Inventing the future

Last week we attended the Randstad Award for Germany’s most attractive employers of 2017 – if you’re curious about the survey results in your country, you can download the reports for 26 nations here. Guest speaker at the event was Sascha Lobo, renowned author of several books and SPIEGEL Online column “Die Mensch-Maschine” who spoke about the effects digitalisation has on HR.

There were too many takeaways to list (or even remember, it was an amazing keynote!), but the main thing for me was the fact that innovation at your organisation will happen. It doesn’t matter whether you want it, plan it or allow it: The future is happening and it will be different from today.
While this may sound trivial at first, it carries a profound insight and huge responsibility: If you care at all about what your organisation is going to look like tomorrow, you need to take action today. Because if you ignore or resist change, if you disallow or deny it, it will still happen nonetheless – you just won’t have a say in it. The only way to exert any influence is to co-create change – or, to put it differently:

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” -John Sculley

But does this really concern your organisation? Isn’t it just fancy high tech companies that have to care about such leading-edge stuff? Should you care if you’re a vehicle or machine OEM, a service provider, a retailer, an agency? Well, decide for yourself:
Google’s Ray Kurzweil and Tesla’s Elon Musk agree that in the future humans will carry implanted microchips in their brains, connecting them to machines, AIs and more. Ray Kurzweil – who has an impressive track record when it comes to making predictions about the future – believes such implants will become reality in the 2030s. That’s thirteen years from now.
Can you afford to not care about such developments just because you’re not a Silicon Valley company? And that’s just one example: Much like the telephone, email, smartphones and social networks have revolutionised the ways the entire world lives and works (Facebook, by the way, was founded 13 years ago), so will new discoveries that lie closer ahead than we may think:

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year … and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” -Bill Gates

Your organisation doesn’t have to pioneer neural implants or invent the next internet (yes, even the internet as we know it will be replaced at one point – in fact that’s already happening), but you should be aware that your organisation exists in a world that will be ruled by innovations of this magnitude; a world in which change is omnipresent and occurs exponentially at rates we can hardly fathom.
So, the question is: In this world, how far do you think business models, management styles, company cultures and organisational processes from the 1990s or 2000s will get you?

“The illusion that we understand the past fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future.” -Daniel Kahneman

Because you cannot know the future, your strategy is wrong. And if you change your strategy, it will still be wrong – because the future is constant change. The way to break this cycle is to dismiss the idea of prescribed change and to start building a change habitat that enables your organisation to constantly adapt.

No one can tell you what your organisation will look like tomorrow, but we can tell you that it’s a smart idea to start inventing the future today: Because others are already working on it – and this is your chance to co-create.

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