Episode Date October 5, 2023
Featured Guest Tom Fletcher
Featured Book "The Ministry for the Future " by Kim Stanley Robinson

Episode Summary

Tom Fletcher reading from Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future, and discussing diplomacy and essential skills for the future.

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What does it take to be an ambassador, to be a diplomat? …If you had to list three core characteristics, what do you think they should be? Now, for me, part of me goes all espionage… You know, it’s about blending in. It’s about staying skeptical, perhaps wearing tweed. Part of me, of course, thinks of my brother Nigel, who actually works for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Australia and has actually played ambassadorial roles in Ankara, Turkey and in Berlin. Now, Nigel is the soul of discretion. He has a deep curiosity, also not that much tweed. But after this conversation, which you’re about to listen to, a conversation where I realized that perhaps we all play the role of a diplomat and wondering if the key skills are actually empathy, rebellion, and a good left hook.

Tom Fletcher is the principal of Hartford College in Oxford University. …I invited Tom because in his lifetime, he’s been a diplomat and also a writer and a campaigner. But along the way, there were several things he was not, or at least not successfully. “Having felt evangelical about the importance of diplomacy,” Tom says, “I left diplomacy to write a book about why diplomacy matters so much and looking particularly at the way that technology is changing statecraft. That was The Naked Diplomat [which] came out in 2016, and that did well. So I then got to write two more books. 10 Survival Skills for a World in Flux is about the future of learning… And then in August, I put out my first novel, which was called The Ambassador…”

Tom reads two pages from The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. [reading starts at 17:25]

Hear us discuss:

  • “But I guess all that adds up to this conclusion that education is upstream diplomacy. And that basically, if I want to make a real influence on the future of the country and the planet, then actually being here, developing young people, head, hand and heart is where I should be.” [4:07]
  • “A great diplomat, it’s about the last 3 feet, as Edward Murray said. It’s about that ability to really understand the person you’re talking to, know what baggage they arrive in the room with, and to almost zoom out of a situation in a room and use that empathy to understand what’s going on.” [6:32]
  • Modern-day trends, including the rise of distrust, which makes it harder to govern. [24:05]
  • Ten skills for the future, including taking control of your life and becoming an active participant in shaping the future. [27:03]
  • “And here, because of the way the power structures work, it’s much more important to lead from behind. Much more of it is about setting the tone, the sense of the overall direction and letting then the strategy emerge, rather than trying to dictate some sort of top down.” [32:40]
  • “There is space for hope.” [37:35]

Get access to full transcripts and past episodes at www.MBS.works/podcast


Mentioned Episodes | Ep. 23: Matthew Barzun: What to do with Power  | Ep. 07: Roman Krznaric: Hope for Tomorrow

Tom Fletcher | Website  | Twitter | The Ambassador | The Naked Diplomat

Kim Stanley Robinson | The Ministry for the Future

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Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

I'm the author of five books that have collectively sold more than a million copies. I'm the founder of Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that helps organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. I'm the host of the *2 Pages with MBS* podcast.

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