The Good Future: A Perspective Via Gerd Leonhard

We must make the right decisions now, if we want a good future

Gerd Leonhard – The Good Future is entirely possible, and it’s our choice!

That quote from fellow Futurist Gerd Leonhard comes from a recent film he produced to convey optimism about our ability to create a good future. He opens with several statements that are core to my beliefs about our emerging future. He states that what we have done for the last one hundred years is no longer going to be suitable for the future. In other words what got us here won’t get us there. It was back in 2013 when I wrote about the structural change expected in the future. Much like my belief that structures and institutions will change, Gerd believes that the current system is unfit for the future, driving the need for a different logic. He mentions something that he has been saying for years: science fiction is becoming science fact. In exploring the possibilities of a good future, he starts with a question: what does good look like? He proposes a definition of good that includes relationships, experiences, the planet, purpose, and prosperity.

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The Critical Need For Foresight

Foresight is growing in importance – and it is great to see leaders focused here. In this world of complexity, uncertainty, and rapid pace, generating foresight is not easy. It is a moving target, with change dynamics altering even the safest predictions. We need look no further than the impact of COVID-19 on the pictures of possible futures we were painting just 18 months ago. As difficult as it is, we are fortunate to have people like Alexandra Whittington around to help. She recently tweeted a pandemic influenced view of the future of population, work, and lifestyles.

In some cases, COVID-19 exacerbated trends that already existed. For example, birthrates were already dropping around the world, a phenomenon that grew more acute in the past 18 months. Africa was viewed as the outlier, contributing to future population growth even in the face of declining fertility rates. If the 2020 Oxfam study referenced in the visual below is accurate, a reversing of family planning gains could drive more growth.

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Interview With Amanda Blyth – AIST Publications Manager

I had the pleasure of keynoting the AIME 150th anniversary event last week. In advance of that session, I did a short interview addressing five questions posed by Amanda Blyth, publications manager for the association of Iron and Steel Technology. The questions were in the areas of energy, digital transformation, sustainability, skills needed in 2030, and remote work. The interview can be viewed below. Note: I misspoke during the interview. When addressing the skillset question, I for some reason reversed our left and right brain characteristics. It is our right-brain that houses those characteristics that make us distinctly human.

Thoughts On Adaptability And Resilience

As mentioned in my recent posts, it was 2017 when I participated in a discussion with TCS CTO Ananth Krishnan and CIO extraordinaire Hassan El Bouhali. An animated video was produced to capture a dialog that was initiated as part of an online leadership course focused on the future. The first post launched segment one, which focused on Seeing the Future. The second described the need to relentlessly Rehearse the Future. Given the number of shifts likely to occur, and the pace at which they arise, our ability to adapt is of utmost importance. Here is the abstract for this series followed by the final segment focused on adaptability and resilience.

ABSTRACT: Perspectives on the Journey

A key message in the Reimagining the Future body of work is that our rapidly emerging future challenges every aspect of how we do business, how we govern and how we live. It will drive significant strategic, tactical and structural changes and fundamentally alter our long-standing beliefs, success strategies and institutional constructs. We’re already seeing it. Just look at companies like Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, Tencent, Google, Alibaba and Facebook. They are rewriting the rules and redefining how value is created and captured, using digitally-centered platforms and ecosystem-enabled business models.

As complexity and pace continue to intensify, uncertainty increases and volatility comes to the forefront. Our daily challenges do not disappear however, making the balance between pragmatism and future thinking critical. I invited two business leaders to share their insights and perspectives on the complexity of this transformative journey and the leadership challenges that emerge.

Perspectives On The Journey 2.0 – Rehearsing The future With Ananth Krishnan And Hassan El Bouhali

As mentioned in my recent post, it was 2017 when I participated in a discussion with TCS CTO Ananth Krishnan and CIO extraordinaire Hassan El Bouhali. An animated video was produced to capture a dialog that was initiated as part of an online leadership course focused on the future. The earlier post launched segment one, which focused on Seeing the Future. Given the uncertainty, volatility, and pace of our world, we can only see possible paths. That makes the second piece of the discussion critical: rehearsing the future. Here is the abstract for this series followed by segment two.

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Perspectives On The Journey 2.0 – A Dialog With Ananth Krishnan And Hassan El Bouhali

It was 2017 when I participated in a discussion with TCS CTO Ananth Krishnan and CIO extraordinaire Hassan El Bouhali. An animated video was produced to capture a dialog that was initiated as part of an online leadership course focused on the future. Upon a recommendation from Hassan, we did a follow-up session several weeks back. This iteration of perspectives on the journey looks back at our original discussion and then ventures into the future. As we did in the first iteration, we broke the dialog into three pieces: seeing the future, rehearsing it, and adapting to its eventual shifts. I will share each video separately starting with “SEE”. We will then animate shorter versions that capture key aspects of our discussion and share them as they become available. As a reminder of what we focused on in this series, here is the original abstract followed by the “SEE” video.

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Seismic Shocks In The Never Normal

Thinking it’s going back to the calm old normal, forget it. It’s a world of volatility. That’s what I call the never normal.

Peter Hinssen – Thriving in the Never Normal

I obviously agree with that quote for the most part. I would argue that the old normal wasn’t all that calm. It took a pandemic to illuminate what was lurking beneath the surface. However, this is a brilliant short keynote on the decade ahead. It is loaded with great quotes and examples of reinvention. Holding on to the past is a losing strategy, as a funny segment in the video makes clear:

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Emerging Signals On The Future Of Work

While the world continues to navigate the challenges of a global pandemic, discussion of a post-pandemic future is ramping. The future of work is a dominant piece of that post-pandemic discussion. There are still more questions than answers, but the signals are flying. Three recent articles focused on distinct pieces of this future: Performance, Identity Economy, and Making a Hybrid Work model. The article on performance highlights the pandemic as catalyst and accelerant. The need to rethink how we view performance was clear pre-pandemic – but mostly not acted upon. The events of the last 15 months may be driving action.

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Shaping The Future: Technology And Geopolitics

At the heart of foresight work lies the analysis of domains that shape the future. It is in the convergence of these domains that the future emerges. Geopolitics is one complex area of convergence that has massive implications to an uncertain future. In a recent article, Ariel Kastner explores seven views on how technology will shape geopolitics. The World Economic Forum asked members of the Global Future on Geopolitics to offer their views on technology and its impact on geopolitics in the coming year. This specific quote from the article says it well:

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Leaving The Bay Area

Signals. How do you find them through all the noise? When you do find them, what do they tell us? Many are looking for signals that illuminate the post-pandemic world of work. Will we return to an office in large numbers? Will the future evolve towards a hybrid, more flexible model of work? What happens to real estate? In a recent article, Dan Gentile identifies companies that are Leaving the Bay Area. According to the article, there are 16.3 million square feet of office space in San Francisco currently vacant. The organization sf.citi surveyed companies in January 2021 and found that 63% of those asked plan to downsize or have already downsized their offices. The results of the survey also showed that only 14.6% of companies polled plan to have their employees return entirely to in-person work (signals).

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A Possible Future: Automation Shifts The Economic Paradigm

In exploring possible futures, we give ourselves an opportunity to shape them. With all the existing and emerging science and technology building blocks converging with domains like society, the economy, and geopolitics, predicting the future is impossible. But we can look at possibilities and what they mean to our future. One great recent example was described in an article by Tristan Greene. In looking at artificial intelligence and related automation, Mr. Greene focused on how automation could turn capitalism into socialism. This is not a political discussion, rather, it is following a thread to a logical conclusion. In this case, the impact of automation on the future of work. Mr. Greene said:

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Envisioning Possible Futures Through Storytelling

When describing possible futures, storytelling is a powerful way to make that future real. I have the benefit of being surrounded by strong storytellers, some with great narrative skills and others with strong visualization skills. All of them possess that rare gift of taking complex topics and making them simple. In a world as complex and uncertain as ours, I highly value those skills. Short videos have proven to be a strong communication vehicle – and animated videos are even better. Our YouTube Channel has several animated examples. April Harris is a visualization specialist and colleague. She has been creating short videos to amplify messages from the various Blog Posts I produce – this one below supports my thoughts on Life After Coronavirus. Thank you, April, for the creative ways in which you support storytelling. The rest of the story tellers include: Bill Quinn, Kevin Mulcahy, Bill Bosak, Kevin Benedict, David Kish, Rose Rodriguez, and Neeraj Sharma. My thanks for your support in creating a dialog around our emerging future.

What Does A Recent Trend Study Tells Us About The Future?

Each year the Future Today Institute releases a very comprehensive trend study during SXSW. I just finished getting through this very comprehensive installment. In announcing this year’s report, Founder Amy Webb had this to say:

The cataclysmic events of the past year resulted in a significant number of new signals. As a result, we’ve analyzed nearly 500 tech and science trends across multiple industry sectors. Rather than squeezing the trends into one enormous tome as we usually do, we are instead publishing 12 separate reports with trends grouped by subject. We are including what we’ve called Book Zero, which shows how we did our work. There is also an enormous, 504-page PDF with all content grouped together as one document.

Well, Amy was not kidding, there is quite a bit to digest. The 12 separate reports referenced can be downloaded Here. As I do with each look into the future, I captured some highlights from this year’s trend study. I will start however with an important observation that Amy made in the opening of the report.

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Reimagining A Post-Pandemic Future

Exactly four years ago I had the pleasure of participating in a OpenSAP thought leadership course titled: Reimagining the Future – A Journey Through the Looking Glass. That course is still available and can be taken Here. The program director for that course recently reached out to pick up the conversation. Robert Nichols produces a Podcast titled OpenSAP Invites. We had a great conversation that this time included colleague Kevin Benedict. You can read the abstract and listen to the podcast below . A full transcript and more detail are available on the OpenSAP Invites site.


SESSION ABSTRACT

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Navigating Technology Futures

Mike Bechtel recently shared a World Economic Forum Report that introduces a framework for thinking about the future. Having read through it, I highly recommend the approach to Future Thinking described by the authors. A very powerful part of their work is the use of Storytelling. Several scenarios are explored to showcase the framework’s ability to identify probable and possible futures, while the stories help us imagine and feel those scenarios. The stories are very impactful, placing us in these various futures in a way that helps us understand the world that is emerging. My compliments to the authors and gratitude to Mike for sharing it.

Is The Digital Era Over?

I had a discussion last week that focused on a post-digital world. It was an open question about the state of digital and the related transformation journey. Although the digital maturity of organizations is not where I envisioned it – and Covid-19 underscored the point – digital should be a foundational piece of a bigger story. The continued digital discussion ignores the bigger contributions of science and the boardroom conversations around purpose and innovation. A recent article goes one step further in declaring that the digital era is over, and we are in a New Era of Innovation. In it, Greg Satell makes the exact argument I made above.

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The Future Of Poker

When exploring how evolving technology will affect different aspects of our lives and society more broadly, one of the most interesting things we tend to find is that consequences are not wholly positive or negative.

This is perhaps clearest in the constant debates about what technology will do to job markets. Common logic dictates (to many at least) that increasing automation and new tech will eliminate opportunities and bring about massive net losses in employment. On the other hand, there are more and more arguments suggesting that automation and AI will also create new jobs. One particularly optimistic piece on The Washington Post in 2018 even predicted that machines would create 58 million more jobs than they would displace over a four-year span!

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Digital Exhaustion

Work life in the COVID era is still evolving after a year in which the global pandemic has altered many aspects of work. We learned about the importance of essential workers while accelerating a move to remote work. We put to rest a belief that remote work is unproductive and fully embraced all things digital. Along the way, we learned about Zoom Fatigue – a feeling like exhaustion or burnout. Mental health specialist Krystal Jagoo says that a lot of it comes down to the increased cognitive demands of video conferencing communication. Said another way, we are experiencing digital exhaustion. In a recent Article by Chris Matyszczyk, he provides insight from Microsoft – a company that most expect was ready for the virtual word. But when they explored their virtual world, what they found was in their words horrific:

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A Renewed Focus On Our journey

In late 2017, we produced a video as part of a leadership course that focused on seeing the future at some level and rehearsing it in ways that advance it. In the last two weeks Hassan El Bouhali (a participant in the session) shared six different segments from the video on LinkedIn. The posts attracted a great deal of attention, triggering a thought to produce a follow up video. I covered the initial video back in 2018 via a blog post titled Perspectives on the Journey. TCS CTO Ananth Krishnan participated in the original session, driving a dynamic discussion with Hassan. I’ll bring the band back together to look back on our views from 2017, and look forward to what may lie ahead. In the meantime, here is the full video that supports the various segments that Hassan shared.

Less Is More

An epoch is a period of time in history or a person’s life, typically one marked by notable events or particular characteristics. Although not officially approved, a working group has proposed that the world entered a new epoch called Anthropocene, or the human epoch. The starting point is still debated, as some believe it started at the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution 12,000–15,000 years ago, and others see it starting as recent as the 1960s. One proposal, based on atmospheric evidence, is to fix the start with the Industrial Revolution circa 1780, with the invention of the steam engine.

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