Thinking Like A Futurist is the #1 Skill For Leaders: Here’s How to Master It

By Jacob Morgan

What’s the top skill leaders need to succeed over the next decade and beyond? According to my interviews with more than 140 top CEOs, far and away the most needed skill is being able to think like a futurist.

Contrary to what some people believe, futurists don’t predict the future. Instead, they help make sure individuals and organizations aren’t surprised by what the future might bring. Thinking like a futurist involves looking at different possibilities and scenarios as opposed to picking one path and sticking to it.

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Google Director Of Engineering: This is how fast the world will change in ten years

Michael Simmons

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Futurists from the 20th century predicted that labor saving devices would make leisure abundant. According to the great economist John Maynard Keynes, the big challenge would be that…

“For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem — how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.”

— John Maynard Keynes (1930)

Fast forward almost a century later.

Things didn’t quite go as expected. This quote from a modern researcher captures the current ethos:

“Rather than being bored to death, our actual challenge is to avoid anxiety attacks, psychotic breakdowns, heart attacks, and strokes resulting from being accelerated to death.”

— Geoffrey West

Rather than inhabiting a world of time wealth, we’re inhabiting a world of time poverty. Rather than feeling the luxury of time freedom, we’re feeling the burden of constant hurry.

What happened?

How did things turn out the exact opposite of what we were expecting?

More importantly, will the pace of life keep accelerating? And if it does, what are the implications (ie — can most people even cope)? What should we be doing now as knowledge workers to prepare for this future?

So, I spent over 100 hours reading the top 10 books related to these questions across the disciplines of sociology, technology, physics, evolution, business, and systems theory.

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Futurism: a driver for new businesses

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Futurism won’t provide us winning lottery numbers, but it can tell us what the next scenarios may be for your company, market or customers, mapping the biggest threats and opportunities. It can help you contain risks and respond quickly in order to build sustainable success.

In this article, in addition to understanding what Futurism is, you’ll see how it’s related to innovation. You’ll also see how you can apply it to guide your business.

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Elon Musk claims AI will overtake humans in ‘less than five years’

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Chatbots powered by artificial intelligence are already capable of passing some Turing tests. ( AFP via Getty Images )

Existential threat posed by artificial intelligence is much closer than previously predicted, billionaire warns.

Elon Musk has warned that humans risk being overtaken by artificial intelligence within the next five years.

The prediction marks a significant revision of previous estimations of the so-called technological singularity, when machine intelligence surpasses human intelligence and accelerates at an incomprehensible rate.

Noted futurist Ray Kurzweil previously pegged this superintelligence tipping point at around 2045, citing exponential advances in technologies like robotics, computers and AI.

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Incredible tech to expect in the near future

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It only sounds like science fiction

Artist depiction of what electronic contact lenses of the future could look like.

Moore’s law famously says that computer power doubles every eighteen months or so. This is evidenced clearly when graphing computer chip prices and their relative processing speed, power, and memory. In fact, Moore’s law is true even if one includes technology from as far back as 100 years. This means that every year, video games are twice as powerful as those from the year before. The chip in your birthday cards would have been remarkable to Hitler or Churchill in the 1940’s and yet it’s so common to us that we simply throw it away when we’re done with it. A military supercomputer of 1997, worth millions of dollars, has the same power as your Playstation 3 that runs for $130. NASA placed mankind on the moon in 1969 with less computing power than you have in your cellphone.

These chips are transformative. They greatly empower anything that they touch, like some divine force. When they touched phones we got cellphones in return. Cameras became digital cameras, phonograms became iPods, paper money became credit cards, arcade machines became video games, and airplanes became war drones. Yet their potential still hasn’t been reached. These chips can be integrated into everything from clothes to your toilet and even your brain.

Here I’m going to be taking a look at technology you can expect to see in the next 10 to 50 years.

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Now hiring AI futurists: It’s time for artificial intelligence to take a seat in the C-Suite

 

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In a time of COVID-19 disruption, futurists can accelerate organizational recovery and capacity. When partnered with purpose-built AI, augmented intelligence can also spur radical innovation.

Machine learning, task automation and robotics are already widely used in business. These and other AI technologies are about to multiply, and we look at how organizations can best take advantage of them.

COVID-19 disruption has left enterprises with no choice but to reassess digital transformation investments and roadmaps. While less important projects are delayed, transformation projects involving AI and automation are receiving a lot of attention right now. In just the last 60 days, the adoption of varying levels of AI technologies across the enterprise surged with an incredible sense of urgency.

One area where AI can make a tremendous impact — yet one we’re not really talking about it — is modeling future scenarios based on myriads of new data stemming from pandemic disruption. Beyond automation, adding an AI Futurist as a virtual strategic advisor to the C-Suite can help executives navigate this Novel Economy as it takes shape over the next 36 months. In a time when no playbook, expertise, or best practices exist, perhaps this is AI’s moment to shine.

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How futurists think we will be working after the coronavirus pandemic is over

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Gerd Leonhard says the pandemic has led to the widespread adoption of remote work practices.

The speed with which the world of work has changed since the introduction of coronavirus restrictions has been breathtaking, even for futurists whose job it is to anticipate developments ahead of the pack.

Key points:

  • Even futurists are having to adapt to the changes brought on by COVID-19
  • But they say those changes will create an opening for a raft of new jobs
  • Black swan scenario planners and privacy guardians are two examples

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Virginia town where drone deliveries are daily

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Paul Sensmeier awaits his drone delivery

Futurist Thomas Frey has predicted that drones will become the most disruptive technology in human history. In a quiet residential neighborhood in Christiansburg, Virginia., one happens to be disrupting the work of two landscapers.

The workers silence their weed eaters, looking to the sky in wonder as the whining drone slows, descends, steadies, then hovers about 23 feet above the front yard of Paul and Susie Sensmeier, two retirees in their eighties.

The drone carries a three-pound plastic package, attached by a cord and a hook. It lowers the package until it softly touches down on the turf. The hook detaches, the line is reeled back in, and the craft zooms off into the horizon at 70 mph.

“There’s been no complaints that I know of from the neighborhood, and there’s quite a few customers that live here,” says Paul, a retired engineer who knows a thing or two about innovations in technology. His son works as an aerospace engineer, and his son-in-law is a researcher at the nearby Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. “It is the wave of the future, and it’s exciting to be a part of the developmental process.”

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What the future will look like for work, colleges

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For more than a century, automotive engineers have focused much of their attention on making vehicles as comfortable, safe and convenient as possible for drivers.

They’ve perfected the positioning of the steering wheel and gas pedal. Experimented with the best way to arrange knobs and controls. Determined the optimum placement of mirrors and other accessories.

What happens to all of this knowledge as cars become driverless? More important, how will an automotive engineer’s job change — and what new skills and knowledge will become essential to performing it?

This excerpt comes from an article in the upcoming issue of Community College Journal, which should be reaching your mailbox soon.

Futurist Thomas Frey uses this example to show how technology is fundamentally altering everything we thought we knew. This includes the nature of many long-standing occupations — and even the college experience.

“The world is changing rapidly,” says Frey, who is founder and executive director of the Colorado-based DaVinci Institute. “Ten years from now, education is going to look radically different. It might not feel like it, but we’re in the midst of a huge transition.”

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12 futuristic things that actually already exist

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The future is now

 As this list of items will reveal, the space-age electric future that we once only dreamed about is here. (Yes, right now!)

The speed at which technology is evolving and changing every aspect of our lives is astounding. Think about it. As Futurist Thomas Frey has pointed out, before 2007, our phones were…phones! They did not have the ability to stream every song in the known universe or tell us how to beat traffic on the way to the mall. And now? Your phone does everything. You use it to monitor and control your finances. It keeps you entertained in myriad ways. It checks your heart rate, how many steps you took today, and so much more.

In fact, many things that were once solely the dreams of science-fiction writers or only existed in episodes of The Jetsons are now basic parts of our everyday lives. Take a look at some of the crazy futuristic things that actually exist right now. And while you’re at it, check out these other products that will become “smart” in 2020.

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The future of jobs is already here

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One of the great challenges of the business world is predicting which jobs will grow and which will disappear. Several companies and institutions are working to solve this great mystery, including the World Economic Forum (WEF), an international organisation that “involves society’s leaders of politics, business, culture and other spheres in shaping global, regional and industrial agendas.”At the end of 2018, this organisation published the Future of Jobs Report, which analysed the trends predicted for the 2018–2022 period in 20 economies and 12 different industrial sectors.

“The increased demand for new roles will compensate for the decreased demand for others,” noted Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the WEF, in the preface to the forecast document. The German economist is optimistic about the predictions because, although five million jobs will disappear, another 133 million new ones will emerge.The technological revolution will change business models in all industries.

A phenomenon that the Davos World Forum has already dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution. High-speed mobile internet, artificial intelligence, big data analysis, cloud-storage of information, augmented and virtual reality, and others factors will spearhead the adoption of new technologies by businesses. They will also change the dynamics of work, the competences required of workers and the gender gap in industry.

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