Lead Into the Future Today (LIFT) is brought to you by Louise Mowbray of Mowbray by Design, the creative Conscious Leadership Consultancy. If you’re reading this and haven’t yet subscribed, you can do so here:
If you’ve been receiving my newsletters for a while now, you’ll notice a fresh new format from here on in. At least once a month, I’ll be digging more deeply into various topics to give you insight, which I trust you’ll find useful in your day-to-day business life. I’ll also be recording these deep dives for you to 🎧 listen to if you prefer. And you’ll be able to comment and have your say – I’d love to hear your views, whatever you’re up to, wherever you are in the world!
Trends and How They Help You
Introduction: Deciphering our World of Work
Right now I’m inspired by and truly grateful for, bright, smart people who can take the complexity of our world of work and make it understandable. And no, I don’t mean people who offer us reductionist thinking, which can lead to stereotyping leaving us wholly unprepared for what’s coming.
What I’m referring to is the art of taking the complex, with all its moving parts and deciphering it into something we can actively respond to and innovate for. And innovate we must!
Ernst F. Schumacher, the economic thinker, statistician and economist said it best:
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
How can keeping an eye on trends help you?
Trends help us enormously if we spend a little time on them. They enable us to make sense of what’s going on – and better prepare us for the future, which we can broadly think of as ‘sensemaking’.
Saying this, there’s a vast difference between the types of trends that come and go and megatrends or what I think of as golden threads, which are usually here to stay. Golden threads weave their way through and into all aspects of our lives and ultimately create the fabric of the future.
Do you remember Pokémon GO, the 2016 mobile augmented reality game? The game has been downloaded over 1 billion times, which means that at least a billion (mostly young) people are familiar with using augmented reality.
These are the young people who will be buying your products and services and who will be on your payroll, probably designing your next offering, in a very short period of time.
So whilst the game itself (and the many applications it has inspired) may rise in popularity or disappear into obscurity, knowing that augmented (and virtual) reality are here to stay informs how you build your new products, services, offerings or even a fresh new way of working.
Today, there are many talented people and organisations doing the hard work of collecting and distilling vast amounts of global data that point us to the megatrends, so that we don’t have to.
One of those people is Amy Webb, one of America’s leading futurists and an award-winning author. She is the founder and CEO of the Future Today Institute and publisher of the annual FTI Tech Trends Report. Amy’s resume, which you can read in her LinkedIn profile is beyond impressive and I always look forward to her reports. You will find the latest one titled 2021: 14th Annual Tech Trends Report, which I advise you to read in more than one sitting! You can also 🎧 listen to Amy’s podcast version delivered via South By Southwest (SXSW).
Another person worth following is David Mattin, the business, innovation and trends journalist who has appeared everywhere from Fast Company and the Guardian to Google Think Quarterly and the World Economic Forum.
David, who you may remember from TrendWatching is the Founder of New World, Same Humans and writes a weekly newsletter, which makes sense of what’s going on. It’s really worth subscribing to: New World, Same Humans. And if you’d like to learn more about longer-term trends, he’s also the Founder of the Strategy and Futures Research Unit (SFRU).
In their inaugural report titled Five Trends for the 2020’s, David talks about five big trends that will do much to shape consumer expectations in the decade ahead.
Q: I’d really love to hear about your favourite trends, futures and foresight people and organisations. Who do you follow, who helps you to make sense of our world of work? Please share your favourites with us!
Three trends piquing my interest right now:
I thought I would share three trends that are front of mind right now and how you can use them. The first is EdTech, the second is Regenerative Business and the third is all things Agile.
If you’re familiar with Coursera, Udemy or EdX from MIT to name a few, you’ll be aware of the rise of EdTech or Educational Technology. EdTech harnesses the social reach of the internet to deliver personalised learning and training.
In May last year when we were all in lockdown, I had Conversations on Camera with the Deans of two business schools to explore the future of executive education. I was interested to discover how they were adjusting to going virtual and what might happen post-pandemic. Unsurprisingly, major change was in the air and I’ve no doubt we’ll see loads more to come.
On the other end of the spectrum, if are a parent, over the last year you’ll have experienced the joys of homeschooling. Depending on the school(s) your children go to, you’ll also have waded your way through hugely varying degrees of competency in adjusting to a whole new way of learning.
In conclusion, I think we all agree that most children are better off at school, however, we can’t necessarily say the same for adults. The reason for this is yet another interconnected thread, which is all about being a ‘Lifelong Learner’.
Life-long is an extraordinarily long time if science succeeds in having us all live way longer than ever before, which is a topic I explored with the founders of Genome Advisory, which you can watch here. If we are to continue learning over the course of our careers and beyond, stepping out of our lives and being on campus for big chunks of time is not always practical or affordable.
This is where EdTech will play an increasingly vital role. On the 23rd March, TechCrunch reported that Coursera is preparing for the biggest EdTech IPO in years (Coursera set to roughly double its private valuation in impending IPO). Coursera was founded in 2012 by Stanford University computer science professors and the business understandably boomed during the pandemic. Its 77M global users (or “learners”) access online courses and degrees from top universities.
The company filed with the SEC to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “COUR.” The target price range of $30 to $33 could value it somewhere between $2.4B (its October valuation) and $5B.
Another thing to keep your eye on is Google’s recent announcement that could change some aspects of the future of work and higher education. Google Career Certificates is an online platform that delivers professional courses in high-growth fields including IT Support, Data Analytics, Project Management, UX Design and Android Development (so far). The idea is you can earn a credential in about six months online, which may well lead to immediate employment rather than spending time at college without an income.
The platform not only allows candidates to get certified – it provides access to career resources like coaching sessions, mock interviews, and a CV builder tool. It also opens up your resume to top employers through the Google Employer Consortium, which connects major companies to a Google certified talent pipeline. This is really interesting and it’s worth keeping an eye on other players in the market who may well follow.
As a leader, this is an interconnected megatrend, I’m sure you’re familiar with. It’s big and all encompassing. How we hire, onboard, measure performance, train and develop people is largely becoming ‘digitised’. Saying this, most organisations are clunky and disconnected in their delivery and AI driven systemic bias is a very real issue.
Q: How can you use EdTech and the associated available tools and technologies like AI, augmented and virtual reality, the use of neuroscience, behavioural science and our desire to be ‘lifelong learners’ to make this come alive? Becoming a living, breathing ‘learning organisation’ will make you way more attractive to the best talent out there, help you develop the talent you have and and retention will definitely improve.
2. Regenerative Business
We’ve all been talking about sustainable everything for some time. From the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) to how we go about developing people, it’s a word hot on everyone’s lips. This is more of a golden thread, weaving its way through every element of our lives, well into the foreseeable future. On a side note, if you’ve watched the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy, you may well be questioning the big business side of sustainability and how well this is regulated, if at all.
I came across a model last week, which stopped me in my tracks. It made me realise that I hadn’t actually thought deeply enough about what ‘sustainable’ means.
To sustain something means to ‘maintain things at the same level or pace’, which falls massively short of what we, as leaders, actually need to be doing.
The model that got me thinking is from Daniel Truran, Director General at ebbf, B Corp Ambassador at B Lab EU, Partner at NOW Partners and business school Professor at EOI, IE & ESADE, which he posted on LinkedIn (you can follow him here):
A Regenerative mindset looks to create more than you consume.
A Sustainable mindset looks to at least put back into the system as much as you took out.
The majority of businesses are in a Depleting mindset, subtracting from what surrounds them in order to achieve their individual progress.
Prof. Truran also posed the following questions along with his explanation:
What kind of leadership are you inspiring?
What change will you / your company choose?
Great Q’s and much food for thought. I’ll leave it at this and would love to hear your thoughts?
3. Creative, Innovative, Agile Thinking and Action
I’d like to dig into Agile for a moment as it’s becoming a way of working that just keeps on giving. If you’re not yet familiar with Agile methodologies, you will no doubt have heard of Agile Principles, Scrum and job titles like Scrum Master. The strong rugby analogy relates to cohesive teams with self-managed roles working together for a common goal.
What separates Agile from other software development and project management approaches is the focus on the people doing the work and how they collaborate between self-organising, cross-functional teams.
The Four Agile Principles
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
The underlying golden thread here is all around Agile Thinking, which is underpinned by Emotional Agility.
Agile Thinking is the ability to consciously shift your thinking when and how the situation requires it. It is a set of beliefs, values, principles and way of thinking.
Organisational development methodologies are always interesting as they shape our businesses and the people who work in them. Saying this, my years in both executive search and leadership development have taught me that people and culture, or our values and how we think, individually and collectively will make or break any methodology.
If you’re interested in the Emotional Agility element of this, there is a brilliant two-part podcast from emotions researchers Brené Brown and Dr Susan David, which you can listen to here.
Q: As a leader, what can you do to foster Creative, Innovative, Agile Thinking and action in your yourself, your team and throughout your organisation? We know that this type of mindset is vital today and into the future and yet, it can be tricky to shift.
Fortunately, there are some really smart team programmes to help you with this. Have a look at Innovation: Mindset & Toolset, Lumina Learning’s offering on the topic. It was originally developed for the Kuwaiti Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS), is based on behavioural science and is ideally suited to teams.
So that’s me for the time being. Three trends that are worth being aware of, thinking about and taking action on. If any of these are top of mind for you right now I’d love to hear more about what you’re up to in your business life. Please feel free to comment and share your insight with us and if you know of someone who would also enjoy this edition of LIFT, why not share it?
Last, but not least, if you’d like to talk to me about development for yourself, your team or your business, get in touch and we’ll arrange a time for a conversation.
Until next time, take good care of yourself.
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