Winter 2003; p. 20-21


by Dave Garrett

Now that we've seen that the line between possible and impossible rests not in the scope of the project, but in its execution, let's take a look at what is arguably the most ambitious project imaginable – ambitious, yes, but is it impossible?

The Venus Project is a vision of the future that seeks to do no less than re-invent society from the bottom up. According to its mission statement, "The Venus Project calls for a straightforward approach to the redesign of a culture, in which the age-old inadequacies of war, poverty, hunger, debt, environmental degradation and unnecessary human suffering are viewed not only as avoidable, but totally unacceptable." This redesign is a complete rethinking of societal values, from our current system which Venus Project founder Jacque Fresco contends is based in scarcity and planned obsolescence, leading to greed and hostility – to a resource-based system, where "the measure of success would be based on the fulfillment of one's individual pursuits rather than the acquisition of wealth, property, and power."

This enormous transition involves developing and adapting technology that leads to self-constructing and self-maintaining machines, "cities in the sea" and new energy-harvesting techniques. Lest you think this is a vision of machines taking over, Fresco is quick to point out that humans are- and will always be-in charge. In fact, The Venus Project would actually prevent people from become slaves to technology. "In a more humane civilization, instead of machines  displacing people, they would shorten the workday, increase the availability of goods and services, and lengthen vacation time. If we utilize new technology to raise the standard of living for all people, then the infusion of machine technology would no longer be a threat."

So, how does anyone approach this kind of massive undertaking? The main goal for Fresco is communication-spreading the word and educating people about what he sees as the solution to the world's problems. As you might imagine, corporate or government sponsorship for a project that basically calls for an end to those institutions is truly impossible to come by, so the challenge is that much more difficult. Books, videos and speaking engagements are all means for Fresco to market his plan. And keep your eyes open for a major motion picture based on the Venus Project.

What Makes It Possible?
According to Fresco, The Venus Project, as outlandish as it might seem to those seeing it for the first time, is absolutely attainable. 'The only limitations are those we impose upon ourselves. The Venus Project is neither utopian nor Orwellian, nor does it reflect the dreams of impractical idealists. Instead, it presents attainable goals requiring only the intelligent application of what we already know."

Is It a Quest?
You better believe it. Fresco and his associate, Roxanne Meadows, have dedicated their lives to the project. A visit to the Research Center in Venus, Florida, reveals a level of commitment that is truly remarkable. Every dime, every minute that they have is spent toward realizing their vision. This isn't to say that Fresco is advocating or even anticipating revolution. He doesn't want to see pain or suffering; he doesn't want to see society collapse. He does, however, believe that the current system can't survive, and he's ready with the alternative and eager to pass his vision on to others who can help bring it to reality.

The lesson? Turn Impossible Projects into Quests for Success
If one lesson rings true from reviewing these projects, it is this: When faced with an impossible project it becomes imperative to raise the project to the level of a quest. In other words, the project must stand apart from the norm. The leadership must be willing to offset risk with bold and unconventional approaches. The conm1itment must be absolute, and participants must be in or out- no fence sitters. Communications must be superb and continuous. And finally, decisions must be made by a single point of control (individual or small team).

In an industry where failure is a 40 percent probability, we need to accept the fact that our methods and approaches need to be constantly challenged. Conventional wisdom clearly should be suspect. By looking to other industries and how they achieve the virtually impossible, we can hopefully learn, adapt and grow.

Project Manager as Motivational Educator
VENUS PROJECT FOUNDER Jacque Fresco views himself as an educator as much as anything else- engineer, designer, futurist. In earlier years, he taught math and science and counseled troubled youngsters in New York City. Like his visions of a brighter, more humane society, Jacque's teaching goes beyond traditional ideas to bring his students to an understanding beyond the basic facts. His education principles can apply to any presentation whether it's orienting your project team or selling your project plan to stakeholders. Here are the methods he employs, with great success, today. His use of these rules came shining through during an intense afternoon of interviewing him to learn about his remarkable, complex vision of the future.

1. Always speak their language.
As he explained his vision, he asked about our backgrounds and slanted many of his explanations toward the technical solutions involved. He spoke of the nature of his quest and, as the conversation grew more casual, he revealed his passion to us in more personal terms, telling us, "You've got to work your ass off!" and "When I know t here are children I can help in this world, how could I possibly take time for anything that doesn't make the world a better place?" This candor creates a bond between the speaker and audience that serves to open people's minds to new ideas.

2. Use examples they understand.
Jacque is quick to point out that The Venus Project seeks to unleash the creative genius in everyone. "The people of tomorrow will look back at us and ask, 'Why was there only one Edison, one Salk?' For every Edison found, thousands go down in flames because we don't educate them properly." So his example is not only one that everyone understands and will relate to, but creates a compelling case for listening to his ideas.

3. Check for understanding.
Jacque punctuates his lectures with continuous affirmation" Do you understand what I'm saying? Is that clear? Am I making sense to you?"-to the point where you know he will ask you again shortly, so you listen more closely. It also gives you the opportunity to ask questions throughout the conversation.

4. Lead them to an unavoidable conclusion.
Like a politician, Jacque asks you the type of rhetorical questions that make his mission seem more critical to us all – questions about the welfare of our children, how we care for our elderly, spending money on education not war, etc. "The government spends its time dumping nerve gas into the ocean. I want us to spend our time cleaning it up."

5. Leave them excited.
"There is a way out of all this;' says Jacque. Then he presents you with his books and other supporting material that give you an opportunity to take the next step. Whatever you think about The Venus Project, there is no denying that Jacque has an effective way of presenting an impossible dream. If these principles have helped to turn around t he most troubled teens in the toughest neighborhoods, just imagine what these principles can do for you on your next presentation.

Does that make sense to you?