Where the next 10 years will take us, and why innovation will no longer be a luxury
By Andrew Grant
Dear Colleagues of 2008
I’m writing to you from the year 2018. As cybertech companies have just opened their Pluto satellite, I am now able to send you this s-mail from the future. By using the gravitational pull from each of the planets, the s-mail has accelerated faster than the speed of light, passing through a space wormhole and backwards in time to you, in the hope you will not only see the future but change it by what you do today.
The world has changed more in the last 50 years of the 20th century than in the 10000 years before that, and I wanted to let you know that just as a person living in 1958 would be in disbelief about many aspects of life in 2008, you might have the same reaction if you were to see how we live in 2018. Whilst 50 years spans a generation, 10 years is just around the corner – so any discussions about the future can’t be put off till later, as later will be here faster than you can ever imagine.
Where I’m from, information has become redundant. To be competitive, successful individuals and organizations have been the ones that have continued to take initiative and to move forward. Like PCs hitting the shelves becoming obsolete before they leave the shop floor, the perceptions or ‘maps’ most people had in 2008 have quickly become outdated as they have travelled into the future. In order to keep up with progress, the successful companies that have survived developed systems that encourage corporate creativity. For these companies, change management is no longer seen as a one-off introduction for a new system, but a continuous state or mindset that all employees learn to live with. These company cultures actually encourage a change process mindset where everyone wants to be involved in more efficient process design and generating new ideas. Everyone in the company is an innovator, it is no longer just one obscure team responsible for innovation and development.
What I have learnt is that in 2008 you should be able to effectively prepare for the future in the following ways:
- Breed innovative thinkersThe challenge we are now facing is that finding good people is getting more and more difficult. Don’t base your future on the short term naive belief that there will always be people willing to work for you. Here in 2018 the best talent can write their own ticket and leave for greener pastures whenever they feel like it. Knowledge talent now competes in a global innovation-based economy free from borders. It is vital that you effectively plan for the future to stay competitive in the workforce.Having the right people with the right skills in innovation will be a critical factor in surviving the future. It will be vital for you and your teams to develop Predictive Awareness – knowing where to look for change, what to look for, and how to apply any newfound knowledge, will be the only way you can keep up with the rapid progress.
- Develop the ability to map the futureThere is a secret I have noticed your generation kept well guarded from us – your children. Nearly everything we learnt at school in 2008 was irrelevant for when we entered this workplace. Our generation studied history, explorers and physical geography, but was not encouraged to imagine, explore and map the future. The children most prepared for the future were the ones who could work beyond the school system and could appreciates the dynamics of learning how to learn, not just what to learn. Through constructive dreaming, they were able to prepare themselves for the future.Back in the late 1980s Scott Peck, a famous psychologist, talked about a major problem he saw in adults who came to him for therapy: the tension of living with a 20 year mindset in a 40 year old body. Being stuck in the present or past while the world moves on has created classic mid life crisis symptoms, with victims denying the inevitability of a rapidly changing world and attempting to resist its impact.
- Stay open to possibilitiesCompanies also build articulate and inarticulate mental maps of their relationships, their markets, their social and political interests. When building mental maps companies should have never allowed themselves to become blinded to other possibilities and clues that the outside world was changing. The companies that didn’t survive were the ones that fell asleep in 2008 and continued to fight a battle that no longer exists in 2018.
Carl Sagan, the famous astrologist, always dreamed big. He said that inhabiting other worlds does not imply abandoning this one, any more than the evolution of amphibians meant the end of fish. For a very long time, he believed, only a small fraction of us will be able to see what’s coming. Although he was referring to interplanetary exploration, those that can evolve faster will have the first mover advantage with all the emerging markets to themselves, and it starts with imagination grounded in predictive awareness. The Sky is not the limit.
- Learn new languages, trial new ways of doing thingsRemember Napster, which shocked the music industry back in 2004 through challenging an industry which had always used a ‘supply and demand’ retail map to distribute music? The industry didn’t know how to respond and has suffered ever since.Here in 2018 it is not the musicians that fly around in their private jets being chased for interviews and paparazzi anymore, but the creative innovators. They can speak multiple languages and are comfortable in any nation or culture. They can see what’s around the corner and then provide leadership products and services to meet the trends, innovating at every opportunity.
- Recognize the value of the intangiblesThe rating Institute for the US car industry began its report by saying, “There are no bad cars any longer because they are all good”. All car makers now understand each other’s products, so differentiation in the car industry must therefore come from other areas. The new competitive better field is not the engine or the air-conditioner – it is the design, the warranty, the service deal, image and finance package, intelligence, intangibles and emotion.
- Value ideasIn this last decade, thanks to cell phones, laptops, and the internet, work has become less tied to a physical location. Instead people have become a tribe of digital nomads working whenever and wherever they choose. Companies have realized that they need to value people for their ideas, and not their time or physical presence. Annual contracts are now related to objectives met instead of hours worked. This has led to an increase in sabbaticals and less clear definitions between what’s done at home and what happens ‘at work.’
- Attract and retain the right peopleA new generation has emerged, and the new breed of employers is a savvy group. Back in 2008 The Herman Group predicted a shortage of 10 million workers in 2010, and it has only become harder each year. Employers have had to become smarter at attracting and retaining good people. As the tables have turned from employers thinking there were people queuing to work for them, now leaders line up on online sites such as e-Bay reviewing job auction options, grateful that they have the opportunity to bid. Corporations that perpetuated self interest in getting workers to adopt and conform to their physical constraints of the enterprise watch in shock as their best talent leave for greener pastures.
- Find and train for the new skillsIn 2018 the top tier get everything and the rest scramble for the crumbs. This has been accentuated by the fact that over 70% of today’s companies say the workforce is not skilled for the current available jobs. Artificial intelligence and robotics are starting to displace more layers of workers. People that have been in jobs that can be reduced to a set of formal rules learnt by an intelligent and emotionally aware machine will soon have had to look for another career.
- Get noticed for creating valueIn our age of abundance, companies desperately need to get noticed. The companies that cheated got away with it for a while. Many uncreative organizations went to extremes – and for some this meant deceiving the customer with ‘too good to be true’ offers. Did your generation really think they could buy a mobile phone or a seat on a plane from a company for $1? But the new generation of consumers are much smarter, and you can no longer get away with such obvious sales tactics.The companies that are successful in getting noticed and are able to win a loyal following are companies that use their creativity to add value. Value is, has, and always will be the outcome when something is created that is more than the sum of the parts combined. Amazon was the first to recognize this. They actually received a significant backlash when they took the proactive step of creating value for the customers by allowing negative reviews of books on their website. At that time the CEO fought back because he could see the future and said, “We didn’t make money when we just sold things, we make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.” Similarly, eBay’s CEO has explained their strategy: “We watched what our customers did, and then tried to make them successful at doing it.”
The first revolution swapped fields for factories, while the second – the information revolution – has replaced brawn with brains. Now the third revolution since 2008 has been the shift from left to right-brain economic production. Creativity and innovation are no longer a luxury, they have become a necessity.
I can only hope that you and your organization will be future ready. Remember, you can change the future by what you do today.
Steps for creating ‘future-ready’ organizations:
- Develop a future vision of where you want to go
- Create a sound strategy to get there
- Identify tools to persuade key people
- Follow through with effective execution
Is your organization ‘future-ready’? To consider:
- Where will my organization be in 2018?
- What workforce innovations will drive my organization?
- How can we prepare today to win the future talent war?
- How can we ensure our employees are more innovation ready and support them better through the process?
Much of this information has been adapted from ‘The Extreme Future’ by Dr James Canton (PhD) and ‘The Future of Work’ by Charles Handy.
©2008 by Andrew Grant
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