University Degrees of the Future

Futurist guru Thomas Frey recently posted a list of 52 university degrees that we will need in the future. His insights reminded us of two important leadership strategy lessons.

Leaders Think Forward

While this idea seems obvious, I believe we understand it much better than we practice it. To prove the point, consider these facts:

  • When Google launched, no one was teaching online search engine strategies.
  • When Uber launched, no one was teaching sharing economy business models.
  • When Apple first opened their App Store, no one was teaching smart phone app design (Frey).

Experience and history indicate that gifted future-thinkers are not typically the popular people at the table. They push boundaries. They identify problems with your business model (and are the ones who actually talk about it – over and over and over!). They are not content and often become isolated because they make us uncomfortable. However, in an era where we love buzz-word disruptive technology, we must embrace the reality that disruptive ideas are sourced from disruptive people. Disruptive leaders know how to think-forward.

Leaders Take Calculated Risks

In addition to anticipating the future, we must also discern when it is time to act in advance of a market need. Frey noted that the Colorado School of Mines has begun to offer a degree in Asteroid Mining. Yes, you read that correctly – asteroid mining. Since it takes 6-8 years to launch new degrees and train students, we must become adept at offering programs (or products or services) before they are in high demand. However, the term innovative and universities are often at odds. As a whole, universities tend to offer the tried-and-true (as do many other industries). We are more apt to copy what is working elsewhere than to boldly go where none have gone before. However, we will need more degrees like the groundbreaking asteroid mining program!

Imagine how educational and entrepreneurial effectiveness could change if they worked in tandem!

For your interest, here is an abridged list of the degrees that Frey believes we need to offer to prepare for the future:

  1. Space exploration: space tourism, planetary colony design, non-earth human habitats and space infrastructure.
  2. Smart cities: autonomous traffic and construction integration, next-gen municipal planning and mixed reality modeling.
  3. Autonomous agriculture: robotic and drone systems, supply chain management and systems theory.
  4. Cryptocurrency: digital coin economics, cryptobanking design and regulatory oversight, and forensic accounting.
  5. Blockchain: Design, systems and application, biological blockchain technology, and municipal blockchain design.
  6. Unmanned aerial vehicles: filmaking, command center operations, and emergency response systems.
  7. Mixed reality: experiential retail, three-dimensional storytelling, game design, and therapeutic systems design.

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Contact him today to find out how he can help enhance your personal and organizational effectiveness – jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Source: Thomas Frey

The Future of Working: Dystopia or Utopia?

Today’s guest post is from Dr. Philip Foster. You can learn more about him and his work below.

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Recently I read an article from The Verge by Rich McCormick (2016) regarding Mark Zuckerberg’s presentation at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The focus of this article was a picture of Mark Zuckerberg walking past attendees who are wearing Samsung’s new Gear Virtual Reality headsets. Rich states that the image,

“…looks like concept art for a new dystopian sci-fi film. A billionaire superman with a rictus grin, striding straight past human drones, tethered to machines and blinded to reality by blinking plastic masks.”

Normally I would chuckle and move on, however this picture represents deeper insights about the future of our workforce and leadership. In fact, last year my colleague Dr. Jeff Suderman and I published a similar scenario in our paper “Envisioning Leadership in 2050: Four Future Scenarios.” In our article we presented four scenarios which depict how we might engage human capital by the year 2050. Two of these scenarios explored the possible dehumanizing effects or impact of technology in the future workplace.

One scenario focused on something we called Bio-Circuitry Leadership. It was represented by an image found in the movie Edge of Tomorrow in which soldiers were partnered with armored body suits. We imagined a scenario in which there would be “minimal separation between humankind and machinery/technology and very often, humans must adapt to the needs of technology instead of technology being adapted to meet our needs” (Suderman & Foster, 2015).  In this scenario, organizations and their leaders become “a complex blend of the best of both worlds: machines and humanity. The era of bio-circuitry leadership means that organizations have leveraged people and technology into a seamless system. It is difficult to distinguish between who people are and what they do because of how effectively human capacity is enhanced and blended with technology” (Suderman & Foster, 2015).

The second scenario presented a contrasting view and was titled Automaton Leadership. “By definition, an automaton is a moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being. As a result of the relentless progression of technology, human capital will be shaped into a group of robot-like devices to accomplish the betterment of our world” (Suderman & Foster, 2015). As this scenario unfolds we find a world in which the “economic collapses of the early twenty-first century coupled with a decreasing full-time workforce led to a wide acceptance of technologies in everyday life” (Suderman & Foster, 2015). Under this scenario we imagined a world in which individuals of working age “…apply for and are fitted with docking harnesses which permit them to connect directly into the work grid. The Internet of everything now includes humans themselves. Individuals strap themselves into a work pod and the docking harness connects their entire body into the Internet” (Suderman & Foster, 2015). In this world the lines between “reality and virtual are merged as individuals spend most of their waking time connecting to the network” (Suderman & Foster, 2015).

Dr. Suderman and I recognize that our storylines are no more than best guesses about how our future will unfold.  However, the usefulness of scenarios about the future is not how accurate the stories turn out to be, but rather, how they help us shape the possibilities of the future. Twenty years ago few of us knew or even thought about the impact a smart phone would have on our lives. Today, we find mobile technologies impacting everyday decisions such as grocery shopping, taxi services and hotel accommodations. The seemingly innocuous introduction of ubiquitous technology has shaped a new economy right before our very eyes.

The idea of a future workforce strapped into some kind of technology may not be as farfetched as we would like it to be. In fact, most of us are already invisibly tethered to our smart devices. Laugh if you will, but the picture of Mark Zuckerberg and the audience of drones could very well be a glimpse into what is to come.

 

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Philip FosterDr. Philip A. Foster is considered a Thought Leader in Business Operations, Organization and Strategic Leadership. He is a prolific writer, International Lecturer and Best Selling Author of “The Open Organization” – now available through Ashgate Publishing.  Philip is certified in both Leadership and coaching. He is the Founder and CEO of Maximum Change Leadership and Business Consulting, serving clients from around the world. He is a Doctor of Strategic Leadership with emphasis in Strategic Foresight and holds a Master of Art in Organizational Leadership, both from Regent University, Virginia. He can be reached at philip@maximumchange.com.

Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman, E-mail: jeff@jeffsuderman.com.

References

Image Source: (McCormick 2016).

McCormick, Rich (2016). This image of Mark Zuckerberg says so much about our future. The Verge. Retrieved on February 21, 2016 from http://www.theverge.com/2016/2/22/11087890/mark-zuckerberg-mwc-picture-future-samsung

Suderman, J.L., &Foster, P.A. (2015). “Envisioning Leadership in 2050: Four Future Scenarios. A Case for relevant 2050 leadership – preparing for change.” Building Leadership Bridges. Sage Publishing.

 

 

Fast Forward – Six Forecasts for 2016

Now that the New Year is underway, it is time to use my futurist skills and make some forecasts about things that I think will become prominent in the years ahead. So here it is, my second annual Six Forecasts for 2016! Those who wish to critique my 2015 version of this second annual blog can review it here.

A simple way that futurists develop balanced insights about the future is through the use of the STEEP methodology. This acronym simply stands for Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic and Political factors. By default, each one of us tends to gravitate to one or two of the STEEP categories. However, robust future insights are a result of considering more than what we look at naturally. This also helps us avoid biased or unbalanced views of the future. So here they are, six forecasts for ’16!

  1. Environmentalism 2.0 – As the reality of a globally changing climate takes hold of our consciousness, I believe we are going to begin acting differently as individuals. Things such as disaster preparedness home kits, Facebook apps which help you contact people amidst disasters (Safety Check) and supplementary insurance will become mainstream. As an example, I purchased home flood insurance for the first time this winter because it is an El Nino year in California!
  2. Friends for hire – As technology changes our relationships (both literally and virtually), we will migrate to looking for new ways for real-life interactions. Welcome to Friends for Hire! While this service in the U.K., Australia and Japan allows you to rent someone to hang out with, this will have a more practical side as well. As retirees hit the years when they need personal care, healthcare services which provide more than just physical care will flourish. Expect friend-matching to migrate towards the quasi-scientific methods used by on-line dating agencies!
  3. Big data ethics – We are getting used to web sites referring products to us (via ads) based on them scouring our surfing habits. Our composite surfing profile has led to the rise of big data (see Understanding the Implications of Big Data). As this data is used in non-traditional ways (for example, to assess your loan worthiness when you apply for a mortgage), we are going to enter an entirely new level of ethical implications of data and how it is used. Look for the ethics of big data to become a dominant issue in the next decade.
  4. The rise of the shrinking middle class: This is a repeat from last year but I think it is really important! The gap between rich and poor (measured by something called the GINI index) has historical links to societal stability and peace (indicated by a low income gap) and instability and unrest (a high income gap). Between 2009 and 2012 the top one percent of Americans enjoyed 95 percent of all income gains. This does not bode well for the middle class in America and we will begin to see more signs of unrest and this gap increases. I believe we are also seeing this trend manifest in other parts of the world.
  5. Wearables 2.0 – In the past decade we have witnessed the growth of smart clothing. Fitbits, Apple Watches and clothing that ‘plug in’ are becoming normal. Look for this to disappear in the next five years. WIRED magazine notes, “Look for fitness and fashion companies to integrate sensors and trackers in a way most people never notice”. This will be done with sensors invisibly woven into your fabric, jewelry with a simple LED or shoes with computer chips in the sole. The next wave of wearable tech will be virtually invisible.
  6. Politics 2.0 – I believe major shifts are occurring in global politics. Political power is shifting from a ruling minority to the populace majority. This is occurring in different ways in different places. In Egypt we witnessed the overthrow of a dictator in 2011. In China we saw an Occupy movement protest heavy-handed democracy in 2014. In America, two of the current leading Republicans are not politicians at all (Ben Carson and Donald Trump). While I do not know exactly how a reshake of our political systems will occur (and it will be different in different locations), a growing disenfranchisement with ineffective political systems will be a strong theme in the decade ahead.

Whatever actually occurs in the years ahead, I wish all of you a safe and joy-filled 2016!


 

Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a futurist, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Educational Sustainability: Another Housing Crash in the Making?

Mark Cuban is never afraid to be controversial. However, his latest verbal diatribe aligns with other recent articles which are expressing concerns about the shrinking middle class and the value of higher education.

In a recent article he notes,

“For years the federal government has been subsidizing loans, much like they did with houses ahead of the 2008 crash. This has led to increased tuition costs and lending to individuals who will more than likely never be able to pay back their student loans. The end result, according to Mark Cuban, will be a bursting of the debt bubble, a significant drop in college income, and an outright collapse of America’s institution of higher learning. We saw a collapse in the price of housing and we’re going to see the same collapse in the price of student tuition and that’s going to lead to colleges going out of business.”

In a post earlier this month I noted the trend of the rise of the shrinking middle class (Five Forecasts for ’15). It highlighted that the top one percent of Americans enjoyed 95 percent of all income gains between 2009 and 2012. When we combine the trends of increasingly accessible loans and a less affluent middle-class, we have some of the ingredients required for a perfect storm.

This doesn’t mean that college education is not worthwhile. However, it likely means that every college education is not worthwhile! Future hot job projections, financial awards and alumni employment statistics are going to become the metrics which will increasingly be used measure educational return on investment

While both Cuban and the journalistic source of this article lean towards sensationalism, I believe that there is still truth to mine related to student debt. Debt is rising and at some point the risk versus reward ratio will be a negative one for higher education.

According to Cuban, it already is!


 

Jeff SuHead Shotderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman
Slavo, Mark (Dec. 28, 2014). Billionaire Mark Cuban Warns Of Massive Crash That Will Wipe Out America’s Colleges: “You’re Going To See A Repeat Of What We Saw In The Housing Market”. D.C. Clothesline,  Retrieved from http://www.dcclothesline.com/2014/12/28/billionaire-mark-cuban-warns-massive-crash-will-wipe-americas-colleges-youre-going-see-repeat-saw-housing-market/

Article image from http://www.democracynow.org/2013/7/3/failure_to_stop_doubling_of_student

More Agility Please! The State of Strategy

There is a strong correlation between a companies financial returns and their planning horizon.1 Effective strategy considers the future! If you know me or read my writing you know that I resonate strongly with this concept.

In recent months I have read several blogs which proclaim that strategic planning is dead. While these titles are somewhat over-sensationalized (see The Problem with 7 Step and 3 Things), I believe that the concept is correct. Strategy as we know it is dead and this is a very good thing because it is being replaced with something better. This is supported by a recent study which examined three different strategy models and their corresponding success rates (see Figure 1). The results are as follows:

1. Ad Hoc – Success Rate: 46% | Tagline: Hand-to-mouth strategy | Definition: This style develops and implements strategy as the organization wishes and there is no defined planning horizon.

2. Traditional – Success Rate: 53% | Tagline: Your father’s strategy | Definition: This is the best understood as the current strategic planning model which typically develops strategy for the next  3-5 years (though most actually plan within the 1-3 year horizon).

3. Agility – Success Rate: 85% | Tagline: Strategy which makes uncertainty part of the plan | Definition: Strategy is evaluated and regularly re-evaluated in the context of a rapidly changing environment. EffectStrategic Cycles and Successive organizations actively study the future in order to compete in the present and have strategic cycles which are longer than 5 years.

This study reveals that effective organizations apply long-term agility-based thinking to conundrums, something that planning and control sciences were unable to do.Pierre Wack, a forerunner of the agility movement, once stated, “In our times of rapid change and discontinuity, crisis of perception – the inability to see a novel reality emerging by being locked in obsolete assumptions – has become the main cause of strategic failure”

If we live in an unchanging environment, then traditional planning methodologies work. However, very few people that I speak with believe that they operate in a stable environment. The need to develop agility is supported by the fact that over 85% of executives noted that their strategy formulation failures were rooted in the lack of understanding of future trends.Figure 6 reveals how foresight tools are being used to develop agility.Foresight Case

Strategic planning may not be dead but I believe that it has morphed. Research reveals that effective organizations use planning time frames which are greater that five years. This requires that we shift from a strategic mindset of control to one of agility. Foresight and tools which foster future agility are becoming the new normal for effective strategy development and execution.

Do you work in an organization that needs to extend your planning horizon? Contact me to schedule a free assessment of your strategic planning processes (jeff@jeffsuderman.com).


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a consultant and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and their FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

 

References:

1 A.T. Kearney (2014). The state of strategy today. Retrieved from http://www.atkearney.com/strategy/futureproof-strategy/detail/-/asset_publisher/A6BMR7XFiteh/content/the-state-of-strategy-today-topic-overview/10192

This concept was derived from a personal conversation with my teacher and mentor, Dr. Jay Gary

Pierre Wack (1984). The gentle art of re-perceiving. Unpublished manuscript. Harvard Business School.