The world around us is changing and advancing at breakneck speed. From cars that can see around corners to robots on Mars, hyperloop travel, and artificial intelligence (AI) that can write a poem like Coleridge or fiction like Kafka, keeping up can be overwhelming. For business leaders, innovators, and organizations, the central question becomes: How do we lead this change, rather than being led by it?
I’d posit that we all need to learn to think like futurists. Thinking like a futurist shouldn’t be reserved for a select group of people, but instead is a basic skill set that anyone can learn.
Tapping into your inner futurist requires that you stay aware of what’s happening in the world around you, and think through the long-term impact on countries, societies, industries, and our day-to-day lives. But it’s not a spectator sport; it also requires that you anticipate, plan for, and take action to create the future you want. It’s about monitoring shifts, visualizing outcomes, and adopting an innovation mindset.
No one can predict the future, but understanding the global socioeconomic, demographic, and technological shifts that are shaping the world around us can help point the way. It’s important to understand how these trends will influence our human experiences — from how and where we work, to how we make things, to how we stay healthy, learn, and live our lives. Being aware of these shifts enables you to spot new opportunities, reach your goals, and make plans based on the world of the future, not the world of the past.
For example, prior to the pandemic, only a quarter of US workers did some work at home. During the pandemic that number skyrocketed to more than 80%. The future of work will undoubtedly see many jobs becoming primarily hybrid. Many employees will do their desk work at home or at coworking spaces, while offices transform into places employees go to collaborate and innovate as a team.
The pandemic and today’s geopolitics have also shone a light on the need for supply chains to become more flexible and resilient. As we look to the future, the inherently digital nature of 3D printing opens a world of possibilities for manufacturing to become more digitized and sustainable as well, and for products to become more personalized.
Similar shifts are happening in healthcare, education, retail, and across our business and personal lives in general. Moreover, the role of business in society is changing, as customers increasingly expect more from the companies they engage with, and companies must stand for more than the products they sell.
Our “new normal” requires leaders to rethink how they lead. These tips will help you lead a team that’s working from home.
Internet access has also become congested because more people are online during the day performing their jobs and attending school virtually. Carriers have reported their customers are using more voice calls and many of them are using Wi-Fi rather than cellular. In addition, Facebook has seen a 70% weekly increase in the number of people using Facebook Messenger for group video calls.
As the pandemic continues to alter our everyday lives, we’ve become reliant on services that allow us to work from home. Meetings are happening on Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Hangouts. In fact, Zoom reported daily users spiked to 200 million in March, up from 10 million in December.
Creating a culture of a high-performing team can be challenging under normal circumstances, but what does it look like during a global pandemic? As a leader how can you adapt your leadership style and processes to meet your employees’ new expectations? Here are the top tips I have learned through my own experience leading a global, remote team.
Communication is crucial. Implement tools that allow you to communicate easily. We use Skype and Microsoft Teams, and find it great to stay in touch with quick messages and updates on projects without cluttering our email inboxes.
You can use a messaging tool to encourage socializing, too. Create a group in Whatsapp or whichever messaging platform you use that is not specific to work. Keep the “water cooler conversations” going and allow your team a space to share their non-work related content.
For updates that require more than an email or chat message, hold daily or weekly stand-ups. We use Zoom for video meetings and find it a great tool to hold virtual meetings. Your team can share what they are working on, any challenges they may have, and ask questions. If you plan on having your stand-up as a video call, make sure your team knows that ahead of time and that everyone joins using video. It not only makes the meetings more engaging, but it also discourages multitasking. 😃
Manage expectations. Does your company require your team to be online during certain hours of the day? Communicate that with your employees, don’t assume they will follow the same hours as when they were in the office.
If you don’t already use a project management tool, consider implementing one so that your team can keep track of upcoming deadlines, project statuses, and the items on their plate.
Be flexible. Work isn’t the only thing in our lives that has been disrupted by COVID-19. For those who are at home with their children, caring for a loved one, or experiencing another life event that is disrupting their normal, flexibility is paramount.
One important aspect of emotional intelligence I’ve discussed in the past is empathy. It’s the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand how they might feel in a certain situation. As leaders, the more we’re able to relate to others, the better we help them feel understood and inspired.
Check-in with your team on a regular basis and be fully present in your conversations, so you can make genuine connections and better understand their point of view. Once you have checked in, be flexible in creating a schedule and culture that considers their needs and current demands they’re facing.
Cut yourself some slack. Remember, you and your team are going through massive changes in a quick time frame, so don’t expect things to be perfect from the start. Focus on small changes to start, and you will build a stronger and more supportive work culture.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too. We’re all in this together.
Are you leading a remote team? I’d love to hear about your experience and any tips you’ve learned along the way. Please share them in the comments below.
Staying ahead of constant requires a keen understanding of the global forces that will shape our human experiences and business decisions
The amount of change happening in the world today is accelerating, creating a continuous challenge for how companies stay ahead of it all, decide where to invest, think about the future, and innovate in ways that enable them to do the disrupting, instead of being the ones disrupted.
As a futurist, my job is to anticipate change and stay on top of current trends. There’s a new generation entering the workforce – Generation Z. Following Millennials, this generation includes those born between 1995 and 2010. While being defined as the most ethnically-diverse and largest generation in American history, Gen Z also grew up surrounded by technology, also making them the most tech-savvy generation.
I’ve previously provided some thoughts on thinking like a futurist and today, we’re diving deeper into the role Gen Z plays in the future. Here are my tips for how to collaborate with Gen Z:
1. Put yourself in their shoes
It’s important to acknowledge the obvious differences that divide each generation. For example, Gen Z grew up in a post-9/11 world with new technology and completely different childhood experiences than those of previous generations. With technology constantly at their fingertips, this generation of “digital natives” have had nearly lifelong access to boundless amounts of information at the drop of a hat. In fact, 97% of Gen Z have smart phones and spend more than 4 hours a day online.
And because they’ve never spent a day offline, they are acutely aware of the issues and challenges happening in the world around them. As a result, they are 54% more likely to say they want to have an impact on the world as compared to millennials. Also noteworthy is their attitude towards work and employers; almost half consider what the company does to make the world a better place as important as the salary.
By becoming familiar with Gen Z, and by understanding the different era and experiences they’ve grown up with, you’ll gain a better understanding of how to effectively collaborate with them. Whether it’s through asking questions, doing research, or understanding current trends, you won’t fully see eye-to-eye with this generation until you put yourself in their shoes.
2. Pay attention to what’s important
In the next decade, Gen Z is expected to cause an influx of roughly 60 million job seekers, effectively transforming the workplace. Concerning their careers, Gen Z-ers are very driven and competitive. Nothing motivates them more than achieving success and being rewarded for their good efforts. They value skill development and appreciate feedback, as they are always hoping to improve their performance. A controversial topic amongst Gen Z is the debate over work-life balance. It can be argued that this generation struggles the most with this – 24% say they feel guilty for taking time off work. On the other hand, 39% view work-life balance as a top priority when choosing an employer. Knowing these statistics as an employer can help foster a healthy work environment for future employees.
When choosing where to work, Gen Z will base their decision on the company’s values. This generation’s passion for sustainability, diversity, and inclusion reflects in their expectations for their future employers. Studies show that 77% of Gen Z believes a company’s level of diversity affects their decision to work there.
3. Stay up to date on trends
As any futurist knows, one of the most important ways to prepare for the future is to stay up to date with the latest trends. This applies to Gen Z trends as well. The more informed you are, the more prepared you will be to work with this generation.
Here are some resources for futurists to better understand Gen Z:
We can all benefit from learning from one another. As this new generation enters the workforce, preparing through a lens like this will allow us to better understand and support them in their journey as they embark on this new chapter.
Innovation is significantly shaping our world. It’s the number 1 topic I’m asked about. Whether it’s at the HP offices, at customer or partner events, or when I speak at conferences, people want to know how they can tap into their own inner innovator, and spark innovation at their company.
When you picture an effective leader, what comes to mind?
A deep understanding of their industry, self-awareness, decision-making skills, integrity, transparency, and being empathetic are some of the things that come to my mind. Leaders with a high degree of emotional intelligence earn the trust of and inspire their team to reach their full potential.
While innovation is happening at an astonishing rate, we’re still nowhere near a Westworld-esque future where robots and automation rule. Robots have come a long way, but still need human expertise and skills to function. Therefore, the outcome is less likely a replacement of humans, but rather a reskilling.
There is a valid concern over the possibility of increasing inequality in our automated future. Once robots enter the workforce fully, most highly-skilled, educated workers are likely to experience a smaller shift in responsibilities than their less-skilled, educated counterparts. In order to adapt, those with fewer skills and education will likely have to expand their abilities to either empower them to work with robots or fall within the realm of abilities that robots currently lack, such as emotional intelligence and creativity.
For those that adapt to work alongside robots and automation, most will experience an increase in job quality, or even safety. For example, customer service professionals have been using AI chatbots for a few years now, and chatbots like bold360 allow the AI to answer the simpler questions, giving the humans more time to focus on complex customer issues. For example, HP’s virtual agent helps its support team sort through nearly 600 million technical support requests each year. There are also bomb disposal robots that use VR to allow soldiers to pilot them while disarming bombs from a safe distance.
It’s predicted that, despite disruption, there is still a net positive outlook for jobs. In other words, though 75 million current roles may be displaced by technology, 133 million entirely new roles may emerge simultaneously. These roles will likely be of two categories, one that deals predominantly with emerging technologies, like IT Services or AI Specialists, and one that provides the exclusively human touch, such as Designers or Human Resources.
Other reports, like this one from Brookings Institute, find that approximately 25% of US jobs are likely to be affected by automation. At face value, this number can seem concerning, but it’s important to remember that the process of implementation will still take time.
In the time it takes for the world to fully implement robots and automation in the majority of work systems, humans will be able to adapt and learn new skills, especially if they are empowered by their employers. Some are calling this the “Skills Revolution,” which refers to the fact that the skills required in the workforce are changing at a rapid pace. In the face of this, workers must embrace continuous learning opportunities, and employers must provide ongoing training to future-proof their employees.
To do just that for your employees, consider the following steps:
Pay attention to trends
As a futurist, I am constantly on the lookout for new Megatrends and patterns that may affect our future. This skill has served me and many others well over the years and has helped HP prepare itself for the years to come.
When it comes to future-proofing yourself in the face of automation, pay attention to new careers and job opportunities. It’s predicted that 65% of the jobs that Gen Z will perform don’t even exist yet. If you are able to spot a job trend and properly prepare for it, you could help usher in an entirely new career field.
Embrace lifelong learning
Gone are the days where you could learn a set of skills, perform them for the rest of your life, and earn a living. Nearly all careers require the occasional training or upskilling, but soon it will be necessary to dedicate time to learning on an ongoing basis. For some, this could mean improving their existing abilities and adding complementary skillsets, but for others it could mean learning an entirely new skill. It’s predicted that 42% of required skills will change by 2022, requiring the average worker to adapt to new tasks such as analytical thinking and negotiation. To adjust to these new skills by 2022, employees will need 101 days of training on average.
Thankfully, there are plenty of resources that will help, like Coursera and Lynda, as well as an emergence of recognized online higher education.
Maintain a growth mindset
How do you cope with challenge and difficulty? Do you give up when you feel that something is out of your range of abilities, or do you accept it as a learning opportunity? To maintain a growth mindset, you must learn to embrace challenges and failure as opportunities for growth, rather than letting them stop you in your tracks.
When you develop a growth mindset, you’re able to have the confidence to push through challenges, and this persistence will help you prepare for our automated future. Whether this is a small shift in your career or a larger transition to an entirely new field, a growth mindset will help you see things through a positive lens.
In honor of World
Mental Health Day on October 10th, I want to discuss the
importance of taking care of yourself as an entrepreneur.
Oftentimes, as an entrepreneur, taking care of your own
mental health can feel like the last thing on your list. In an environment
where you’re focused on creating a successful business, it’s easy to put your
well-being on the backburner. Some may even see this as a badge of honor.
The numbers are concerning. A
report found that 72% of entrepreneurs experience some type of mental
health issue and are “significantly more likely to report a lifetime history of
depression (30%), ADHD (29%), substance-abuse conditions (12%), and bipolar
diagnosis (11%).” Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs feel the need to hide these
issues, for fear that it will affect their business and their personal lives.
If you’re an entrepreneur or startup founder (or just want
to concentrate more on your well-being), here are my top tips for balancing
your mental health with your growing business and working through the “founder’s
1. Leave space to reflect.
Throughout your week, schedule time
to simply hit the pause button. Take this time to breathe and reflect on your
week. What have you accomplished? Where can you improve? Ask yourself these
questions, but be sure to speak to yourself in a kind way. We are often our own
worst critic, and it’s important to recognize that harsh self-talk is linked
to depression, low self-esteem, and anxiety.
This time for self-reflection is essential for everyone, but especially if your schedule is jam-packed. In a start-up world that’s focused on external factors like funding, hiring, and planning, it’s easy to ignore internal factors. When the internal is ignored, recognizing and managing emotions can be difficult. It’s important to prioritize time and stick to your schedule.
2. Pay attention to burnout.
In the world of entrepreneurship,
burnout is a real issue. The World Health
Organization has recognized burnout as an official
disorder. Oftentimes the symptoms are ignored or minimized, which can lead
to more worrisome issues down the line.
If you notice symptoms
such as feeling cynical about your job or emotionally drained by your work, don’t
ignore them. They are an important sign that you need a break, and you should
honor that by taking some time off to recalibrate, even if it’s just for a day
or two. You will come back to your work refreshed.
3. Manage and delegate.
Entrepreneurs wear several hats,
especially when they’re near the starting line. Over time, you may feel like
your life is a constant juggling act, so it’s imperative to find balance.
Manage your time and stick to a schedule to alleviate any stress, and delegate
If you find that certain tasks
cause you more stress than others, find ways to change the tasks to be less
demanding, or find someone on your team you can delegate them to. If that is
not an option, consider outsourcing to an agency or contractor.
4. Be mindful of your physical health.
You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete
to be an entrepreneur, but it’s important to treat your body well. Is your diet
giving you the energy and nutrients you need throughout the day? Are you making
time for moderate exercise? Unfortunately, running from meeting to meeting
doesn’t count. Physical exercise is crucial to mental health. Any type of exercise
will help promote improved mental health, however the social aspects of team
sports have the
Don’t focus on perfection. Instead,
do what you can to eat nutritious foods and stay active. If you’re able to hire
a personal trainer and nutritionist, do so. If that isn’t possible for you at
this time, there are a plethora of resources online that can help you get where
you need to be, such as Lifesum
for nutrition and Fitocracy for
5. Find support.
You may feel alone in this, but
that is far from the truth. As mentioned before, 72% of entrepreneurs have
reported dealing with some mental health issue. Many of them have created
communities and groups that deal with these problems together and support each
other. If you feel comfortable, join one of these communities and learn from
others who are dealing with similar issues. Search online or ask your network
for these communities or use an online service like 7 Cups of Tea to find anonymous support.
On a related note, consider finding
a therapist who works for you, online or
in-person. There are mental health professionals who specialize in executive
leadership, and they can help you through all the ups and downs that you may
Mental health does not discriminate; in fact, it affects one in four people
globally. It isn’t always easy to talk about, but that’s rapidly changing
due to increasing awareness and leaders who are open about their journey. By
prioritizing your own health, you can inspire and encourage others on your team
and in your community to do the same.
As the pace of change continues to accelerate, one thing is certain. The future will look very different than it does today. I believe this accelerated innovation and the Megatrends driving it
will have a sustained, transformative impact on the world in the years
ahead — on businesses, societies, economies, cultures and our personal
This change is inevitable, and those that anticipate and
embrace it will be the revolutionaries of the experience age. In fact,
adapting to the changes is the difference between leading change and
being led by it. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill. No silver
bullet. It takes dedication and thought. So, how can you lead the way
and future-proof yourself?
When I was in college, a single computer took up an entire room. Yes, am dating myself a little here…. Now, we hold computing devices in the palms of our hands. In fact, we have more computing power in our pockets than all of NASA had when they put the first man on the moon in 1969.
Innovation is significantly shaping our world. And it’s the number #1 topic I’m most frequently asked about. Whether it’s at the HP offices, at speaking engagements, or when I attend conferences, people want to know how they can tap into their own inner innovator, and spark innovation at their offices.
Innovation is an attitude. As an innovator you need to believe you can change the world, that if you keep working on a problem you will eventually find a solution, and that anything is possible. Innovators have a passion to make things happen. They relentlessly take action.
with small things. Have lunch every week with someone outside of your
team. Talk to them about what they do and how they do it. Innovation is
about leveraging diversity, and the more you know about more things, the
better you will be able to innovate.
down your ideas. Sometimes the simple act of writing things down can
bring your ideas to life. You never know when that list will come in
Once you become comfortable with those, move on to larger mindset shifts.
your assumptions about everything. Many times, the “right” way to do
things can be altered and improved, it just takes someone to question
the underlying assumptions. Ask yourself, how can this be improved? How
can we make it better?
2.Keep learning or unlearning
times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find
themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer
exists.” –Eric Hoffer
you have a fixed mindset, your qualities are carved in stone. If you
lack a skill, you will continue to lack it. However, when you adopt a
growth mindset, you can grow and change through persistence and
experience. With a fixed mindset, you can be easily overwhelmed with the
future’s uncertainty, but the future belongs to those who can adopt a
growth mindset and keep learning.
very interested in how the line between science and philosophy is
blurring. It seems where science doesn’t have all the answers (e.g.
quantum mechanics and the true nature of reality), philosophy comes back
to the fore to help us imagine the possibilities that we hope science
might one day prove out. Consider Einstein’s original thought experiment
about sitting on the end of a light beam (philosophy) and how that led
him to the special theory of relativity (science). Both are equally
important for charting the human future in a world of accelerating
change and technology.
A Nielsen study
examined the impact of collaboration in the development stage of
innovation. It showed ideas developed by teams of three or more people
have 156% greater appeal with consumers than those developed by just one
or two people who played a hands-on role.
developed by teams of three or more people have 156% greater appeal
with consumers than those developed by just one or two people who played
a hands-on role.
with people in your field (current or desired) by discovering how they
think and their vision of the future. When you get to know one another,
you feel more comfortable sharing ideas and voicing your opinions,
creating healthy collaboration.
Stay current on trends by reading, watching, and listening to sources you trust. As a futurist, my job requires a keen understanding of how the world around us is evolving, the global forces that are dramatically changing the landscape of markets and industries, and trends that are reshaping customer expectation.
At HP, we’ve formalized our analysis and forecasting process into a body of work we call Megatrends, a systematic effort to identify the global technological, economic, and social currents that are influencing how people will live and work around the world in the future. Take a look at this year’s report that looks at how innovation and disruptions in economics, data, automation, and energy impact megatrends.
I stay on top of trends by reading the latest technology news, speaking
with customers and industry pundits, paying attention to university and
academic research areas, monitoring venture investing trends and
start-up activity. I also draw from my personal experiences, media
coverage, and public data sources.
important to have a vision and desired outcomes in mind. Then explore
how trends and technologies can help you realize those outcomes. Ongoing
problems the world is facing, like poverty and climate change, cannot
be solved with short-term thinking. If we want to move forward and
create the future we want, we must adopt long-term, futuristic thinking.
you’ve identified the trends, come up with proactive statements about
where you think the future is going. This is something that true disrupters do. So … ask outlandish questions, free your mind, and push yourself outside of your box. The future is yours to create.
5. Give yourself a break
all that, are you feeling a bit frazzled? We spend hours pondering how
we can stay ahead of this change instead of being led by it. Even if we
could predict the future perfectly (which, of course, we can’t), we need
to be willing to reinvent ourselves continuously as all of this change
in our world occurs.
It’s okay to take a break from
future-proofing yourself. Read a book. Take a walk outside. Listen to
your favorite music. Give your brain a chance to breath and recharge.
future will be transformed by people like you, who are strategic
thinkers, quick to innovate, and passionate. What do you think? What
skills or mindsets will we need to adopt today for the future? Sound off
I recently completed the Kokoda Track with a group of my oldest and best friends. For those of you who don’t know, the Track is a historical trail in Papua New Guinea. When I was preparing for my trip to Kokoda, I knew that I was in for a long journey full of challenges. An eight-day trek on difficult terrain was bound to test me. It was also bound to teach me important lessons that I could take back to everyday life. So, without further ado, here are the most important lessons I learned while powering through the Kokoda Track:
1. Be prepared.
As I previously talked about, I committed to preparing for this trip. I knew it was going to test me physically and mentally, and I wanted to give myself the best possible tools and training to get me through it successfully. I hiked long miles on weekends and did hours of research on the best gear to take and what to expect on the Track. By doing this, I made sure that I was well-prepared for the different obstacles that I might face. Training ahead of time was key to my success on the Track and researching what I was in for made sure I didn’t underestimate the difficult roads ahead.
This is a lesson easily applicable to business and entrepreneurship. When you’re vying for success, prepare for success. This isn’t always the same as making detailed plans ahead of time, plans always change, but being prepared is also key to being able to adapt to unexpected changes or roadblocks to achieve your objective. When walking into an important meeting or launching a new start-up, make sure that you’ve put in the work to be successful.
2. Choose your team well.
I was very lucky to be surrounded by some of my oldest and closest friends on this trek, so when any one of us was struggling, we knew we could turn to each other for support and motivation. To have that support is an essential part of success in any aspect of life, so when times get tough, make sure you’re doing it with the right team.
People often say that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Are you surrounding yourself with the right people? Whether it’s in business or your personal life, you want to make sure that you have a support system that is empowering.
3. Don’t be afraid of hard times.
It’s natural to want to avoid difficult times, but it’s in those moments that you experience the most growth. Embrace those moments and use them to build a stronger, better team. Throughout the trek, each of us went through struggles and doubts, but as the trek went on, we became closer because we were able to rely on one another.
Hard times can always teach you something. When you’re going through something rough, take a moment to think about what you’re learning. How can you apply this to future situations? How can this make you a better version of yourself? Embrace that learning and use it to improve.
Though our journey was extremely physically challenging, it was also very mentally challenging. It was crucial to spend time getting centered before setting off on each day’s trek. Achieving and maintaining that level of balance was a constant battle, and it’s important to pace yourself.
Do you take time each day to check in with yourself? Would you consider yourself in balance? If not, try starting your morning with a brief morning meditation or just find some quiet time during the day to center yourself. There a number of resources that can help you with this, like Headspace, Calm, and Ten Percent Happier. A strong, healthy mindset is important to taking on any new challenge.
5. Celebrate success.
When we walked through the end of the Kokoda arches, it was very emotional. We looked back on what we’d accomplished and truly took a moment to reflect on what we’d just been through. It was a huge achievement that we’d managed together, and we congratulated each other on our success. Then, we got beers.
Don’t be afraid to celebrate your successes, big or small. Every day is full of challenges, and with the right mindset you can crush them all. So be sure to treat yourself and your team when you reach new milestones, and then get excited for the next one!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you handle it? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!