… From the desk of Jayne Battey

There is nothing like starting a new business to get you thinking about the future.  While I have had one foot grounded in the day-to-day, nuts and bolts of getting an office up and running (although clearly not very well—last week I discovered I had no paper, no pens, and no paperclips!), most of my time has been spent thinking about the next five to ten years. How can this fledging new business best address the challenges that are coming at us over the next decade? What will the world need, how can we contribute, and what are the trends and issues that will impact our ability to lead through what looks like an uncertain and complex time?

So the timing couldn’t have been better for me to receive my most recent American Leadership Forum (ALF) Fellows reading assignment: Leaders Make the Future, Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World, by Bob Johansen, Distinguished Fellow, Institute for the Future. And even better, with Bob just “over the hill” in Palo Alto, we got to spend half a day with the author to hear his thoughts on the trends that will shape the next decade. Let me just say, if you get a chance to spend some time with Bob, don’t miss the opportunity. He is engaging, right on point, perceptive, and (I suspect) completely brilliant. And he’s just a nice guy too.

First, I highly recommend the book. It is an engrossing and comfortable read, and while you will likely finish it over a weekend, you’ll be thinking about it for weeks to come. The book describes a world of “accelerated disruptive change”, or in other terms, a “VUCA world, characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity”. So, clearly, if you have been feeling challenged leading and managing your organization these days, it is not without good reason. Bob goes on to describe the forces that will shape our future, as well as the ten leadership skills that will be required to lead through this challenging time. These include:

  • Maker Instinct
  • Clarity
  • Dilemma Flipping
  • Immersive Learning Ability
  • Bio-empathy
  • Constructive Depolarizing
  • Quiet Transparency
  • Rapid Prototyping
  • Smart-Mob Organizing
  • Commons Creating

Scott0003I am sure everyone in our class took a slightly different message away, but for me, I gleaned three important things:

  • We have only seen the very early stages of how technology will become integrated into every aspect of our lives. The advances coming over the next decade are both staggering and thrilling. As we look forward, it will not be so much about “unplugging” as it will be about making technology work for us (and not the other way around) and applying your own personal filters to manage how you receive and manage information. I was also very interested in Bob’s discussion of bio-empathy (the ability to learn from nature) as well as the continued importance of connections to the outdoors for renewal and reflection.
  • Leaders will need to be incredibly nimble and flexible. Change over the next decade will be rapid and disruptive, and the ability to learn quickly, try things out, fail quickly (and cheaply), adjust, and go again will be crucial. And as an offshoot of this, leaders will need to be fit and in shape to handle the rigors of their role. The issue will not be “work life balance”, but rather it will be about fully integrated personal sustainability. In physical fitness terms, you might think of it this way: more yoga and cardio; less weight lifting and bodybuilding. 
  • And last, it was fascinating to read Bob’s discussion of “digital natives” and the implications for the future. A digital native, according to Bob, is 16 years old or younger this year. This is the generation that has grown up from birth with technology all around them and in a world of social networks. I probably don’t need to tell you that these kids are incredibly nimble with technology and often use three or four media at once (while they are doing their homework).  What this influence will mean as these kids enter the workforce is not fully understood, but it is not much of a leap to expect that this generation will be a disruptive force in technology, work, life, and consumerism. Personally, I already made myself a note to hire one of these kids for Miramar just as soon as I can.

As Bob told us more than once last week, “the future is here, it is just unevenly distributed”.  I hope we’re ready.

Here’s a quick link to the book: (http://www.iftf.org/leadersmakethefuture)