While preparing for a talk in Berlin to celebrate the United Nations Internation Year of Chemistry in honour of Marie Curie, I began revisiting some of the principles I was taught at school.
Everything is Chemistry
As I recall, chemistry was presented as a dry subject with no relation to the wider world I was to engage with. Now I’m struck by the fact that chemistry not only provides the building blocks of our universe, but enables us to understand the complex processes at work within our world. This set me thinking that there are some interesting parallels between chemistry and trend mapping. The Trend Atlas, which Kjaer Global use to decode cultural contexts in society, can be viewed rather like a periodic table of trends – in that it shows key elements that are shaping and reshaping our society.
New Global Paradigms
The instability of some chemical elements is well documented – just as we often witness quite disparate and volatile forces influencing our world. We have fast versus slow ways of life running in tandem – as people look for efficiency and instant gratification while also long for heartfelt experiences. Geopolitical power shifts influence global communication and consumption patterns – fuelling a new culture of ‘local capital’ with people seeking out authenticity, meaning and ‘the real thing’.
A Balanced System
The methodology that I call ‘Whole Brain Thinking’ is a system that accommodates these contradictions because it considers the world in terms of Scientific, Social, Emotional and Spiritual dimensions. In doing so, it helps us balance society forces and make future strategic decisions based on a thorough understanding of all key influences and elements at play.
It is interesting to note that some of the most inspiring and pioneering thinking currently is focused on understanding the principles underpinning our world and then building better models for the future. The Academy for Global Citizenship in Chicago, founded by Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, provides students with both a rigorous academic framework and an inquiry-based approach – challenging them to construct personal meaning while also considering how these choices impact their community and the planet.
Credit is also due to the UNESCO and L’Oreal ‘Women in Science’ initiative, recognising remarkable women scientists at work through a programme of fellowships and awards. We need more such alliances between business and leading organisations in order to encourage female talent and scholarship. This brings us back to the story of Marie Curie, who reshaped our understanding of the way the universe works and is still as inspirational today as she was 100 years ago.
‘Whole Brain’ Pioneer
Not only was Marie Curie the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, and the first person to win for both Chemistry and Physics, but she also had a profound influence on 19th-Century society – surely an inspiration for female empowerment movements that followed. And in taking the unusual step of refusing to patent the radium isolation process – thereby enabling the whole community to benefit and take this discovery further – she remains a shining example of what ‘Whole Brain’ thinking can achieve.