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Think Like a Futurist

 15th May 2018 by gihan

Futurists aren’t fortune-tellers! They simply look broader, deeper, and further than most people, and help you find new opportunities to apply what they find. As writer William Gibson said, the future is already here – it just isn’t evenly distributed. In this webinar, I’ll teach you four practical skills that futurists use, which you can use yourself to enhance your personal and professional life.

You can watch the recording here:

After the webinar, I asked participants “What was the most useful thing you learned today?” Here are some of their answers:

“be open-minded even in what seem obvious areas”

“4 things to improve decisions”

“Interesting ways of looking at the future”

“To widen your scan”

“Broaden the scope of thinking – widen the possibilities”

“The “Yes, and ” way of thinking!”

“Steps to better decision making

The Future Proof Webinar Series

The Future Proof webinar series will keep you in touch with our future – what’s ahead, what it means for us, and how to stay ahead of the game.

In each webinar, I’ll cover an important topic about the future – for example, the shift of power to Asia, the changing workplace, healthcare technology, the shift to customer-centric business, big data, and more. This is not just theory; I’ll also give you practical examples and ideas for you to future-proof your organisation, teams, and career.

Register here

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The Future of Conferences

 8th May 2018 by gihan

Videoconferencing, online meetings, telepresence and other collaboration technology are gaining traction. Does that mean the in-person conference is obsolete? No – not by a long way! But its role has changed. In this podcast episode, discover the top trends affecting our professional and personal lives, and how great conference organisers use them to create transformational experiences.

Listen To the Episode

The Future of Conferences

The Future of ConferencesAs a conference keynote speaker (and somebody who has been in the industry for over 20 years), I have seen major changes in the way conferences and events work. Especially in the last few years, because of technology, changing demographics, and global connectivity.

If you’re in the MICE industry – as a speaker, conference organiser, speaking bureau, association, event sponsor, or anybody else who’s involved in events – download my new special report “The Future of Conferences”.

This is the brand-new 2018 edition, based on research and trends in the industry, and tailored especially for the Australian market.

Download Now

More Resources

The Fit for the Future Podcast brings you regular ideas, interviews and insights about how you, your teams and your organisation can become fit for the future.

More ways to engage with me:

Add Foresight To Your Ideas to Make Your Innovation Really Hum

 3rd May 2018 by gihan

Many organisations run innovation programs, but it’s hard to get traction when your innovation doesn’t have any direction. The missing ingredient is foresight – the skill of looking into the future, so you can pull your innovation from the future, not just build on the past.

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We’re Getting Innovation All Wrong

 1st May 2018 by gihan

I’ve been speaking to a lot of organisations recently about innovation, and I reckon we’re getting this whole innovation thing wrong.

Smart leaders know they need to change and innovate, but their efforts just don’t get traction. Why?

We’re not talking about the simple and obvious reasons – like:

  • Change for the sake of change (“shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic”)
  • No management buy-in for the change
  • A toxic workplace culture

Let ’s assume you don’t face these obstacles. You have a team that ’s willing to change, you have the support of your management team at all levels, and you’re not just doing change for the sake of change.

So, we’re talking about essential change/innovation efforts designed to keep your business current – or even ahead of the game.

And yet they still fail. Why?

Most people think it isn’t their job.

Even in a positive workplace, where people find their work interesting and would engage in innovation or change, many of them just don’t recognise it as part of their work.

Many (perhaps most?) people think of “innovation” as something big, like inventing a new iPhone, creating a nanotechnology surgery robot, or sending a commercial rocket to Mars. These major world-changing innovations capture the world’s attention, but everyday innovation, continuous improvement, or “kaizen” (as the Japanese call it) is just as important. One small idea might not have the same impact as one big idea, but thousands of small ideas building on each other might!

That was the strategy behind the British Tour de France team, Team Sky, in 2012 when their rider Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. Their coach, Dave Brailsford, adopted the approach of making “marginal gains”: a series of seemingly small improvements that cumulatively led to ultimate victory.

For example, they colour-coded the drink bottles the riders picked up during the race. A bottle with a white top was water; a blue top was an energy drink. That simple change saved a few seconds each time a rider reached for a drink. That might not seem much over 3,500 kilometres, but it was just one of many small changes that all added up.

But this method wastes time and energy.

The problem with this kind of innovation is that it often wastes time and energy.

With a clear goal like winning the Tour de France, it’s easy to direct these small innovations where they matter most. But without direction and clarity, it’s easy to put excessive resources into “improving” something that shouldn’t be a high priority.

This is known as Parkinson’s Law of Triviality. It’s also informally called “the bicycle shed problem”, where people leave complex design tasks to the experts, but spend endless hours debating the design of a simple bicycle shed because everybody has an opinion about it.

Don’t get me wrong – I know continuous improvement is important. But it needs to have direction and focus.

Innovation needs to start from the future.

Before you start any innovation or change program, you need to know where you’re heading.

Futurists call this skill “foresight”, and it’s the missing element from most innovation and change programs.

This might seem obvious, but most innovation programs don’t work this way. They operate without direction, as if the next big idea is just going to pop out of nowhere.

Pull from the future, don’t push from the past.

The key difference when you start with foresight is that you start with a future focus. Instead of pushing change from the past, you pull it from the future.

When you think like a futurist, you can then act like an innovator. If you really want to create compelling change, first learn how to see into the future so you can design a path to success.

As a team, you stay ahead of the game. And as a leader, you can feel proud and excited to be leading this motivated team.

Discover the missing piece that dooms most innovation programs to failure.

For more about using foresight to drive your strategy, innovation and change programs, download my free white paper Think Sharper and you will learn:

  • Why most innovation programs don’t work
  • How to add a crucial first step before you start any innovation or change program
  • How to make innovation a habit – not a burden – in your team and organisation

Download Now

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Don’t Switch Off – Lean In

 24th April 2018 by gihan

Last week, at the end of my “Fit for the Future” keynote presentation, an audience member asked me about how to handle her son’s obsession with technology. Her question went something like this:

“My son loves technology and is really good with it. But we’re worried he spends too much time with it, so how can we get him to spend less time on technology and more in other activities?”

Sound familiar? It’s a common question people ask, and it’s not only parents who ask it. It also applies to teachers complaining about distracted students or employers worrying about lost productivity.

I’ve seen many different responses to this kind of question, and many of them are about imposing rules to restrict “screen time”. This might work in the short term, but it’s hardly a good long-term solution – especially when technology is only going to be an increasing part of our lives.

But that’s not the real problem.

Looking at the bigger picture, the problem with this approach is that you’re not really helping anybody – including yourself – prepare for the future.

What if you embraced this opportunity instead?

Instead of seeing people as obsessed, distracted or unproductive, what if you treated them as smart, savvy, talented people who are experts in something that’s going to be an important part of your future? Yes, this is not just about their future – it’s about yours.

Lean in, don’t switch off.

My advice to that concerned mother was to engage with her son in his use of technology, rather than telling him to switch it off. Rather than viewing technology as his domain, make it theirs – together. Ask him to teach, demonstrate, and explain. He becomes the mentor and she becomes the student.

If you have never thought this way before, it might be a strange way to operate. But it’s powerful if you embrace it.

This applies to your workplace as well.

The most effective leaders and managers also work this way. In the workplace, it’s called “reverse mentoring”, which turns the traditional idea of mentoring on its head. Rather than the older, senior people mentoring young people, you turn it around so the more senior people are mentored by the younger, more junior people.

This makes sense, because those more junior people do have more expertise in some areas – such as social media, consumer behaviour, and technology. And even if they don’t have more expertise, they often have different expertise in many areas – such as home ownership, shopping, communicating across multiple generations, same-sex relationships, and more.

Watch this short video of me talking about reverse mentoring:

Be flexible and curious.

Of course, part of your role as a parent, teacher or employer is to share your wisdom based on your experience. So there are times when it’s right to point out that somebody’s use of technology is inappropriate.

But don’t make that your default approach. It’s an easy short-term fix, especially when you’re trying to engage children at the dinner table, teach a curriculum in a classroom, or meet an important project deadline. But if that becomes your “go-to” action every time, you’ll miss many important opportunities to learn.

You already have futurists in your family room, classroom and meeting room. Are you criticising them because they’re not behaving the way they “should”? Or are you taking advantage of their skills – so you can all be fit for the future?

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Create Experiences, Not Just Products and Services

 17th April 2018 by gihan

I was speaking at an aged care leadership conference about the challenge of increasing competition and client choice. The aged care industry is growing, because of our ageing population, but this also creates more competition and choice for clients. This is true in many industries, and it’s no longer good enough to just provide products and services. To be truly fit for the future, focus on creating compelling experiences your customers and clients can’t get anywhere else.

Do You Know the Future Climate For Your Business Strategy?

 12th April 2018 by gihan

Earlier this week, I attended a conference (actually an “Unconvention”!) about leadership and strategy, with a focus on the role of Boards in working with their senior management teams.

I was chatting with one of the organisers, Dr. Nicky Howe, the CEO of Southcare, about how boards and senior leaders should cope with our fast-changing world. After our conversation, she said – in fact, tweeted – that “a futurist belongs in a board room”:

As a futurist who provides a “Futurist in Residence” service for boards and senior leadership teams, of course I couldn’t agree more (thanks, Nicky)!

But what does that actually mean?

What value does “futurist” thinking bring to your strategy?

In a nutshell: You scan wide first, before you narrow down and go deep.

Let me explain …

This is important, and it applies whether you’re on the board of a publicly listed company, your own “board member” in your small business, or anywhere in between. We’re all facing a fast-changing world, with more competition and disruption than ever before. So, yep, I get it – it’s not as easy to set strategy and direction anymore.

You do still need to set direction, create a strategy, develop stretch goals, collaborate closely with your management team, monitor progress, exercise good governance, and do all the other things to keep your organisation on track.

But the world might change around you in an instant – from a global competitor, increased regulation, a change in government, a smart start-up, or a disruptive technology. And then your beautifully-crafted strategy is useless!

So how do you balance these competing priorities – on the one hand, giving clarity to your team; and on the other, designing for uncertainty?

The secret is to start with foresight.

Later in that conference, another CEO admitted to me that his organisation had only one strategy – and they were placing all their eggs in that basket. If that failed, they had nothing else. That’s risky! Maybe even negligent.

As French philosopher Émile Chartier said:

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it’s the only one we have.”

That’s where the skill of foresight comes in. You step into the future and scan wide by exploring multiple possibilities. You don’t just look at one possible future; you consider multiple futures. Sure, they aren’t all equally likely, but at least you can consider them, and weigh them up when planning your strategy.

The wider you go, the better you are. Otherwise, you’re starting from a narrow range of possibilities, and just hoping to get lucky. And hope is not a strategy.

So scan wide first, then narrow it down to set your direction, and then go deep to create your strategy.

Make the time for foresight!

If you’re spending all day managing immediate priorities or – worse – putting out fires, it’s not easy to find the time for foresight. But it’s an essential leadership skill, especially now.

If you think you’re too busy to do this, at least take heart from the fact you’re not alone! Rich Horwath, CEO of the Strategic Thinking Institute, found in his research that almost all leaders said they didn’t have time for strategic thinking because they were too busy putting out fires (If you want details, search for “Make Strategic Thinking Part of Your Job” in the Harvard Business Review)

But that doesn’t mean you should stay stuck! Either make the time for foresight, or engage a futurist to help you with it.

Foresight increases your chances of success.

If you have the resources, you might be able to invest in multiple strategies for multiple futures. That’s how successful venture capitalists work: They back multiple start-up companies, knowing most will fail but hoping one will make it big.

Most boards and leaders don’t have that luxury, and you will probably choose one path and use that to guide your strategy. That’s fine. At least your foresight has given you the best chance.

It’s like trying to predict the weather. If you want to know whether to wear warm clothes three days from now, check with the weather bureau and you’ll get a pretty accurate prediction. But if you want to know whether to wear warm clothes three months from now, you look at climate, not weather. Foresight and strategy work with climate, and the more you know about the future climate, the better you can plan for it.

Discover the missing piece that dooms most innovation programs to failure.

For more about using foresight to drive your strategy, innovation and change programs, download my free white paper Think Sharper and you will learn:

  • Why most innovation programs don’t work
  • How to add a crucial first step before you start any innovation or change program
  • How to make innovation a habit – not a burden – in your team and organisation

Download Now

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Are You Using Reverse Mentoring?

 10th April 2018 by gihan

Many organisations have mentoring programs, but do you also encourage and foster REVERSE mentoring? It’s a growing trend among smart organisations, and one of the best ways to tap into the talent and skills of your people.

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