I would not have imagined back then that I would write a book about this sense of like, what do you do when you just can’t control constant change. But that’s when the seed was really planted.
Brian Ardinger: Whether it’s the loss of a parent or a major job change or a pandemic. A lot of folks are in that space right now. Like they’re trying to understand what I thought the world was going to be is different. So, I think the book helps outline some of the things you can think about or some different ways to approach it. So, tell me a little bit about the book and why a person should pick it up.
April Rinne: Yeah, absolutely. And you really nailed it. That sense of like, that was my version, but everyone has today I believe their own version. And what’s key is the future is not more certainty. It’s not more stability. The future is more uncertainty, more change, more flop, and are we really ready for it? And so the crux of the book is exactly that.
That’s sense of, you know, on the whole humans, we tend to love change that we opt into. You know, exactly. But we tend to really, really struggle with change we don’t. The unexpected change. The change that waylays you. The change that is unwelcome. And yet that’s the world we live in today. There’s more, not less of that.
And so, the fundamental premise of Flux the book is that in a world in constant change, we need to radically reshape our relationship to change from the inside out. I can add. In order to have a healthy and productive outlook. So, we’re good at a slice of change, but we’re really, really bad at a big chunk of it.
This is where I get excited because also individually, this plays out. Organizationally, this plays out. And societally this plays out. So that’s the basic punchline of the book, but the eight superpowers are the kind of how to.
Brian Ardinger: Talk us through, like, how did you come up with those eight and maybe an overview of those.
April Rinne: Sure. This is one of my favorite framing devices, which is, you know, Flux is both a noun and a verb. As a noun it means constant change. I think we all kinda get that. It’s also a verb and as a verb, it means to learn to become fluid.
So, the way I like to put it as the world is in flux, and we need to learn how to flux. To become fluid in our relating to all kinds of change. And so, I’ll be really candid. The Eight Flux Superpowers evolved through a lot of hard work and thinking and post-its and reframing and structuring, you know, all of that.
And I will admit now, you know, the book’s been written for some time. It’s obviously in the publication process. I haven’t yet found the ninth one. So, I feel pretty good about that right now.
But in short, the eight flux super powers, the first one is run slower. The second is see what’s invisible. The third is get lost. The fourth is start with trust. The fifth is know you’re enough. The sixth is create your portfolio career. The seventh is be all the more human and the eighth, one of the more provocative, although they’re all provocative I think in some way. The eighth is let go of the future.
Each of those kind of relates to different themes, you know, run slower is a lot about anxiety and burnout and so forth. And start with trust is obviously about trust. And letting go of the future is not about giving up or failing. It’s actually about our relationship to control. So there’s a lot more packed in each of those, but that’s a quick summary.
Brian Ardinger: Absolutely. The first one you start off with in the book is run slower. And I think a lot of people, when you talk about innovation, and you see what’s out there in the press and that everybody talks about acceleration and speed of change and that. And the obvious antidote people think of is well, I’ve got to run faster. I’ve got to go, go faster and that. So, it’s kind of a contradictory approach to that. So, talk about what you mean by run slower and let’s unpack that a little bit.
April Rinne: Landing on this particular superpower did result from a range of sources. But one of which was my many, many years as an advisor to companies, many of them were startups. But also, governments and think tanks and nonprofits. Organizations of all stripes, shades, colors, flavors, whatever, and their quest to innovate. And recognizing that change breeds innovation, but innovation itself, that simply means something new.
It’s not inherently good or bad. And I’m looking at this going, how do we innovate well. How do we innovate responsibly? How do we innovate in ways where we don’t end up having blind spots and regretting some portion of what we did later on, et cetera. And I think we see a lot of that today, right? So back to the superpower.
Run slower. The way I define it is in a world of ever faster pace of change, societally. The way we thrive is to slow our own pace. So again, you nailed it where I like to say the pace of change has never been as fast as it is today. And yet it is likely to never again, be this slow. Right. Now just let that sink in for a moment.
Right. It’s sort of exciting and it’s kind of terrifying as well. And I kept looking around as a futurist, as an adviser, as a human being and saying, okay, society tells us that when the pace of change increases, we need to run faster. We need to keep up. And if we know that tomorrow, there’s going to be more change than today and next week there’s going to be more change than this week.
And next year, next decade. Draw that out as far as you wish. If you know today that every single day for the rest of your life, your mandate from society is to run faster. That does not look like a future in which I want to live.
And organizationally run ever faster. Wait a minute. You’re gonna miss the very best decisions you could make. You’re going to miss the very best opportunities. At an extreme, I say, you know, when we run ever faster, we run the risk of running right past life.
This is not about doing nothing. It is not about being lazy. This is about slowing your own pace so that it’s sustainable. So that in fact, you can be in touch if you will, with yourself, as opposed to just chasing after the next thing that you’re supposed to do or the torrent of the info flow.
But also, it helps us make wiser decisions. You want to slow down enough so that you can see, recognize, identify, and focus on the things that really matter. So there are lots of different angles there, but I find this is a lot with people, both struggling with anxiety and burn out. But also, when it comes to innovation, how do we make the best decisions? How do we make sure that we’ve covered our scope of possibility and so forth?
Brian Ardinger: Yeah, it’s, it’s very much like that professional athlete. When they get into that flow, they talk about this idea of everything slows down. And they can understand the environment that they’re in. And I think that’s kind of what you’re talking about.
I’ve also seen the reverse where people go slow because everything’s moving so fast, they fail take any action. Or they’re scared of being able to keep up, so they don’t make decisions and things like that. So, it’s, it’s that balance almost of like you said, running. But running at a pace that finished the marathon.
April Rinne: Very much so. Exactly. I did not say sit still or say do nothing. I said, run, but run slower. Run at a pace that you can sustain over time. Run at a pace that allows you to take in and take stock of everything that’s going on. That really matters. And it’s funny that you bring up athletes. There’s a section in the book there, too.
Everything from, you know, what’s the right time to make a judgment or a decision. To also one of my favorite quotes. And it relates to athletes, but also children. And I think adults too. Certainly, for me. This notion that there is a kind of growth that comes only with rest. Just think about that. We assume that growth has to happen through motion and action.
Think about how kids grow. Think about how athletes strengthen their muscles. It doesn’t happen only when they’re in motion. It happens when they’re at rest.
Brian Ardinger: Another area that you tackle is this idea of getting out of your own way and expanding your vision. And you’re talking about expanding your peripheral vision, specifically. Being able to look at industries and ideas in that in different ways and, and expanding your business. So talk a little bit about that particular superpower
April Rinne: Yeah. So that’s the second one. See what’s invisible, which says that, you know, when life feels uncertain or blurry, we need to shift our focus from what’s visible to what’s invisible. And actually, there are all kinds of overlaps with innovation here.
The classic cases that, in which again, what does society tell us? You need to focus on your goal straight ahead. And I’m not saying that having goals isn’t important and that you shouldn’t know how to focus. I’m saying that actually, where is typically most of the action. It’s right in front of you or so we think. Where’s the actual and really new ideas.
The really game changing opportunities. They tend to be on the periphery and to be outside the mainstream. They may end up going mainstream some years later. And then you feel like, oh, I was a really early, you know, joiner to that particular company or idea or whatever. And so expanding our peripheral vision to see more and to see what is again by society standards, quote unquote, invisible.
Now just one quick example here. I’ve spent much of the past decade in the space called the sharing economy. You know, access over ownership and this, that, and the other. It’s a classic case in which entrepreneurs and innovators in the sharing economy saw what was invisible to traditional companies. So, case in point, you know, a car sits parked on average 23 hours a day, 95% of the time. We’ve come to believe that’s kind of normal.
How in the world that got normalized to have a 95 or 96% inefficient asset is beyond me? But you look at this and you go, this doesn’t make sense. Yet society tells us everyone needs a car, not just one car. You need many cars. This is how we’re going to build the car. Yeah. And so, you have, car sharing entrepreneurs who look at this and say, no, we actually see value in that parked car.
We actually see value in that parking space. We’re going to flip the lens and actually put these assets into shared use, thereby helping people save money. Helping reduce CO2 emissions. Freeing up space. I mean, the list goes on and on. But that’s a really interesting case. Society tells us to focus on what’s visible, which is the cost of a car. GDP. Things with dollars and cents, but there was idling capacity, or what we could think of is invisible value in streets and cities around the world.
When you learn how to see that there’s a whole new kind of ecosystem, not just for transportation, but far beyond, that can be developed. So that’s an example on, again, the innovation kind of organizational end of things. But it definitely applies in terms of individuals and our own blind spots. And where we think we should be looking versus where the action, the action that really matters where it happens to be.
Brian Ardinger: And it doesn’t even have to be within your industry. I think some of the low hanging fruit for a lot of corporations would be just to look at other industries and see what they’re doing when it comes to customer relationships or whatever.
And it may not be in your wheelhouse, or your industry may not be doing it, but it may be something that’s very easy to adapt or adopt into your industry. And all you have to do is just quite frankly, look at a different set of competitors out there and see what happens.
April Rinne: I love that you bring this up, Brian, because I joked with you in advance. Like ironically, what people often call me is a kind of insider outsider in terms of my advisory work. And I have lost count. I’ll share this with you. It’s so fun because I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been contacted by an organization and they’ve said, we want you to do what you did for that company, for our company. But they’re in a domain, I’m like, I think you have the wrong person.
I began by saying that, because it was like an energy company that first asked me this. And I was like, I’m not an energy expert. They were like, we know. But, you know, just enough about us to actually be able to bring in insights from financial services, from the sharing economy. You know, and the point was not that I had their solution, but then I could bring a perspective and a set of examples and a set of ideas and a set of principles, et cetera, et cetera.
That were wildly different than what they were used to hearing. That ended up kind of churning their engines, if you will, around creativity, curiosity, and innovation. So you’re absolutely right. And one of the things not just to see what’s invisible, but all of the eight superpowers in the entire book. What I love is that I’m not asking you to have any kind of technology or money or whatever that you don’t already possess. It’s a matter of knowing where to look.
So, see what’s invisible. All that you need to learn how to see what’s invisible. It’s right there in front of you. It requires you actually though, to be able to take the step, to reach out and say, I need to learn more about what I don’t know. I need to go somewhere that again, society tells me that’s outside my domain. That’s outside my sector. It’s actually really, really relevant for what you’re doing.
Brian Ardinger: Well, that power of exploration. I think people underestimate it. And a lot of times it’s not even exploring for a specific solution. It’s just literally the act of exploring leads you to collisions of ideas and thoughts that lead you to that epiphany of whatever the thing is you’re working on.
April Rinne: And just a quick side note there, which is it’s a little bit meta, but I like to bring it up because I think the moment in time, we’re all living in right now. Whether it’s reopening, whether it’s, you know, what parts of normal are going to continue to exist. You know, is there a such a thing as normal?
What, what do you want to leave behind in the last year? And what of the ways in which you changed; do you want to take forward. In this world of like we’re in not just massive flux, but the sense of we don’t have the solution. We’re figuring them out. And we’re in the early stages of what I believe will be a massive phase of exploration, iteration, experimentation, improvement, but like, we’re not even close to those solutions right now.
And I think especially like hybrid work. I focused on the future of work for years. Anyone who tells me they figured out hybrid work. I’m like, no, you haven’t. And the more you believe you have, the more, I’m less inclined to actually listen to what you’re saying.
But if we can all kind of wrap our arms around the fact that we don’t know, and we won’t know, and to start that process exactly as you’ve said of, of exploring and experimenting and iterating, we’re going to be just fine. But it’s the people who want to control and know right now, what it’s going to look like. Those are the ones that I worry about where we’re going to find ourselves in some trouble.
Brian Ardinger: And that’s probably a good segue to the last superpower I kind of want to talk about. It’s this idea of creating your portfolio. I think maybe you and I are similar from that perspective that, you know, every couple of years, it’s a new hat we throw on. I talk about it from the standpoint of everybody’s going to have a slash in their name. So, I’m a, you know, entrepreneurial slash podcast slash director of innovation slash whatever. And this idea that everyone in society is going to have this portfolio of experiences that they bring to the table. Talk a little bit about why that superpower is important and, and what I that means to you.
April Rinne: Yeah. So this does relate directly to the future of work. It’s a bit unique in that regard and that a lot of the superpowers are more applicable personally, professionally, societally. Portfolio career is very much about you and your career.
And fundamentally what we’re looking at is the career of the future looks much less like a career path, a kind of linear trajectory, and much more like a portfolio that you take responsibility for. And you curate. It gets super interesting. So, the whole like study work, retire, learn linear path that we, again, society told us this is how your professional life is likely to play out.
Not to say that that didn’t work for some time, but what we’re finding is it’s broken at every node today. And a lot of people want something more, once something different. I think the great resignation that’s going on right now is directly related to this. And so, the notion of a portfolio, it’s not just acknowledging that the structure of the workforce is changing.
It is now possible to work in more ways than ever before. The role of technology, et cetera, et cetera. But it’s also looking at, you know, our professional identity. How do you actually want to show up and bring your best to the world? And so the shift from the career path, which you can think of as a ladder to climb, you know, it’s, it’s that linear, like pursue, pursue, pursue.
So, what’s happening is more and more people are not wanting to climb that ladder. More and more people are finding that ladder is teetering, if not broken. And it doesn’t work for a whole lot of people. A portfolio, which again, just in the spirit of creativity, you’ll hear them refer to it as a jungle gym, rather than a ladder.
You’ll hear them refer to it as a bento box. If you know the Japanese delicacy. But we’re looking, I’ve also heard of actually a flower that has different pedals and different ways of blossoming. But what we’re looking at is basically a shift in how you view your professional development. Your professional identity. And your career overall.
And that it’s not a path, but it is exactly, as you say, it is a curation of all of the things you care about. All of the things you can do. And if you will, your best work. So, from a portfolio perspective, there are lots of ways you can look at it. The two that I prefer, because I find most people gravitate towards one or the other. One is, you know, investors have a portfolio. It’s a portfolio of their investments obviously, but why do they have a portfolio?
They have it to diversify, to diversify and to mitigate risk. Right? Then you’ve got an artist portfolio. Well, what’s in his or her portfolio, their best work. So whichever of those, you like, it’s more a matter of everything that you’ve ever done or want to do or skills you have paid or unpaid that can contribute to society. All of that’s in your portfolio. And then it’s up to you to mix and match and curate it into something that’s unique, which is where we end up with hyphens.
Brian Ardinger: The other thing about the portfolio career concept is that as the world is accelerating and you know, new tools are becoming easier for the average Joe or Jane to pick up and that. The fact that, you know, what you learned in college is no longer relevant after four years because of the, you know, the world’s changed. It’s both easier and harder to jump into that next portfolio or learn and take advantage of that, whatever that is.
So if you look at it from an opportunistic perspective and it’s like, as an opportunity, this pace of change is actually a really good thing. Because you’re never really that far behind whatever the next thing is.
Because you can jump in and become a part of it and learn faster, because those tools are available to you as well. So because of that pace of change, not only you have to be good at it, but it also gives you an opportunity to be able to flex and change in ways you’ve never done it in the past.
April Rinne: Absolutely. And this is, it’s actually a perfect entry or a segue into the portfolio career being much more aligned with and fit for a future of work in flux. What’s interesting, there’s a quote, it’s actually by Jerry Garcia of all people, but you know, the quote is don’t be the best be the only. The reason I like this is because in the future, being that single greatest expert on X, Y, Z, less and less likely, more and more difficult and less and less just not really aligned with reality.
It’s going to be the combination of different skills in your portfolio that allow you to stand out. And the more things you have in your portfolio, the more you can mix and match. And to your point, the easier it becomes to add things, layer up or level up. Moving forward as new technologies come through, as new roles become design, become available, et cetera.
So it is that sense of this is how not just that you’re ready and prepared for the future of work, but also the more robust your portfolio, the harder it is going to be to automate some portion of what you do. The easier it is to keep refreshing your portfolio over time, et cetera.
So, one thing I would add, because this comes up a lot where people are like, wait, are you just talking about kind of hustling and the gig economy and that sort of thing, when they hear the word portfolio and I’m always like, no, no, no, no, no, absolutely not.
Any full-time job you have is in your portfolio, any side hustle or gig you have is in your portfolio too. Any volunteer experience you have is in your portfolio. The thing I like to remind people is each and every one of us already has a portfolio today. The hook is most of us don’t realize it and we’re not necessarily being deliberate about curating it.
But that’s where, like I say, you’ve already got again, you’ve got the pieces of your puzzle. It’s a matter of putting them together in a different way. That’s much more aligned with and ready for constant change.
For More Information
Brian Ardinger: We have plenty more superpowers to cover. I encourage people to pick up Flux: Eight Superpowers for Thriving in Change. If people want to find out more about you April or about the book, what’s the best way to do that.
April Rinne: The best website for my book and all things flux is fluxmindset.com. And I also have my site, which is just more about me, aprilrinne.com, but head to Flux first and feel free to follow up with questions. I’m super easy to reach. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always happy to be in touch and thank you again for today.
Brian Ardinger: Well, April, thanks for being on Inside Outside Innovation. I look forward to having you as part of the community in the years to come, and I appreciate your time today.
April Rinne: Absolutely. Likewise, thank you, Brian.
Brian Ardinger: That’s it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out InsideOutside.io or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.
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Originally published August, 2021