How weak signals can help you stay ahead of the next wave of innovation

A crucial ingredient for any successful business is understanding the trends shaping the world around us and that point to future opportunities.

If you miss these shifts, you risk being disrupted and, worse, going out of business. But if you can catch these potential trends early and capitalize on them, they instead mean growth and opportunity.

Catching these subtle changes early isn’t easy, however. All world-changing shifts don’t just magically appear, they start as weak signals, and you must look for them. A weak signal is very early evidence of a potential future mainstream trend. Given the very early nature of these signals, they may or may not actually become a trend. But identifying and monitoring weak signals over time is integral to getting in on new trends early. Sometimes this can be the difference between catching a new wave and leading this change or getting left behind.

As futurists, we want to be the disrupters, not those being disrupted. To do that, we need to constantly observe society and the world around us to find these new trends and weak signals.

Here are eight weak signals that our team is watching for future impact.

Eco-consumerism

Consumers are becoming more aware of how their consumption contributes to climate change, and this is changing their buying behaviors accordingly. As consumers become more eco-friendly, they’re putting pressure on brands to do the same by repurposing waste, using biodegradable materials, and prioritizing renewable resources. Companies that don’t embrace sustainability or give back to the planet in some way risk losing the support of consumers. With 77% of consumers concerned about the environmental impact of the products they buy, that’s a large demographic to risk losing.

Here’s a look at eco-consumerism at play:

  • These bio-concrete tiles are made with Japanese knotweed and American signal crayfish, two invasive species in the UK that would otherwise be considered waste. They also reduce carbon emissions caused by traditionally made concrete.
  • These running shoes from Zen Running Club are made entirely from plant-based materials, resulting in a fully biodegradable shoe.
  • Molded fiber, an eco-friendly packaging alternative, is gaining momentum. Once a time-consuming process, recent innovations like HP’s Molded Fiber Advanced Tooling Solution are accelerating the adoption of more sustainable packaging.

Rise of reality

While we are still living highly digital lives, and there is significant hype surrounding a potentially virtual future in the metaverse, there is also a growing need for a return to reality. After the lockdown portion of the pandemic, many of us are ready to return to physical spaces, travel, and in-person entertainment to escape Zoom fatigue and tech burnout. As more people crave unplugging over new online experiences, it will be critical for new technologies to enhance our physical experiences and interactions. Even further, tech companies are responsible for improving their products to battle burnout and enhance user experience.

Here’s a look at the rise of reality at play:

  • AiFi, an HP Tech Ventures portfolio company, offers AI-powered autonomous retail solutions, making shopping a seamless experience for consumers and retailers.
  • To address tech fatigue, many tech companies could provide time-limit features or recommend breaks to users. Other companies are getting even more creative, like these hologram startups aiming to make remote meetings feel less impersonal.
  • Location-based VR experiences, powered by technologies like HP’s VR backpack, allow users to blend the virtual with reality.

Distributed enterprise

In a recent HP Wolf Security report, 46% of office workers admitted using their work devices for personal tasks, and 69% claimed to have used their personal devices for work activities. This overlap between work and personal devices has been exacerbated by the increase in remote work, which has further blurred the line between consumer and enterprise. Enterprise products and services are being increasingly distributed across smaller home offices rather than large company headquarters. This has significant implications for cybersecurity and maintenance and could contribute to feature changes.

Here’s a look at distributed enterprise at play:

  • With the era of hybrid work upon us, there is a growing need for devices connecting home and corporate offices. Solutions like HP Presence provide powerful collaboration tools to reinvent how people connect.
  • Employees and companies can better protect their data from cybercriminals by embracing decentralized cybersecurity. Approaches like zero trust security are gaining popularity, with 78% of firms planning to adopt zero trust in 2022.
  • Remote maintenance is not entirely new, but it’s increasingly essential as remote work grows. Advanced remote management technologies, like NVIDIA’s Fleet Command, are working to optimize processes for global IT professionals.

Omniscient health

As people continue to be hyper-conscious of their health, there has been significant growth in health-related technologies ranging from wearable devices to AI-powered diagnostics. Wearables like fitness trackers have become smarter and more powerful, so users are gaining greater insight into their health. Health providers can use this new data, paired with the power of AI, to aid in their care. Microfluidics could also enable faster, less invasive, and more accurate diagnostics. As monitoring our health becomes part of our daily routine, chronic issues could be caught sooner, leading to more proactive care.

Here’s a look at omniscient health at play:

  • Using data from continuous wearable sensors, physiQ generates personalized and actionable insights for patients and their healthcare providers.
  • For people with chronic illnesses, health monitoring tools are essential. Fortunately, many startups are working to create more straightforward and less invasive health monitoring methods, such as BOYDSense, which developed a breath-based glucose level monitor for those with diabetes.
  • Using microfluidics, researchers at Northwestern developed a sticker that absorbs and uses sweat to accurately diagnose cystic fibrosis in newborns. Another research team from the University of Minnesota has also created a new microfluidic chip that could provide point-of-care diagnostics.

Internet of energy

At our current rate, global energy consumption is set to see a 50% increase between 2020 and 2050. With the growing volume of data, demand for clean energy, and increasing adoption of emerging technologies, a new energy system may be critical. Antiquated energy infrastructure, like electrical grids, cannot keep up with technology advancements and energy demands. The Internet of Energy may be the best solution, as it can reduce inefficiencies, limit waste, and maximize the potential of existing infrastructures. It could also lead to the adoption of smart grid technology, which would hugely benefit users and energy consumption.

Here’s a look at the internet of energy at play:

  • Smart panels from startups like Span balance home electricity use to avoid overloading utility grids.
  • Packetized Energy, recently acquired by EnergyHub, is a software platform aggregating energy devices such as water heaters, HVAC systems, electric vehicle chargers, solar inverters, and distributed batteries into dispatchable and flexible grid resources.
  • General Electric (GE) launched a startup, Current, which pairs LEDs and solar panels with software. This allows the system to gather data to apply insights to corporate operations to increase lighting and productivity savings.

Geospatial AI

The increasing number of satellites and improved image quality provides a plethora of data that, combined with supercomputing, allows Geospatial AI (GEOAI) to extract and impart impactful insights. This integration of geospatial studies and AI helps machine learning mimic human spatial reasoning and dynamics to better understand environmental and geographical impacts. This could lead to hyper-local and instantaneous weather forecasting, real-time wildfire detection, and other capabilities that could make environmental conservation and planning more seamless.

Here’s a look at GEOAI at play:

  • Google’s Machine Learning for Precipitation Nowcasting from Radar Images performs weather forecasting using real-time data instead of hours-old data.
  • The city of Boston will use data from satellites in the TreeTect pilot to improve tree equity and anticipate tree maintenance tasks.
  • Scientists from Stanford University developed a deep-learning model that maps fuel moisture levels across 12 of the US’ Western states, making it easier to predict where wildfires are likely to ignite and spread.

Transportation transformation

Growing concern for pollution and congestion is leading to disruptive innovation in transportation technology, policy, and infrastructure, which will radically change how we transport people and things in the future. Crowded freeways, slow delivery times, and an urgency to counteract climate change all demand revolutionary change in the transportation industry.

Urban transportation is central to the effort to slow climate change, with plenty of opportunities for growth and innovation. Home to more than half the world’s population, cities account for more than two-thirds of global carbon dioxide emissions. Transportation is often the most prominent and fastest-growing source of emissions and is the U.S.’ second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s a look at transportation transformation at play:

  • Though not quite a reality yet, the idea of a hyperloop has long captivated society, with companies like Virgin and The Boring Company working towards its creation. The technology exists to create the ultra-fast transportation concept, but there are still significant hurdles to overcome.
  • TuSimple has created autonomous trucks, which promise improved safety, efficiency, and sustainability. Its trucks allegedly shaved 10 hours off a 24-hour run.
  • Florence has implemented smart trams, which could shape future transportation for other European cities.

3D-printed electronics

Advances in 3D printing technology that allow for voxel-level specification of materials, combined with improvements in metal substrates, will enable electronic components to be printed at the same time as durable parts, rather than being added as a separate assembly step after printing. These capabilities could allow electronic devices to be 3D-printed on demand as all-in-one elements, with no assembly required. This would minimize production costs and time and create an opportunity to reduce the size and weight of electronics.

Here’s a look at 3D-printed electronics at play:

  • Japanese CAD and 3D printing company SOLIZE uses HP 3D printers to make out-of-production spare parts for NISMO, the motorsport division of Nissan
  • Optomec’s Aerosol Jet printing technology enables 3D-printed electronics using aerodynamic focusing.
  • Nano Dimension’s Dragonfly IV 3D printer can generate entire circuits in one step.
  • Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a method of printing copper on fabric, a milestone for wearable electronics.

Considering the state of our world, futuristic thinking is a necessary skill we all need to learn and practice. With the constant and rapid pace of change, everyone should be honing their futurist skills. And thinking like a futurist isn’t reserved for a select group of people. It is a fundamental skill set that anyone can learn.

This is not something all of us do naturally, though. Only a small percent of the population thinks and plans for the future. In fact, only 35% of Americans regularly think about their five-year future. Those who aren’t thinking of their futures are disadvantaged over those who do. If we want to stay one step ahead in our fast-paced world, and if we’re going to move forward and create the future we want, we must adopt long-term, futuristic thinking.

To help you get started, here are three essential practices that I have found very useful in my career as a futurist:

  1. Monitor shifts — Pay attention and understand what’s happening in the world around you. Notice the small changes that create new needs. Keep an eye on these weak signals and any others that appear.
  2. Visualize future outcomes — Start with your vision for the future and work backward from there, not the other way around. What was the catalyst for your vision of the future?
  3. Adopt an innovative mindset — Have a “can do” attitude and be unstoppable. Embrace everything as a learning opportunity, even failure.

The more you think like a futurist, the better you can create the future you want.

Which of these weak signals are you interested in? Any others you are monitoring? Share your thoughts with me in the comments.

Blog Innovation Trends

4 technologies that will power the metaverse

We’ve discussed weak signals, how to spot trends, and the risk of missing them. Now, let’s shift streams and explore the recent trend getting the most press coverage and attention: the metaverse.

Currently, there’s no standard definition for the metaverse, reminding me of how the internet was viewed back in the early 90s. At the time, we used the word “internet” without truly understanding what it meant. Did it mean AOL? Did it include intranets? And what was this thing called “the information superhighway?”

Like the internet once was, the metaverse is likely to be the source of a lot of potential disruption moving forward. It could replace today’s internet with connected virtual worlds, creating an internet of experiences instead of content. But why all this metaverse buzz now? VR has been around for decades, as have virtual worlds like Second Life.

One reason is apparent enough: Facebook became Meta and announced that it would be investing billions in the metaverse. Perhaps more than that, however, is that four technologies are maturing concurrently, coming together to make the metaverse truly viable. These technologies include spatial computing, game engines, virtual environments, and virtual economies.

Spatial computing

From Fortnite to virtual reality (VR), spatial computing is essential to our current and future digital experiences. In previous iterations of computer games and virtual worlds, we moved using 2D mouse pointers on screens. Now, more and more, we are  transitioning to 3D experiences, which feels much closer to how we move around in the physical world. Spatial computing allows users to digitally interact in 3D vs 2D, which is more much intuitive for most people, and allows us to interact with a digital world in a very similar way to how we navigate the physical world. VR/AR/MR are good examples of this, but so is playing Fortnite on your phone.

Game engines

Game engines are the software tools developers use to build 3D video games, but they’re not just about video games anymore. They’ve become more sophisticated and are now used in applications from agriculture to the driver interface in the new all-electric Hummer. They have also become incredibly realistic, making them the perfect solution for building hyper-detailed virtual worlds in the metaverse. Powerful game engines, like Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5 and Unity Technologies’ Unity Engine, are equipped with tools that can create large-scale open worlds with incredible detail. They’ve already contributed to popular games like Fortnite and Pokémon Go and are well-suited to the creation of the metaverse.

Virtual environments

When you pair spatial computing with game engines, you get an explosion of virtual environments. These aren’t just entirely made-up virtual worlds but also digital replicas of buildings and locations from the real world, also known as digital twins. These replicas can be used for retail, education, the future of work, and more. Today, companies have websites. Tomorrow, companies could also have virtual worlds or locations that can be used to interact with customers, partners, and employees. And someday, there could even be a digital twin of the whole earth!

For example, NBA teams can (and are) outfitting their physical stadiums with hundreds of video cameras that capture the action in real-time and instantly convert it into a metaverse version of the stadium where people can virtually watch the game. These users can choose any seat in the stadium, watch the game in the metaverse instead of in-person, and still get close to the same experience.

Virtual economies

The fourth technology trend that’s coming together to create the metaverse today is something we call virtual economies. People want to make purchases in virtual worlds. They want to buy clothes for their digital avatars. They want to buy special powers. They want to purchase virtual sneakers or digital tools. And they’re willing to spend a lot of money purchasing those digital items. In 2018 and 2019, Fortnite generated $9 billion through its virtual economy. However, the problem with today’s virtual economies is that you can’t buy something in one world and use it in another. It’s also challenging to convert virtual items into real-world cash. This is where NFTs come in: they allow everyone to own their digital assets. In theory, these assets could be used across different virtual worlds and could be more easily sold, traded, or converted into cash. NFTs have the potential to implement a pan-world virtual economy for the Metaverse that isn’t tied to a specific company or virtual environment. They give people and consumers the ability to own their digital assets and information, rather than these being owned by the operators of the virtual worlds themselves, and this is why they are currently garnering so much attention. 

The emergence of these four related technologies and trends makes the metaverse the topic of today and potentially the internet of tomorrow. Together, they are unlocking several vital elements that will power the metaverse and make it engaging and immersive. As these technologies mature, we move closer to the internet of tomorrow.

What other technologies do you think will be essential for the metaverse?

Blog Innovation Trends

How to think like a futurist: Blockchain

Keeping up with our ever-changing world can feel like a full-time job. Adapting to a never-ending stream of news, innovations, and societal shifts can be overwhelming but can also be a source of excitement. For futurists, change brings opportunities to lead, innovate, and build a better future.

In this new series, we will look through the lens of a futurist to explore some of the exciting technologies and trends bound to shape our future lives.

Ready to think like a futurist? First up: Blockchain.

Step 1: What is blockchain?

While blockchain is still relatively new and its adoption slow, it is a core component of most cryptocurrencies and a clear opportunity for innovation.

But what is blockchain, and why is it important?

Blockchain is a distributed public ledger technology (DLT) that allows users to record immutable transactions in a secure digital system. Unlike traditional ways of managing data and transactions, blockchain decentralizes its data instead of holding information on one central database. This is one of the reasons blockchains are so secure.

Most blockchains are public, adding transparency. All transactions on public blockchains are viewable by anyone with a blockchain explorer. This makes it extra difficult for hackers (though not impossible) to steal cryptocurrencies, as every transaction is traceable.

Step 2: Trendspotting

Let’s look at the current trends and use cases that paint a picture of the potential opportunities for blockchain.

Blockchain has predominantly enabled cryptocurrencies and updated banking in recent years. Now, thanks to the hyper-popularity of NFTs, increasing uses in supply chain, financial services, entertainment and other industries there is added legitimacy to blockchain-enabled innovations. According to a recent report, the blockchain market is expected to see exponential growth, from $4.9 billion in 2021 to $67.4 billion by 2026. In 2021, venture capital funding for blockchain startups increased by an impressive 713% from 2020, reaching $25.2 billion. With this increased investment and enablement, blockchain could continue to support everything from cryptocurrencies to NFTs to smart contracts. It could also enable asset transfers, remittances, supply chain monitoring, vaccine management, GameFi, and the Metaverse.

  • Asset transfers: Did you know that the use of blockchain could also apply to tangible assets, like houses and cars? For example, suppose Person A wanted to buy a house from Person B. They could use the blockchain to verify ownership, transfer funds, and update title and deed records using the blockchain rather than through an escrow company. One example of this is startup Propy, a platform that uses blockchain to simplify and secure the home-purchasing process.
  • Remittances and Payments: When it comes to making global payments, the current processes are less than ideal. Due to long processing times and expensive fees, people are seeking out better methods. By using blockchain technology, the remittance economy could remove the mediator and therefore eliminate fees and greatly reduce transaction times. Ripple is a great example of this opportunity, using the power of blockchain to shape an inclusive financial system and the future of global payments.
  • Supply chain monitoring: Global issues surrounding the supply chain have been unrelenting since the start of the pandemic, but these issues present opportunities for several emerging technologies to provide solutions, including blockchain. Because the global supply chain generates huge amounts of data, it can be challenging to track down specific information. Blockchain’s transparency and traceability could help simplify supply chain monitoring, as exemplified by VeChain’s solutions. Using blockchain, IoT, and other solutions, VeChain helps to mitigate the many data issues that arise within supply chain logistics.
  • Vaccine management: The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines presented several logistical challenges, such as temperature tracking. Because most COVID-19 vaccines needed to stay at specific temperatures, these British hospitals turned to temperature sensors paired with blockchain to ensure that any batches that experienced temperature disruptions would be removed from use. IBM has also stepped up and created a vaccine distribution network using their blockchain, making the process easier to control for manufacturers, distributors, and patients.
  • GameFi: Gamers are exploring “play-to-earn” models that combine cryptocurrency, NFTs, and blockchain. This trend is known as GameFi, and earnings range from bonuses for gameplay to full-time income. By utilizing blockchain, GameFi projects allow users to earn crypto for gameplay and own and store their game assets on a public blockchain.
  • Metaverse: Possibly the hottest topic right now, the Metaverse has opened numerous possibilities for emerging technologies like blockchain. Purchasing power within a Metaverse could rely on cryptocurrencies secured by blockchain technology, and user data could also be fully secured using blockchain. If our lives become intertwined with the Metaverse, security could prove essential. Similarly, the decentralized nature of blockchain has become an area of interest for people exploring Metaverse possibilities. Instead of hosting virtual worlds on corporate servers, some believe that a decentralized Metaverse could have more opportunities. Blockchain also empowers and secures digital real estate within the Metaverse, with everyone from PwC to Snoop Dogg buying virtual property.

Step 3: Opportunity knocks

As exciting as these trends may be, some issues hinder realization. When it comes to blockchain, the main problem is scalability. Because of its decentralized nature, using blockchain has certain limitations — storage, compute power, environmental impact, uptime etc. — which can lead to significant issues, like network outages, such as those recently experienced by Solana and Polygon.

Storage capacity is another big concern for blockchain because each node on a network holds a copy of its distributed digital ledger. As more users add information to that blockchain, scalability becomes an issue. In that same vein, response time slows down as more information is added to a blockchain, as each new transaction requires a network-wide verification process from all connected nodes.

Those large computing needs come at a cost. Because each transaction requires so much processing power, many are concerned about blockchain’s heavy energy consumption. Blockchain can also leave quite a carbon footprint because of its storage.

These issues may seem like difficult hurdles to overcome. But obstacles can also become opportunities.

Innovative thinking is required to develop strategic solutions or complementary technologies to solve blockchain scalability issues. Blockchain professionals are looking at several solutions, such as switching from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake consensus algorithms, improving capacity, and reducing computational energy.

To help address sustainability issues many new cryptocurrencies have emerged, aiming to use the most eco-friendly methods. One blockchain, Algorand, was specifically built with sustainability in mind and pledged to be forever carbon neutral. HP is also working to find ways to reduce the climate impact of the Metaverse, an emerging technology likely to be powered by blockchain. With Z by HP and its acquisition of Teradici, Metaverse creators will be able to turn to cloud-based alternatives. As consumer demand for environmentally friendly options grows stronger, blockchain creators are wise to pay attention and find viable solutions.

By looking at technologies and trends through the lens of a futurist, we can begin to shape an idea of how they will impact our futures. Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize how we manage and secure critical data, which is no simple feat in our increasingly digital world.

By keeping aware of trends and obstacles, futurists can explore and influence opportunities that could significantly impact our world. New technologies and trends contribute to a constant state of change, altering everything from how we do business to how we live our lives. By thinking like a futurist, you can become a part of that change.

Now that we’ve explored blockchain, how do you think it will have changed our world in the next ten years?

Blog Innovation

My top 5 leadership principles

Leadership is constantly evolving to meet the demands of the times. To thrive as leaders, we must understand the needs of our teams and adapt accordingly. There are, however, some leadership principles that I have found to be essential no matter the situation.

1. Be humble. Leaders who place too much focus on results and control rather than the people on their team can create trust issues. Employees may feel restricted in their abilities to explore new ideas or even fearful of disappointing their boss. When teams operate out of fear, there can be several consequences, from a lack of engagement to high turnover. One Gallup study even found that one in two U.S. adults have left a job to escape a bad manager.

Because of this, leaders must embrace humility in their approach. While it is essential to hit targets and goals, the leader’s role is to help their team learn, grow, and explore without fear of failure. Leaders can benefit from their team’s expertise, experience, and insight by serving their employees rather than controlling them.

Ask your team how you can help them do their jobs and encourage them to experiment with innovative approaches and ideas. Create a safe environment for them to take risks and chances. Recognize that, even though you might be leading a team or organization, you are still a member of a team, and the best results will come from working together to find solutions and stay productive.

As my Mum used to remind me, we all put our pants on the same way. As human beings, we are all equal, and just because I might be the leader of a team doesn’t make me any better or less equal than anyone else in the team, no matter what they do. For me being humble means treating everyone as an equal and doing everything I can to help everyone else realize that we are all in this together as equals.

“The leader’s role is to help their team learn, grow, and explore without fear of failure.”

2. Treat everyone with respect and dignity. It’s essential to treat every person in your team and your company with respect and dignity. Each employee plays a vital role in how your business functions from the top of your organizational hierarchy to the bottom. How you treat them matters.

This principle highlights the importance of prioritizing diversity and inclusion. For leaders to encourage their employees to bring their whole selves to work, they must create an environment where people from all backgrounds feel accepted and valued. The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace are clear. Diverse teams consistently outperform those with less diversity, and employees on inclusive teams are 5.4 times more likely to stay at their company.

Treating everyone with respect and dignity can create a company culture that ensures employees feel heard and valued. In turn, this can encourage loyalty, productivity, and motivation. But that’s not why this is important, it’s important because it’s the right thing to do, and the right way to treat the people around us.

3. The team is always more important than the individual. No matter how talented, educated, or skilled an individual may be, nothing compares to the success of teamwork. By building a team with complementary skills, a leader can create a well-rounded approach to innovation where the team can learn from each other.

When appropriately used, collaboration is a powerful tool that can significantly improve outcomes compared to individual work. In addition, a Deloitte study found that employees that engage in collaboration and use digital collaboration tools are 17% more satisfied at work. While individuals may get tasks done independently, there is an increased risk of burnout and lower-quality results.

Leaders need to encourage open communication to enable teams to work together. Clear expectations and structure can also be helpful, such as assigning responsibilities to specific team members and designating particular times and methods of collaboration.

I remember many times in my career when I had no idea how we were ever going to achieve a particularly challenging goal or objective. Something that at first glance appeared impossible or completely unreasonable. But then something happens. Someone has an idea that triggers another idea, that leads to a first step, that leads to a second step, that creates a momentum that starts to take on a life of its own. The mood starts to change to a “We can do this!” and a palpable sense of excitement starts to build. There is a point in this process where the team shifts from a group of individuals to a thriving, thrumming “We can do anything!” functional unit that elevates everyone in it to achieve things they never thought possible. Things that could never be achieved by an individual or even a group of individuals – things that only a true team can achieve. If you’ve ever experienced that feeling, you know what I’m talking about.  

“A team is more than a group of individuals; it is also the energy that is released when true teamwork happens that elevates everyone involved.”

4. Have fun! Boredom is not a corporate objective. If you’ve seen the movie Office Space, you know how soul-sucking a boring (albeit fictional) office job can be. While the cult film is a satirical, darkly comedic take on corporate life in the 90s, it can also be a cautionary tale against boredom and monotony at work.

For leaders, it is crucial to know when and how to have fun. Happy employees are healthier, more creative, and more productive overall. So, what can leaders do to create a more fun work environment?

One way to promote more fun is to create experiences that allow team members to get to know each other and interact outside of a work setting. These experiences can be as formal as a monthly virtual happy hour or dinner, or as informal as a weekly group lunch or virtual coffee chat to catch up on life outside of work. While planning events like these can be a great way to create structured fun, simpler methods include encouraging employees to share photos, stories about their vacations, work-appropriate memes, and pictures of their latest golf outings in group messages or recognizing team members for big and small achievements.

Another way to promote more fun is to just have more fun. I also like to say, “We’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time”. Life’s too short to take too seriously. Having fun at work doesn’t mean we’re not working hard; it just means we’re having more fun working hard.

5. Pay attention to the details – the small things matter. Leaders are often tasked with directing their team towards one final, all-encompassing goal. While this is important, it can sometimes lead to the dismissal of small but crucial details. Achieving one significant goal results from many small achievements that occur along the way, and each one is as important as the next.

For leaders, this puts them in the unique position of needing to keep both the big picture and the details top of mind. For this reason, it’s crucial to have solid organizational skills and a reliable team that you can delegate to as needed. Remain dedicated to the end goal while maintaining a broad understanding of what each team member is doing to succeed. Trust your team and avoid micromanaging but know when to step in as a leader to help push things forward.

These five leadership principles have helped me throughout my career as a leader, and I hope they serve you on your journey.

Have a leadership principle that you believe to be essential for leaders to know? Share it in the comments.

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My top 5 TED Talks of 2021

There’s no question that the past two years have been highly disruptive. Our daily lives look entirely different than they did in 2019, and we’ve all had to adapt in one way or another.

One thing that I’m grateful for, however, is that TED has continued to share inspiring and innovative TED Talks throughout this time to give us inspiration and insight. Watching these talented individuals on the stage has become a favorite part of my week as someone who misses in-person public speaking.

Here are my top five TED Talks of 2021:

“We were looking for bliss in a blah day and purpose in a perpetual pandemic. But languishing is not unique to a pandemic. It’s part of the human condition.” –Adam Grant, How to stop languishing and start finding flow, TEDMonterey, August 2021

The pandemic created a massive shift in our lives, and many of us found ourselves sinking into “languishing,” which Adam Grant expertly explains in this TED Talk. After spending nearly two years living through a pandemic, it feels validating to put a name to the feeling that so many of us were experiencing. Even better are the solutions that Grant provides in his talk.

“On today’s internet, we don’t get paid for the work we do with our minds. And what’s more, the content we upload to these services is trapped there. These services not only make money from our content, they control it. Until NFTs.” –Kayvon Tehranian, How NFTs are building the internet of the future, TEDMonterey, August 2021

NFTs surged into popularity in 2021, and people have been trying to explain them ever since. This TED Talk from Kayvon Tehranian does a brilliant job of explaining what NFTs are, as well as their potential to bring the internet into its next evolution.

“This wouldn’t just be better for chickens and cows and pigs and the people who have to farm them and slaughter them and process their meat. This could be better for the whole world.” –Isha Datar, How we could eat real meat without harming animals, TEDMonterey, August 2021

One of my daughters is vegan, and she’s always making creative meals for us to enjoy (like this vegan turkey). She’s inspired me to look into vegan options, but I have to admit that I love real meat, which is why the development of lab-grown meat is fascinating. This TED Talk from Isha Datar dives into the science behind lab-grown meat, as well as all of the incredible benefits that could result from this new means of food production.

“The future of work is not going to be created with top-down, opinion-driven edicts from senior leaders whose day-to-day realities don’t match those of us dual-career, time-pressed and income-pressed people. Of course, senior leaders want to go back. That worked for them. But they have to recognize that for 18 months now; their people experienced unprecedented agency, control, flexibility, trust, and accountability.” –Debbie Lovich, 3 tips for leaders to get the future of work right, TED@BCG, September 2021

There’s no question that the future of work has changed drastically, and the post-pandemic world is likely to see a somewhat permanent shift to remote and hybrid work. As Debbie Lovich says in this TED Talk, it’s time for leaders to embrace the change and learn new methods of leadership and teamwork.

“It’s not just about your commutes. It’s really about changing everything in terms of how we move people, goods and services, eventually.” –Aicha Evans, Your self-driving robotaxi is already here, TEDMonterey, August 2021

Self-driving cars are not a new subject, but Aicha Evans believes their technology has the potential to shift how our world moves entirely. In this TED Talk, Evans discusses how robotaxis could create a high-tech, sustainable, and convenient mode of transportation.

These were some of my favorite TED Talks of 2021, and I’m looking forward to more educational and inspiring talks in 2022!

Share your favorites in the comments.

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How to Think Like a Futurist

The following is an excerpt of article that was first published in the Summer 2021 issue of HP’s Innovation Journal:

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.

Monitoring shifts

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.

Read more in the Summer 2021 issue of HP’s Innovation Journal.

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HP Megatrends 2020 Refresh

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.

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Preparing for Gen Z as a Futurist

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:

  1. After the Millennials
  2. Gen Guru
  3. Gen Z Insights
  4. Generational Differences in the Workplace Infographic
  5. Looking Ahead to Generation 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.

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