Blog #14 – I Met The Ninja of Unicornsulting / A Sit-Down With Karl-Magnus Möller – Part 1

June 4, 2017.
A Sunday.

The man. The mystery. And yes, the beard. But behind the layers of thick glass and general mystique lie a progressive thinker and a Seth Godin-type marketer. And a black belt in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, a martial art based on nine schools – some of which were used by the actual ninjas of medieval Japan (although this is something the deadly interviewee refuses to make a fuzz out of, claiming that a black belt is no more than a sign that you are “a serious beginner”). Karl-Magnus is also a member of Mensa (the not so secret society for extra smart people), holds several patents in data communication and was at one point headhunted to be a part of a team starting up a start-up incubator in Silicon Valley, which he turned down in order to become a flamingo.

And by “flamingo” I mean “innovation consultant to forward thinking leaders in large organizations.”

You can see why his glasses are so big.

And why our little sit-down quickly turned into to an almost two hour long conversation about human potential, leadership, the world and, I guess, life.

Which of course brings us straight to the flamingo – the pink bird that is impossible to ignore.

“Do you know what a group of flamingos is called?” the man behind the glasses asks me. “No, can’t say that I do…”“A flamboyance!” Well, that sure explains a lot… Karl-Magnus continues: ”They don’t look like the smartest ones out there, but they dance hilariously, in their own way. And I think we all have an inner flamingo. A thing of your own. Perhaps not a flamingo per se, but something unique that you can either allow to bloom, if you want to, or not”

This is one of my favourite topics as it touches upon what dreams & visions we are actually able to realize, and it turns out that Karl-Magnus (also known as Kalle) is a firm believer in the human potential:

“My core belief is that all human beings have an incredible potential”

– Karl-Magnus Möller


That who you are is not set in stone.


I remember Tim Ferriss talking about genes being malleable, that we are able to change our gene expression, which means that we, in a sense, are literally able to change who we are. “Is this something you have in mind when thinking about people’s potential?”

– “No, not really. There is always this discussion about nature vs. nurture (if we are born the way we are, or if our surroundings have “made” us). But what I find interesting is all the new research on the plasticity of the brain. When I grew up, science said your brain had a peak at 30, and then it was all downhill from there. That’s proven to be wrong. With that said, I think the effect society has is much greater than your DNA. Of course, you’re dealt a certain predisposition, but the rest is up to you. We are built to learn and we are built to be curious.”

I can’t help thinking that this thought – this particular view – is perhaps what defines the age of today. With millennials left, right and center determined to mold their own lives out this clay of existence. And that they really believe that it’s possible, too.

Good times ahead, in other words, with so many living an actualized life rather than the one you’re “supposed” to live according to older generations

But it’s not only about believing in yourself, it’s also about having the tools to match. And this digital era is providing these very tools, forever changing how we view work, and life.

Which also change the roles of leaders as people are more interested bringing their inner flamingo to life than simply being told what to do.

“To dare to believe in potential is to embrace the unknown. And if you are not prepared to see your own potential, you will have a hard time seeing the potential of others”

– Karl-Magnus Möller

“Leadership is changing,” Kalle tells me; leadership is challenged, and is developing, because the new generations coming in has a completely different set of demands on a leader and on the workplace.

At this point in our conversation Kalle shares another thought of his: “You are either driven by love or by fear. You are either running towards something, or running away from something,” which in the context of leadership in this new landscape – where the awareness of individual potential is on the rise – means that to bring the best out of people (or to make them stay), you need to give them something to “run to.” You need to make them want to do things out of the love of doing them, not because they are afraid of what’s going to happen if they don’t.

From a biological point of view, this makes a lot of sense, as the chemistry in the brain of being afraid or forced is a lot different from when we are happy and just lovin’ it. This in turn makes it very hard to reach a creative state of mind when you’re not in the mood, or worse.

In a talk (The Human Response) from TED2017, the historian Rutger Bregman even argues that times of scarcity actually lowers your IQ temporarily.

So it seems like we need to feel safe, and to do what we do out of the love of doing it, if we want to realize our potential.

And it looks like this is something that has led Karl-Magnus to where he is today, driven by curiosity – and perhaps a love of the unknown.

So, how does it feel to be where you are today?

– “Crazy cool, I must say. I reflected upon this just earlier today. There are a lot of things that, just ten years ago, I thought would never happen. This life is really weird, in a very positive way! And I actually have my martial arts to thank for a lot of it.”

To find out how being a ninja has shaped the future of the man behind the beard, check out part 2 in a week!

Kalle’s website (in Swedish, but the blog called Captain’s Log is in English): unicornsulting.com, and here is his LinkedIn

Thank you for reading!
/Filip



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