Trends and Predictions

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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Social PhysicsOver the just-completed three-day weekend celebrating Labor Day here in the United States I started reading Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter, by Alex Pentland, Toshiba professor at MIT and a co-creator of the MIT Media Lab.

Dr. Pentland also directs MIT’s Human Dynamics Lab and co-leads the World Economic Forum Big Data and Personal Data initiatives. In 2012, Forbes Magazine named Pentland one of the seven most powerful data scientists in the world. In short, he’s a very smart guy.

I’ve only read the first two chapters so far, but I can tell already that this is an important book filled with valuable insights (I’ve been aware of it for over a year; shame on me for waiting so long to finally pick it up).

Social physics is “a quantitative social science that describes reliable, mathematical connections between information and idea flow on the one hand and people’s behavior on the other.” In my words, it is the study of networks and relationships – of all the interactions, information, ideas, and emotions that flow between and among people. It utilizes “Big Data” to develop new insights into how ideas form and spread, how and when people communicate with each other, and even what they pay attention to.

For me, the first “Big Idea” to jump out from the pages of Social Physics is this: [click to continue…]

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Sigmoid1Last week (“Ignore the Sigmoid Curve as Your Peril”) I described the Sigmoid curve, also known as the technology assimilation curve and the “S-curve.”

It depicts the way many new technologies, new products, and new ideas grow in the marketplace; they begin slowly, and then if successful reach what Malcolm Gladwell dubbed the Tipping Point, followed by rapid, almost out-of-control growth. Inevitably, however, even the most successful products/ideas eventually experience slowing growth, which is often followed by decline as even newer technologies and products begin their own new growth curves: [click to continue…]

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We live in uncertain, unpredictable times.

That may be one of the least controversial and most widely accepted statements I’ve ever made.

The world in 2016 is filled with “VUCA” – Variety, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. We face “wicked problems” every day.

However, as chaotic and dynamic as 2016 seems, this is hardly the first time the world has seemed out of control. In fact, that familiar phrase, “The future isn’t what it used to be” (meaning, the future won’t be like the past), was first used by the French poet and philosopher Paul Valery in 1937.

Indeed, for most of the last several hundred years the future has usually seemed unpredictable, if not uncontrollable. Ever since the Industrial Revolution we have experienced never-ending technological change, although clearly the rate of change has been accelerating at an incredible rate of its own. [click to continue…]

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I ended last week immersed in an intensive two-day extended conversation with about 65 really smart workplace designers, real estate executives, facility management professionals, architects, consultants, and HR/leadership experts.

I was a participant, a presenter, and a co-designer of the first innovation workshop that brought together the Workplace Evolutionaries (WE) and the Real Estate and Advisory Leadership (REAL) communities within IFMA (the International Facilities Management Association). The workshop was hosted by Nike at its Tiger Woods Conference Center in Beaverton, Oregon.

There is no simple way to summarize the many presentations, conversations, and working sessions that engaged and excited all of us. [click to continue…]

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FutureShock

(image from Amazon.com)

The recent passing of Alvin Toffler has led me to reflect more than usual on the challenge we still face of overcoming – or at least surviving – “Future Shock.”

Toffler defined Future Shock (way back in 1970) as the “dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future.” As Farhad Manjoo commented in the New York Times on July 6:

…‘unless intelligent steps are taken to combat it,’ [Toffler] warned, “millions of human beings will find themselves increasingly disoriented, progressively incompetent to deal rationally with their environments.”

How’s that for an accurate forecast? Considering that Toffler issued that warning close to 50 years ago, it was uncannily prescient.

Manjoo goes on to comment in his excellent thought piece (“Why We Need to Pick Up Alvin Toffler’s Torch”) that it is both ironic and tragic that “futurism” has gone out of style. Now, when the pace of change is accelerating faster than ever, and the potential sources of disruption are ever more numerous, is exactly when we need to think constructively about where we’re headed. [click to continue…]

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toffler-smI was deeply saddened to learn of Alvin Toffler’s passing earlier this week. He was not only a brilliant futurist, but a decent and caring human being. He and his wife and business partner Heidi Toffler essentially invented futurism, and they had a major impact on my own life and career.

I won’t attempt to write a full history of Toffler’s contributions to our world; that has already been done, and done far more eloquently than anything I could say. See this from the New York Times:

Alvin Toffler, author of Future Shock, dies at 87

And this online note from his colleagues at Toffler Associates is also worth reading:

The Toffler Legacy

I still remember the first time I saw Future Shock in a bookstore (it was in 1971, though I have no idea where). If I recall correctly, it was the first mass market paperback ever published with multiple alternative covers (green, blue, and red) – a perfect demonstration of the “mass customization” of products that the Tofflers wrote about in that seminal book about global cultural change. [click to continue…]

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David Coleman, the founder and executive director of Collaborative Strategies, Inc., has just published a highly complimentary review of Making Meetings Matter on CMSWire.

Here is a brief excerpt:

Collaboration and telecommunications company Fuze correlated data that shows “15 percent of an organization’s time is spent in meeting.” A Bain report echoed these findings. On average, 11 million meetings took place in the US every day in 2015.

Another study calculates that $37 billion is lost due to unproductive meetings every year. Our estimate, based on the 7 billion meetings in 2014, was that $70 billion was wasted in unproductive meeting time.

No wonder that bookshelves are packed with books trying to tell you how to make those meetings more productive, what tools to use, even proper etiquette. But they all fail to look at changing the “meeting mindset.”

That’s where James Ware’s “Making Meetings Matter, How Smart Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age” comes in.

David’s article is really much more than a review of the book; it’s a thoughtful treatise on the central role that meetings play in 21st-century organizational life, and how important it is for leaders to be much more thoughtful about how they design and conduct the meetings that fill so many peoples’ days at work.

Check it out for yourself at:

“Are You Sure You Want to Schedule Another Meeting?

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Special Note: You are invited to a special (and free) book launch party celebrating the publication of Making Meetings Matter. Join me for an hour of conversation about meetings and collaborative conversations on Wednesday, March 16, at 3 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

Just click on this link to register: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4007501453093003777

Conversation


Last week I reported on my recent interviews with several smart people about what makes for a good conversation (“A Debate is Not a Discussion, and a Discussion is not a Dialogue“) .

Today let’s dig a little deeper into the underlying factors they identified. Here are the seven dimensions of effective conversations:

1. A good conversation is purposeful.

Sure, we often engage in small talk, or in conversations we know are relatively trivial. But when the subject is something we care about, and we have a clear and explicit goal (informing, learning, sharing, persuading) we tune in more intensely and we engage more deeply. [click to continue…]

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Working RemotelyOne of my earliest studies of work patterns indicated that on average knowledge workers were spending only about 35 percent of their work time inside their assigned corporate facility. They were spending almost as much time working out of home offices, and the remainder in “Third Places” like coffee shops, libraries, public parks, hotels, airports, and planes, trains, and automobiles.

Today, according to Forrester Research, more than thirty-four million U.S. workers are spending one or more days a week in nontraditional work locations. That’s over 24 percent of a nonfarm workforce that currently totals approximately 140 million. Forrester predicts that by the end of 2016 the distributed workforce could reach 63 million, or over 40% of the total nonfarm workforce. And it’s worth pointing out that many agricultural workers are also highly dependent on mobile technologies, even if we don’t normally think of them as part of the “remote” workforce.

Why is workforce mobility growing so rapidly and becoming the accepted way of working in so many industries? [click to continue…]

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