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Attributes of a frontier thinker


I was reading an article about being a frontier thinker. According to this article, new frontier thinking is the ability to look at a cow and not only see meat but also the milk, because while dealing with a cow from a meat perspective, you will eat that meat only once, but if you dare see milk when you look at the cow, you can enjoy the milk for many years to come. This type of thinking is about focusing on the real potential of something rather that its current surface value, new frontier thinkers dig deeper, they go further and they trade where angels fear to try.

This got me thinking about two artists who are endorsing top brands in the world. The first is Beyonce.

Beyonce was hired by Pepsi Cola to be their brand ambassador at a fee of 50 million dollars, in Kenyan money that is Sh5B! That’s a lot of money to be paid in only one year! She was paid a one off cheque by Pepsi to endorse their brand.

The second artist is Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy aka P Diddy.
Diddy was approached by Diageo, the parent company of East African Breweries Ltd, to endorse their vodka brand that was struggling in the US Market. Diageo approached Diddy with an offer that he turned down saying he was not interested in a one-off cheque endorsement deal. Instead, he proposed that they do profit sharing on every sale made after the endorsement. Diageo had no choice but to bow to Diddy’s request.

Had Beyonce gone the same way as Diddy, she possibly could be worth more that Diddy. Anyway, think about the two artists and tell me who the new frontier thinker is. Diddy, in years to come, will still be benefiting from the profit sharing deal, his children and grandchildren will be stakeholders in Diageo.

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Now look, the point of this is to start thinking a mile further, thinking deep. Be able to look a tree and see timber when the rest of the world sees firewood.

Someone may wonder what the attributes of a frontier thinker, well…  First, what separates frontier thinkers from others is their willingness to believe in a vision while it is still in its initial or infancy stage. Others, instead, prefer to wait to jump on the bandwagon after the vision has been made tangible or decide to jump to what is visible right away. Beyonce jumped to what was there then, but Diddy, was willing to wait because he envisioned how much he can earn if only he can believe and have patience.

Frontier Thinkers are always willing to struggle and battle to make an idea tangible, which can be a long and difficult process, full of doubt, confusion, dead-ends, and much invested time and effort. The naysayers and the negative comments do not put them off, nothing puts them off until they achieve what they want.

Kanye West views himself as a visionary artist right. He was recently awarded the BET Visionary Award. He is aggressive, open minded and futuristic. He says not many can understand him because his deeds and thoughts are already in the future. A frontier is forward thinking, communicates a collective sense of purpose, and inspires confidence.

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Look at Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein or the Wright Brothers and you will see how they were deaf to discouragements, doubts and never allowed any kind of failure and obstacle blur their vision.  A frontier thinker must possess unabashed persistence allows them to push through all difficulties, including the opposition of others, bad fortune, insufficient resources, or dead-ends.

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Frontier Thinkers are risk takers. They are willing to gamble on something they believe in, but the gamble is often a measured one. Visionaries are creative people that take the initiative with the appropriate action. Visionaries take intelligent risks that capitalize on prime conditions. This kind of frontier thinker starts small by taking measured steps than later bigger risks.

Frontier thinkers are open to new information. Thomas Edison possessed an unusually large degree of openness to new information.  This openness may or may not extend to people.  Inflexible people, once they make up their mind, cannot be persuaded, nor do they continue to search for or take in new information. FTs are constantly searching for additional information. Visionaries know that each new piece of information might yield an insight that helps solve a problem or create a breakthrough.

Visionaries often possess the ability to see things with their mind’s eye often long before others. This might include certain observations that unlock the secret to understanding the natural world, trends that are still in their infancy stage (or that haven’t even begun yet), or the possibilities of new inventions, discoveries, products, or even new social or historical movements.

Frontier thinkers have a vivid imagination. FT take great care to nurture their imagination and mind’s eye carefully. Frontier thinkers spend their lives following their dreams and seeking to bring them into reality.  In contrast, the masses turn off their imaginations as they mature, feeling that imagination is akin to child’s play. FT often reside in two worlds – the external world, the other being a rich internal world of ideas, pictures, and thoughts. The reason why frontier thinkers are so driven to carry out their dreams is because their dreams are so real and vivid (in their mind’s eye) to the visionary.  Thus, clarity of imagination leads to a compelling desire to carry out the vision.

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In summary, a frontier thinker sees a vision that is both valuable and possible to obtain, even though all the details have not been worked out.  Just like Albert Einstein frontier thinkers seem to “see” the future. What frontier thinkers do is to build an accurate conceptual model of the future based on their keen understanding of the present and then bring that model into reality, creating the future.

Frontier thinkers’ key ability is not their prophetic sight, but rather, the gift to predict accurately from the present into the future. When accurate prediction is combined with executive ability to carry out the vision, visionaries literally creates the future. While there is some difference between predicting and influencing the future, possessing the former skill is helpful (and the first step) to developing the later skill. Because of the vividness of their visions, visionaries often underestimate the difficulty in bringing the vision into reality or the “distance” between the present and envisioned outcome (as the vision seems so close and obtainable to them).

By Eric Kinoti 

CEO/Founder Shade Systems Ltd. 

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