I have been providing my insight, and have been speaking to organizations about the future, for more than 25 years.
Over the years, I have come to realize that while the majority of my audience appreciates a whirlwind ride into the future, there are others who just wish the future would go away.
I used to worry and obsess over this challenge, often leaving a stage wondering why I wasn’t able to get through to everyone. Then years ago, I realized that no matter what I do, there will always be a core group who prefer the status quo. They fall prey to the sentiment of Ogden Nash: “progress is great, but its gone on way too long.”
This issue and challenge has become more pronounced and visible in the last year. And a recent event demonstrates to me that leaders today must work harder to deal with, manage and confront the internal conflict that exists over how to deal with the fast future.
Since I’m on a Jetsons’ theme this year with many of keynotes (Keynote: The Jetsons Have Arrived 50 Years Early: What are YOU Going to Do About it?) , I thought that the image below beset captures the nature of challenge!
I’m having quite a bit of fun watching the movie in which the Jetsons meet the Flintstones. Consider what is happening with the acceleration of the automotive industry: self-driving cars, intelligent highways, prognostic self-diagnosing vehicles. The industry will be barely recognizable in 10 years! Cars tomorrow will be barely recognizable compared to what we drive today.
And yet, there remain folks who just refuse to participate in the inevitability of the future, and that can be a significant leadership, strategic challenge.
The issue became crystal clear to me with a recent keynote. Anyone familiar with my keynotes knows that I do a variety of text message polls while on stage, whether in front of a few thousand in Vegas or with a small executive group of 15 or 20. It’s a fun, interactive way to get insight from those I am working with.
I started out with my opening poll, after I spoke briefly about the fast trends that envelop our world. The response is typical : most people today feel that the world is moving way too fast for them! Fair enough — the pace of change is overwhelming.
My next question, before I dove into the issues of business model disruption and innovation? A question asking them if they thought their industry would see much change.
Not at all, indicated 40%! In 10 years, things would be the same as they would today. To be honest, this left me kind of stunned. It’s not the typical response.
In my wrap up, I asked the audience what barriers might exist in the way of dealing with change? And the answers here were untypical of the many hundreds of such polls I’ve done, with a majority indicating a belief that it isn’t necessary to do anything!
What are we left with? An organization that feels overwhelmed by change; in which almost half this change won’t impact them, and that they didn’t really need to do anhyting to deal with it.
In other words, the future can be safely ignored.
I started using the Jetsons-Meets-the-Flintstones cartoon as a joke; a bit of ill-conceived humour on some recent political events. But it’s not a joke, and this is a real and substantive leadership issue.
As a CEO or senior executive, how are you going to align a fast paced future — one full of challenge and opportunity — to an organization where a significant number of people don’t think that the future will impact them?