Corporate Conversations

The Future: Next ExitThere are four questions I’m asking everyone I know these days – and that includes you:

  1. What aspects of the future of work are you most excited about?
  2. What are you most uneasy about?
  3. What technology do you think will have the biggest impact on the way we work and live in the next five to ten years?
  4. If you could change one thing about the way you work right now, what would it be?

I’m just getting started, but I want to build on a few insightful comments I’ve already received about that first question:

What aspects of the future of work are you most excited about?

As you might expect, the people I’ve listened to so far are excited about a wide variety of developments they expect to see, ranging from improved – and personalized – education and health care to increased cross-cultural collaboration and much more efficient generation of energy using non-fossil fuel sources like wind power, solar power, and even geo-thermal (accessing and leveraging the heat emanating from the earth’s center.

I am most intrigued by the almost-universal expectation of much greater personalization – the ability of technology to handle the complexities arising from individual differences like personal educational backgrounds (we’ve all studied different topics and have differing levels of knowledge about anything and everything we can think of). [click to continue…]

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Last week I announced a new research project focused on gathering insights and ideas from a wide range of smart people (that is, almost everyone I know, plus many of you who I don’t know – yet).

There are four questions I’m asking everyone I know these days – and that includes you:

 

  1. What aspects of the future of work are you most excited about?
  2. What are you most uneasy about?
  3. What technology do you think will have the biggest impact on the way we work and live in the next five to ten years?
  4. If you could change one thing about the way you work right now, what would it be?

I am pleased that I’ve already received thoughtful responses to those questions from several people, including Robert Buss, Graham Jervis, Bob Leek, and David Fleming. You can read their  responses, posted on my blog last week, at this link: “Let’s Talk About Tomorrow[click to continue…]

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Let’s Talk About Tomorrow

February 6, 2017

I’ve spent a lot of time the last few years investigating the future of work and doing my best to interpret it for you – especially the “So What?” questions that breakthroughs inevitably produce.

But I have also pointed out on many occasions that, obviously, the future doesn’t exist – yet.

We, together, create the future, one day, or one moment, at a time. The actions we take, the assumptions we hold, and the expectations we create about Tomorrow all add up to new experiences that become The Present and then The Past.

I like to talk about “premembering” the future in the sense that the more we can anticipate what might happen, the better prepared we can be for whatever does happen. Besides “So What?” the most important question we can ask is “What if?” [click to continue…]

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Toolbox

Last week I described five dimensions of the future of work as I envision it (“Oh, the Things I Know about the Future of Work!”). I don’t claim to have any special or unique insights, but I do believe there are patterns visible today that help us anticipate what the future of work will likely include.

But never forget that we don’t discover the future; we invent it.

Yes, there are events and conditions outside your control that certainly impact your future, but it is your reaction to those “uncontrollables” that determines whether the future works for or against you. And what matters most is how proactive you are about both anticipating those “outside” factors and developing plans for coping with and/or leveraging them for competitive advantage.

I’ve just returned from a powerful two-day experience that convinced me more than ever of the power of applying an activist, designer mentality to the future. [click to continue…]

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Disappearing Work - StuckyIn October my monthly Talking About Tomorrow membership program (“TAT”) featured former IBM researcher and current Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Stanford University – and Very Smart Person – Susan Stucky, who led the group in an important conversation about “disappearing work.”

But Susan wasn’t talking just about all the jobs that are being automated out of existence. She is of course highly aware of, and deeply concerned about, automation, but she asked the TAT participants to focus on another, often unseen, side of the emerging digital economy.

She opened with this statement by economist W. Brian Arthur, External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute, from a 2011 thought piece in McKinsey Quarterly:

Digitization is creating a second economy that’s vast, automatic, and invisible—thereby bringing the biggest change since the Industrial Revolution.

(from “The Second Economy,” October 2011) [click to continue…]

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Telescope_to_Right2016 is coming to a close; this is the time of year when most organizations and their leaders focus their energy and attention on the future. It’s a time for visioning, strategic planning, goal-setting, and sorting out how tomorrow will be different from today.

But how many times have you completed a strategic planning exercise, or a visioning effort, with high energy, high hopes, and exuberant optimism that the effort will finally – finally! – produce meaningful change, only to see everything evaporate in the face of organizational resistance and/or apathy?

Pushing a rock uphillAchieving lasting and meaningful change in large organizations often feels impossible. It’s like Sisyphus rolling that boulder up the mountain, only to see it cascading back down to the valley, and having to start pushing it uphill all over again – and again, and again.

One of the best ways I know to avoid that kind of frustration and stagnation is a Future Search Conference.

 

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Crystal BallYou don’t know – you can’t know with 100% certainty – what will happen tomorrow. Yes, you can (and we all do) contemplate the future with a good sense of what is likely to happen, although these days the future seems incredibly cloudy, uncertain, and basically unpredictable. And if tomorrow seems hazy, what about next week, next month, next year, five years from now?

And the less certain you are of what the future will bring, the more highly stressed you are likely to be. That stress comes from not knowing, and from being afraid that you won’t be able to control whatever does happen.

But what if you could “premember” tomorrow as clearly as you remember yesterday?

[click to continue…]

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peekingfear_000014658459November 8, 2016, is election day in the United States. This has been the most contentious, drawn-out, and, yes, tedious election in my memory. Everyone I know is glad it is about to be over. No matter what your politics or political values, I am positive that like me you are relieved we’ve finally reached the end of this unpleasant journey.

One inevitable result of this year’s electoral dysfunction (deliberate pun) has been rampant uncertainty about the future. And one of the best indicators of uncertainty is the stock market. The U.S. markets have been unsteady and volatile throughout the year, and foreign markets have generally followed suit. [click to continue…]

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For the last several weeks I’ve been making the case that you can improve the quality and productivity of your meetings with relatively little effort. Rethink the basics, offer a simple training workshop, and improve the way you measure the cost and quality of your meetings.

All well and good – but I’ve just realized that I’ve been thinking mostly about the “regular” meetings that happen in every organization and every business unit on a daily basis – the 20 million-plus meetings that take place every day in the United States.

That’s a lot of meetings, and a lot of organizational time and money.

But the meetings that really matter are those infrequent occasions when leadership teams actively explore their organizational future and chart new courses for their business. [click to continue…]

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Thinking Girl Looking Up With Red Question Sign Near HerI’ve been writing about meetings and how to make them better for months.

And, as you know, I even wrote a book about making meetings matter (available on Amazon.com at this linkcontact me directly for volume discounts).

Most of my rants have been directed at senior executives and team leaders, because I consider them the most accountable for lousy meetings. After all, it is organizational leaders who set the tone and establish expectations for how things are supposed to work.

It is organizational leaders who set performance standards, measure actual outcomes, and sponsor leadership development programs aimed at equipping team leaders with both the skillsets and the mindsets for leading effective meetings. I believe those are the people who most need to hear my message and join my crusade.

However, I’ve recently realized that focusing on organizational leaders isn’t enough.

This year in the United States we’re witnessing a powerful strain of populism – of every-day, “ordinary” people saying “enough” and “throw the bums out.” And the Brexit vote in the U.K. is another example of voters expressing displeasure with their elected leaders.

I’m not taking sides here on the upcoming U.S. election, but I do believe we are being reminded every day that the People do have Power – and when they exercise it things can change.

So today I am issuing a call to anyone and everyone who ever gets invited to a meeting to change the way you respond, and to hold the leaders who call all those meetings to higher standards.

Not too long ago I wrote a short piece (“Making Meetings Matter: Leading from Anywhere”) listing several specific things you can do as a meeting participant to help the formal leader make the meeting run smoothly and accomplish its goals.

I now realize that focusing on the actual meeting is only one small part of the puzzle, and when the meeting starts it’s often too late to make a meaningful difference. I just watched a short but fabulous TEDx talk delivered by David Grady in Boston in October 2013 (“How to Save the World, or at Least Yourself, from Bad Meetings”). It’s less than seven minutes long; I encourage you to watch it.

Here is the YouTube version:

Grady identifies what he calls “MAS – Mindless Acceptance Syndrome” – the “involuntary reflex in which a person accepts a meeting invitation without even thinking why.”

I completely agree: that’s where the bad meetings epidemic begins.

The next time you get a meeting invitation, ask these four important questions before you accept it or commit to attend:

  • What is the Purpose of the meeting? What outcomes does the leader want or expect?
  • What is the Agenda? How will we spend our time during the meeting?
  • Who else has been invited? Are they the right people for accomplishing the meeting’s purpose?
  • How will my attendance at this meeting help me accomplish my own goals and produce positive results for me and/or my organization?

If you can’t answer those basic questions, Decline the meeting; or, better, contact the person who sent you the invitation and ask him/her these four questions. If there are reasonable answers, then you can consider Accepting the invitation. If not, then you can either work with the meeting leader to develop reasonable answers or Decline to attend.

I realized recently that one of the main reasons we are experiencing such an epidemic of lousy meetings is that in most organizations there is no one person responsible for the quality of meetings across the organization. Yes, individual leaders must be accountable for their own meetings; and yes, anyone who attends a meeting shares responsibility for the quality of that meeting. But most of us don’t realize how much we can do individually to make our meetings better. More importantly the distributed responsibility makes it difficult to launch any kind of organization-wide initiatives to improve how meetings are designed and led.

As David Grady points out so eloquently, you wouldn’t tolerate a fellow employee walking into your workspace and stealing your chair. But almost every day you allow others to steal a far more valuable resource: your time. Stop it right now – no more Mindless Acceptance of meeting invitations!


For a longer exploration of how to make all those lousy meetings both productive and popular, order a copy of my most recent book, Making Meetings Matter: How Smart Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age (link is to the book’s page on Amazon.com. However, you should contact me directly for volume discounts). Or, as a first step, view a short video and download a free excerpt at this link.


And call me today (+1 510.558.1434) for a free exploratory conversation about how you can become a hero by improving your organization’s meeting ROI. Isn’t it time to upgrade the quality and the efficiency of all your meetings?

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