Good news for animals…and vegetarians: but what about leadership?

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In London scientists recently (5 August) unveiled the first purely lab-grown beef burger and tested it on a select group of tasters (sounds like a good job to have…for the most part at least!). It is seen as the end of the first part in delivering lab-grown meat to the consumer market, something that research leader, Professor Mark Post of the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, believes could be the norm by 2025. It is research that has enjoyed the backing of Google co-founder Sergey Brin who stepped into the gap when the initial seed finance had been eaten-up. Brin said he was motivated to invest in the project as it fitted their (Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org) funding goals linked to environmental and animal welfare concerns. As a sidebar, I wonder if Google.org would consider picking up a recent tab from the vet for my German Shepherd who had injured his foot?

Lab burgerThe burger was made from strands of meat that had been grown from muscle cells taken from a living cow – something that sounds as though it is a good trade off compared to the usual exchange the cow has to make in the serving up of a burger. The meat strands were then mixed with egg powder, breadcrumbs, salt and food colouring to give it the appearance of a burger if not quite the taste (yet) according to some of the tasters who were interviewed.

So whilst this can only be good news for cows, it is sure to pose some debate amongst vegetarians. Is this meat – or not? The ambiguity of the situation might even spawn a whole new category of non-meat – lab meat eaters, with naming rights to such a group anyone’s guess.

The one little ‘challenge’ at this point remains the cost of the burger. Estimated at being in the region of 250 000 euros to produce, it means that any family night out to McLab is surely not going to happen. But, as with all things ‘tech’, that cost is sure to decline sharply over time.

So what is the point of all this? Well, for one thing it is peephole gaze into the future. With Wikicells (a company situated in the USA) producing wrappers for ice cream that form part of the ice-cream and so can be eaten, the future of food as we know it is likely to be anything but ‘as we know it’.  Such things form what we in TomorrowToday term ‘disrupters’ and technology (across the board), is a major disruptor.  As a smart leader you need to ensure that your company is not only looking in the right direction, but is asking the right questions with regard to the disruptors that could see the ‘rules of the game’ change for you. The ‘right questions’ might even be the one’s you are not asking – and are yet to find. If that is the case, you had better get smart (and curious) quickly! Smart leaders are mindful of the past, attuned to the present and watchful concerning the future. It is often a balance that proves illusive for those in leadership but it is something that smart leaders consciously work at, together with those they lead.

Looking at the questions you are asking in your executive and team meetings will be a strong indicator to just how prepared you are for the uncertainty that is the future. It is usually a future marked by ‘dangerous opportunities’ whatever your industry or focus. The quality of your questions will determine the effectiveness of your strategy to thrive in this future.

…And in my opinion? Not enough smart questions are being asked!

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