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.
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.Continue reading
Data gathered by LinkedIn, Coursera and the World Economic Forum was captured in a Future of Jobs Report recently published by The World Economic forum (WEF). A good summary is provided by senior writer Kate Whiting in her recent Article on the WEF website. Report content is showing up in varied places, with key findings like those below widely shared:Continue reading
“According to experts, remote work is here to stay and even when the health crisis ends, a good portion of the workforce will remain working from home”
That’s the sentiment from a recent Article that looks at the workforce of 2025. Author Lori Ioannou explores the challenges of keeping employees connected, innovating and collaborating in a world of virtual organizations. Evidence that remote work is likely to continue keeps mounting. Microsoft told employees that they can Work From Home Permanently. Dropbox recently did the same, announcing on Tuesday that they will stop asking employees to come into its offices and instead make Remote Work The Standard Practice. For employees that need to meet or work together in person, the company is setting up “Dropbox Studios” when it’s safe to do so. In the meantime, the company extended its mandatory work from home policy through June 2021.Continue reading
In a post from last year, I focused on the Convergence story. This story has one foot in the past, and another in the future. The realization of great advancements in human development during the late 19th and early 20th centuries is a convergence story. A period of great invention converged with other domains to enable our modern society. As we stand at the threshold of another period of great invention, the convergence story is more complicated. This time, complexity is added by the introduction of two new domains: philosophy and environment.Continue reading
In his book titled Homo Deus, Yuval Harari provides a look into possible futures; he echoed those themes as he addressed the attendees of this years annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. I encourage everyone to read his Address, as it touches on the three existential threats that he believes humanity faces: nuclear war, ecological collapse, and technological disruption. Given the attention paid to the first two, Mr. Harari focused his address on technological disruption.
How we handle learning and education in the coming decade will play a major role in determining societal outcomes. Will people gain the skills required by the jobs that scientific and technological advancement spawn? Will education enable us to operate in a future environment that requires collaboration, system leadership, resilience, a learning mindset and entrepreneurial drive? Will we unlearn the shareholder value focus and broaden our focus to consider the full stakeholder community? How we educate future leaders and a society of life-long learners will provide answers to these questions.
A new Article via the World Economic Forum delves into the topic, as the authors explore the university of the future and how it must adapt to train future leaders. The article states that universities must evolve in four ways to meet the demands of future leadership needs:
- Embrace technology
- Create more action-based learning models
- Understand the expanded role of business in society
- Support life-long learning
Education and learning remains a critical issue for me, as it lies at the heart of how society emerges from the transformative pressures of the coming decade. My recent posts share several thoughts on the topic.
As we close out 2019, the world is getting ready to gather once again in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. The 2020 event is held from January 21st through the 24th. Stakeholder Capitalism is a major theme for this years event. Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum describes the need for a better kind of capitalism. In this recent article describing why we need the Davos Manifesto, he describes the three models of capitalism. The current dominant model is shareholder capitalism – a model that enabled hundreds of millions of people around the world to prosper, as profit-seeking companies unlocked new markets and created new jobs. This model is embraced by most Western corporations and holds that a corporation’s primary goal should be to maximize its profits.
In a recent Article via the World Economic Forum, author Alexandre Lemille – Co-founder and general secretary, African Circular Economy Network – describes the Circular Economy – a future scenario on my anchor Visual. In doing so, he shows how our current model extracts resources, transforms them into products, and consumes or uses them, prior to disposal. He describes how recycling actually distracts from the realization of a true circular economy – as recycling only starts at the throwing-away stage: this is a process that is not made to preserve or increase value nor to enhance materials.
I had the pleasure of delivering a dinner keynote at this weeks SAP Ariba Live event. I was very impressed with the event theme: 3 Trillion Reasons. That theme is a play on the nearly $3 trillion in commerce flowing through SAP Ariba annually. Although that number speaks to commerce, the theme spoke to purpose. As positioned on this Blog frequently, I expect a continued Shift to Purpose and Well-Being.
Within the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the World Economic Forum is focused on Globalization 4.0. We are actually approaching Globalization’s Third Act. In a book titled The Great Convergence, Author Richard Baldwin describes the three constraints that have limited globalization: the cost of moving goods, the cost of moving ideas, and the cost of moving people. The first two acts of globalization occurred when the cost of moving goods and ideas dropped. While globalization raised the standard of living in several developing economies, the third constraint limited the breadth of impact.
In his closing chapter, Mr. Baldwin explores the possibility of a third act. This act is driven by dramatic advancements in areas that address the third constraint. If the cost of moving people were to drop, developing nations like South America, Africa, and others could be the beneficiaries of this third act. That aside, the World Economic Forum is looking at global risks and the need for global solutions. They identified Six Questions that must be addressed to make the next wave of Globalization work for all. They correctly state that facing future challenges requires dialog and input from all. Kudos to them for driving the dialog. The six questions are:
- How do we save the planet without killing economic growth?
- Can you be a patriot and a global citizen?
- What should work look like in the future?
- How do we make sure technology makes life better not worse?
- How do we create a fairer economy?
- How do we get countries working together better?
A very good set of questions. You can see how people responded to them by going Here.
As I reflected on my Thoughts for 2019, three themes stood out. I’ve already written about Convergence and Acceleration, so this post will focus on possibilities. As described recently, I believe the world will experience a Burst of Possibilities enabled by the forces of convergence and acceleration. We should expect these possibilities to multiply in 2019, but realization depends upon multiple factors. One of these factors is a true focus on purpose, posing this question for humanity: how do we harness these possibilities to bring about a better world?
In arguing the case for purpose-orientation and possibilities, I created this visual that maps future advancements to our areas of well-being (click on visuals to enlarge them). I could create a different one that shows how these same advancements can be used to diminish our well-being. That’s why convergence is the most critical theme among the three. An effective way to think about purpose and possibilities is via the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These are among the best-known and most frequently cited societal challenges. I believe we are entering a period of astounding innovation – advancements that have the potential to address these goals.
The brain is clearly one of the next great frontiers. In this World Economic Forum Article on reading minds, we get a glimpse into the exponential progression of brain science. The author cites research published by AI experts in China, the US and Japan showing that computers can replicate what people are thinking by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines that measure brain activity – linked to deep neural networks that replicate human brain functions.
In a new book titled Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Klaus Schwab explores a future shaped by scientific and technological advances. The book builds on his earlier work where he describes the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this latest work, the author describes how rapid advancement in science and technology promise to disrupt the digital systems of our day, creating entirely new sources of value. He touches on a key point that I have articulated in my anchor visual; that the digital technologies that organizations are struggling to make sense of today, turn into the core infrastructure that business models will take for granted tomorrow. Said another way; digital is the foundation for the innovation that is emerging.
The journey to the future is gaining more attention for both the opportunity it presents, and the fear of unintended consequences. Dialog and proactive action are critical to shaping this emerging future in human-centric ways – a story line that is nicely articulated in a new book titled Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I am a firm believer that shaping the future requires a different mindset. As stated in the book, we must all adopt a zoom-in and zoom-out strategy: zooming in to acquire an understanding of the characteristics and potential disruptions of specific advances in science and technology; and zoom out to see the patterns and combinations that emerge.
The World Economic Forum’s annual meeting occurred last week in Davos with a theme of responsive and responsible leadership. The session had me thinking back to research conducted by their Global Agenda Council in March 2015 on the Future of Software & Society. The research focused on technological tipping points and the perception of when these tipping points would occur. The responses from a community of over 800 executives and experts from the information and communications technology sector were used to produce a timeline of possible tipping points ranging from 2018 to 2027. This timeline and the visual that follows were taken from this WEF Deep Shift report:
A must read on six mega-trends, their tipping points and societal impacts. I recommend this for anyone with interest in where the world is heading, and/or tasked with future thinking in the context of strategy. I commend the World Economic Forum for their efforts here, as education is likely to spur action. The six mega-trends are:
- People and the internet
- Computing, communications and storage everywhere
- The Internet of Things
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and big data
- The sharing economy and distributed trust
- The digitization of matter
Here is a tipping point timeline from the report:
Many leaders are struggling with the sheer number of future scenarios and some indication of when the tipping point may arrive. This material provides critical input into the scenario and response analysis process. Enjoy the read.