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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Views On The Role of Business Are Shifting Again

Prior to the 1980s (Specifically the post world war two era), there was a belief that business had a higher purpose than generating profits. This somewhat cyclical debate about the role of business is back again. Business in the post-war era served a broad set of stakeholders, not just the shareholder. Early business corporations formed in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were created specifically to create roads, canals, railroads, and banks. There was a focus on service, not maximizing investment returns. In these periods, business focused on stakeholder capitalism. Investopedia defines it this way:

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COVID-19 And The New Great Depression

In a new book by James Rickards, the author explores both the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact. A prolific writer, Economist, and adviser, Mr. Rickards predicts years of economic turbulence ahead. In The New Great Depression, Mr. Rickards sees the pandemic through an historical lens, where crisis presents a gateway between one world and the next. With an eye towards history, he concludes that the Keynes practical definition of a depression fits, and we are now in a new depression that is more far reaching than a mere technical recession. Along the way, the author wades into controversial topics such as China’s role in spreading the virus and the lockdown that ensued (which he calls the biggest policy blunder ever).

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The Great Demographic Reversal

Beginning in 1990, several forces converged to shape the global economy. Globalization, demographics, technology, deflation, debt, and interest rates have all played a role. Now, according to a recent book, at least two of those forces are reversing. In The Great Demographic Reversal, authors Charles Goodhart and Manoj Pradhan describe these forces and their influence on the last thirty years of economic activity. With this convergence, the world experienced an extended deflationary period, which per the authors, was driven in part by a labor supply shock. The book said the following:

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Are We Heading Towards A New World Order?

After World War Two, 730 delegates from all 44 Allied nations gathered in the U.S. at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. The Bretton Woods Conference aimed to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the war ended. Held from July 1 to 22, 1944, agreements were signed and ratified by member governments, establishing the institutions that represented a new world order. This led to what was called the Bretton Woods system for international commercial and financial relations.

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Global Technology Governance

Strawberries. Simple enough for farmers to grow, but can they do better? That is a question that a smart Agriculture Competition in China attempted to answer. Four technology teams competed with farmers over four months to grow strawberries. This Article by Victoria Masterson describes what happened next: data scientists produced 196% more strawberries by weight on average compared with traditional farmers. It is not surprising, given that vertical farming using intelligent sensors and AI have shown the possibilities. As we witness this rapid pace of innovation, we see the potential for human development (in this case food abundance), but also the likely unintended consequences. These Two Paths have historical precedent, as every great period of invention has followed both paths. After all, fire provided light, warmth, and food, but also burned down villages.

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The Future Always Follows Two Paths

In a Post from 2016, I explored the balance required when the forces of innovation take hold. The pace of innovation four years ago was already staggering, and the engine that drives it continues unabated. From that post:

The unabated exponential progression of science and technology has driven a staggering pace of innovation. The building blocks are mostly there, allowing creative minds to combine them in ways that attack the world’s most difficult challenges. Additional forces have emerged to position the next two decades as a period that is purpose-focused and transformative. Innovation itself is no longer the sole purview of business, universities, government, and military, as our connected world provides an ideation and innovation engine never seen before.

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Are Big Cities In Trouble?

The remote work discussion will not go away. There are no shortages of predictions or perspectives regarding the world of work post-pandemic. I continue to believe that prediction is a fools errand, especially in a world dominated by rapid innovation, uncertainty, and a level of Convergence unseen since the end of World War Two. While we may not predict the future, we can continually look for signals – both weak and strong. The future of both work and cities is intertwined. If remote work becomes the standard practice, it has big implications for cities. A recent Article written by Derek Thompson explores this dynamic. This quote from the article represents a signal:

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Guarding Against Future Crises In Business

In the early days of 2021, there is still an uneasy feeling involved in any search for a silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, it may be that this will always remain the case. And yet, without disregarding or minimizing the tragedy that the pandemic has inflicted all across the globe, there are certain potential positives coming to light.

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Another Roaring Twenties?

Lost in the focus on life after the pandemic are all the forces that were already shaping our future. I explored many of them in various posts, but none have been as intriguing to me as the forces tied to history. If we look at history and apply it to current day, we can seek out periods that look like ours. This Application of History illuminates possible futures and has the potential to inform our actions. What happened in these similar periods and what can we learn? A recent article posed this question: Will the 2020s Really Become the Next Roaring Twenties? This seemingly simple question is loaded with implications. The article provides several links with great content and I highly recommend it.

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Organizing For Future Readiness

Back in 2013, weak signals clearly pointed to a structural change that was desperately needed. In a Post from that year, I described the type of change I envisioned in a world that looked very different than the world where these structures were born. The pandemic, as it has on so many levels, made something lying beneath the surface very visible. What it should also illuminate for leaders is that the future is uncertain, approaching rapidly, and likely to contain regular extreme events. Those factors make future readiness crucial to viability. To be future-ready, and to operate in a world dominated by uncertainty and pace, structures must change. When I say structure, I mean a broad set of things to consider:

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A Survey Of Runners And A Look Into The Future

As I mentioned in a Post last week, I had the privilege of participating in the Mass Participation World Conference 2020. The theme of the event was “Changing the Narrative: Solutions to help us move from Surviving to Thriving”. The video below captures some highlights from TCS’ This Run Tech Survey , and a look into the future of sports.

Basketball Shooting Robot Sets World Record

One future scenario that I describe is called an Automated Society. There is always much skepticism when the scenario is discussed. Our mind tells us that humans do things that automation simply cannot replace. I use sports as a good way to explore the possibility of automating anything we set our minds to. Take for example a robot sinking a hole in one.

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Envisioning The Future Of Sports

Last week, I participated in the Mass Participation World Conference 2020. The theme of the event was “Changing the Narrative: Solutions to help us move from Surviving to Thriving”. We shared the results of a recent survey of runners. The TCS This Run Tech Survey  reveals that technology is powering runners through the pandemic. The survey was geared towards uncovering running technology trends  amid COVID-19  and  helping  shape how TCS can best support runners and races in the future. TCS sponsors marathons around the world, including the NYC Marathon.

As a follow up to my presentation on the Future of Sports, this Article envisions the future of athletics and society. Reimagine the future of sports along with us – I’d be interested in your thoughts.