“The future is no longer about tomorrow – it is about today!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
When inviting a futurist on stage to open a corporate or association leadership event, people love the Back to the Future theme! Over the years, I’ll often find myself not only with a fantastic stage setup, but also a DeLorean from the film.
Such was the case a few weeks ago when I opened the first leadership get-together for the newly formed Siemens Energy corporate event in Orlando, Florida, just a few weeks ago. The senior VP, in his opening remarks, actually rolled into the event in the car in a flashy pre-taped mixed with live special-effects driven intro. It was spectacular!
That’s my job too – I will often set the stage, while on stage, to put into perspective the reality that what you thought was far away is actually here today; the future trends you were once speaking about are actually today’s reality; yesterdays science-fiction is today’s real-world truth.
Years ago, I wrote a post called “10 Truths About the Future.” 14 years on – back to the future – it holds up remarkably well. Let’s go back to the future to understand our future today!
Innovation is all about adapting to the future — and if the future is coming at you faster, then you need to innovate faster. Innovation shouldn’t be about trying to survive the future — it should be about thriving.
At a recent keynote to executives within the direct marketing industry, I outline some truths as to the future:
- It’s incredibly fast: Product lifecycles are collapsing. It’s said that half of what students learn in their freshman year about science and technology is obsolete or revised by their senior year. There are furious rates of new scientific discovery. Time is being compressed.
- It involves a huge adaptability gap: Earlier generations — boomers — have had participated in countless “change management workshops,” reflecting the reality that many of them have long struggled with change. Gen-Connect — today’s 15 and under — will never think of change management issues. They just change.
- It has a huge instantaneity: The average consumer scans 12 feet of shelf space per second. Most news becomes old hat within 36 hours of emerging. We live in the era of the rapid idea-cycle.
- It hits you most when you don’t expect it: Every organization must deal with two realities: the rapid emergence of new technologies, the sudden adoption of old-hat ideas. If you want to understand what comes next, study Gartner’s concept of “hype-cycles”
- It’s being defined by renegades: Increasingly, the future of many an industry is being defined by industry expatriates. When real innovators can’t innovate within a company, they step outside, form a startup, and spark massive industry change on their own. Before you know, they’ve reinvented you.
- It involves partnership: Old business models involved asking, “what can we do to run our business better?” The new business model is this: “What can we do to run our customers, suppliers, and partners’ business better?”
- It involves intensity: We must learn to run our business at video-game intensity: in fast-paced markets, we need fast-paced business capabilities.
- It’s bigger than you think: I used to joke about a futuristic GoogleCar. I don’t think it’s a joke anymore. Complacency is a dangerous thing, particularly when every organization is faced with constant, relentless external innovation from unexpected competitors.
The future is going to hit you whether you like it or not; it’s your approach to it, and how you innovate with it, that defines your future success.