Rachel Botsman, winner of the 2015 Thinkers50 Breakthrough Idea Award, is short but never snappy in a quick fire interview.
What book are you currently reading?
H is for Hawk.
Do you describe yourself as a thinker?
It’s funny, describing yourself as a ‘thinker’ or a ‘thought leader’ seems to make many people uncomfortable. They ask “what else do you do?” or “what organization do you belong to?”. It’s not a box that people seem to accept. And yet the world needs people who have the privilege of being given the time and space to think. So yes, I do use that term.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
I’m inspired by people who make complex things simple.
What does success look like?
Creating thinking that has real impact in the world across countries, classes and fields.
When did you last say ‘Eureka!’!?
I don’t think I have ever said that word in my life! There are of course magic moments when many dots you have been trying to join together suddenly do so to form a ‘simple’ insight. They give me a Eureka feeling but I never vocalise it!
What is your competitive advantage?
I have no agenda. I am not trying to sell anything through my work.
Most people you hear and read pitch in some shape or form or are simply trying to prove themselves.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Authentic, curious, warm.
How do you keep your thinking fresh?
It’s an alchemy of curiosity and discipline.
How do you divide your time?
It differs. I don’t think of dividing my day (e.g. I’ll spend 2 hours writing, 2 hours speaking etc). I have found it is better to do different types of work in blocks. For example, teaching and research go well together so I do them over the same months. Speaking and writing do not marry well so if I have a big writing project, I have to clear the speaking calendar.
How much time do you spend travelling?
A fair bit! But I have got a lot more conscious about where I am going and the reason why. I have two young kids and I think best when I am still.
What is the secret of a great presentation?
Being totally present with the audience. Yes the stories, timing, delivery, visuals etc are all important but a presentation goes from good to great when all you are thinking about is that connection with your audience. You don’t just know but can feel what you want them to walk away with.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
Find a lens on the world that is uniquely yours. Through that lens, join together different dots to create a fresh idea. Most importantly create a vehicle or artefact to carry the idea. It can be a tv show, a book, a business etc. One article is not enough. Then marry the idea. Love it, hate it but most importantly understand the idea better than anyone else in the world. Know when to push the idea harder, know when to let it go. Once you have the idea, figure out your business model that gives you the freedom to keep thinking versus locked into to have to sell services.
Why is the Thinkers50 important to you?
I respect the past Thinkers50. It is an honour to be regarded alongside them.