Weekly Research and Commentary on the Future of Business and Technology.
Knowing What We Know.
Jul 11, 2022
Last week, during a community meetup, we discussed our “Four Horsemen” (actually — the “Four Horsepeople”), when a participant mentioned their version of the Fifth Horseperson: Busy Work. Spot on! I can’t tell you how often I get into a situation where I find people keeping themselves busy (and they are busy), but being busy at things which don’t really matter. A good time to remind ourselves that neither innovation, nor disruption or transformation is successful, when our teams are busy being busy.
And now, this…
Practical Futurism // Decode. Disrupt. Transform.
When we work with clients on improving their capability to spot weak signals of future change and to leverage trend data to imagine ways in which their markets and business models might evolve or be disrupted over time, we often hear the same response: It’s hard to know which of these signals and trends will really matter — or matter most — in the long term.
And that’s certainly true to an extent. It can be difficult to sort the most important signals from the noise; the future is ultimately unknowable in many of its particulars; and so on. All true. But in the bigger picture, we already know some of the most important and powerful drivers of change and have ample opportunity to think with intention today about how they are likely to shape the challenges we will need to navigate and the solutions we will need to create in the future.
Perhaps it’s because I’m writing this over a weekend in Austin, TX where the temperature is hitting a distressing 42 deg C (Jeffrey here, and yes, some of us in TX are conversant in Celsius 😉) that I’ve been thinking of William Gibson’s Tweet about the sci-fi imagination a few years back and how this applies to the imagination of leaders at large:
“All imagined futures lacking recognition of anthropogenic climate-change will increasingly seem absurdly shortsighted. Virtually the entire genre will be seen to have utterly missed the single most important thing we were doing with technology.”
If we all take Gibson’s lead here, there’s an opportunity to seriously evaluate not only future strategy and vision but all questions around the leadership, purpose & relevance of any organization or institution against the single most important driver of future change. Indeed, this is pretty much what the futurist Leah Zaidi (whose work I recommend) advocated in her 2020 essay on The Only Three Trends That Matter – the other two trends in her formulation being “the battle for an equal, just, and democratic society” and “the rise of artificial intelligence”.
Maybe we already know more about the future than we realize (and perhaps know more than “enough”), and the real challenge is in taking responsibility for and acting decisively on the knowledge that we have.
What We Are Reading
☣️ The Pandemic Changed Us. Now Companies Have to Change Too. During the pandemic, the global workforce became exhausted, self-efficacy decreased, and cynicism grew. Now, employers are finally starting to listen, as employees renegotiate their social contracts with work. Mental health awareness, a focus on increasing fairness, hybrid offerings and flexible hours are all initiatives that are working to solve issues around burnout and will be a necessity going forward. Jane ⇢ Read
👾 How the technology behind ‘Fortnite’ is being used to design IRL buildings More than just a video game. How Fortnite technology is adapted for use in architecture, urban planning and development. Mafe ⇢ Read
🎶 Schroedinger’s streaming service just died The sleight of hand that has supported digital “abundance” in the music streaming world through the en masse economic screw-over of artists might have just slipped a bit. Jeffrey ⇢ Read
✈️ One Man’s Dream for a World-Wide Blimp Race Is No Easy Feat. Would you go outside and look up? As different perspectives are always crucial, this is quite a romantically different and surprisingly inspiring one. Julian ⇢ Read
💻 The First Million-transistor Chip: The Engineers’ Story Delightful (and longer) piece of computer history — Intel’s journey to build the i860 series of chips and push the boundaries of what was thought is possible. Pascal ⇢ Read
🧨 Disrupt Disruption: This week we got to speak with Hemali Vyas from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. In our conversation, we explore (no pun!) the future of space exploration, and what companies and leaders can learn from NASA.
Radically yours, take good care, friend!
— Pascal, Mafe and the three Js (Jane, Jeffrey, and Julian)
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