On Thursday, September 24, I attended the Project Management Institute Southern Ontario Chapter (PMI-SOC) Monthly Meeting at the Hyatt Regency Toronto Hotel. As a Project Management Professional (PMP), I must acquire 60 PDUs (Professional Development Units) every 3 years to sustain my PMP accreditation. One PDU is approximately equivalent to one hour of Project Management content in the form of sanctioned training or events. The monthly meetings are a great way of not only acquiring a portion of your PDUs, but provide a great forum for networking with peers.
On this special night, we were all privileged to have Warren Evans as our keynote speaker. Warren Evans is a Canadian Speaking Hall of Fame inductee. By applying his business experience and “trends blending” analysis, Warren has an uncanny knack at making accurate social and economical forecasts. Warren is also Chair of the Board of Governors of Laura’s Hope, a global research fund accelerating clinical trials for treatments for Huntington’s Disease. As such, the PMI-SOC made a charitable contribution on our behalf to Laura’s Hope.
Warren presented us with a tailored presentation called “The Future and What To Do About It” based on his “Where in the World Is the World Going” – Future Trends and Management Strategies presentation.
A Look at Where in the World the World is Going
This future trends presentation combines demographics, psychographics, corporate restructuring, technology, and globalization trends to dispel common myths about the future. This presentation appeals to a wide variety of audiences, and has recently received high ratings at investment, travel industry, payroll, safety engineering and hospital association events.
All your plans will unfold against a backdrop of the major trends we see swirling around us. Recognizing opportunity, and leapfrogging the competitive pack, depends on understanding what is driving the macro-trends under the surface, and how they will interact with each other to impact your organization.
Economists analyze statistics; demographers do ages; techno-guru’s deliver the next ‘Oh Wow!’ thing. The reality is that these things are not happening in isolation. Evans’ work looks at how they are interacting with each other, to deliver fresh analysis and practical insights.
Warren Evans is a trends analyst and strategy consultant. His blue-chip client list runs from American Express through Microsoft and McDonalds to Zurich Insurance, and spans more than 20 countries on six continents. He brings to the platform a unique combination of genuine expertise and powerful delivery. His compelling information, practical ideas, upbeat approach and irreverent sense of humor have won him rave reviews around the world.
Warren’s presentation comprised mostly of major trends that he is currently following. He has more detailed presentations were he delves deeper into key topics such as:
- Personality is the Brand
How demographics and broadband are changing the realities of branding, and what leaders need to be doing to get ahead of the curve.
- Hollywood Days and Cyber Knights
How psychographics and technology are changing the future of work, and re-shaping the recruiting wars.
- The Next Service Revolution: It Started Last Thursday
How customer intelligence is setting new standards, and what you need to do to seize advantage and drive market share.
- Three Generations; One Urgent Issue
How the corporate restructurings of the last decade have now created a different, and critical, priority for knowledge management.
- Success Tomorrow
Why ‘character counts,’ ‘simplicity gets hot,’ and ‘risk reduction rules.’
For our purposes, the goal for the night was to look at the big picture from 30,000 feet and to get our collective noses out of the daily print of our focused tasks. We would be looking at markets, businesses, and the world at large. Warren Evans accurately predicted the 2005 “House of Cards” the befell our global economy. Warren predicts that the recession will end quickly (relative term) and that Canada will emerge as a much stronger country especially compared to our neighbors to the south.
The Future and What to do About it.
Warren makes it very clear that there are two kinds of futurists:
- Those who don’t know
- Those who know…they don’t know
Warren states that he is firmly in the later camp. Warren seeks to provide guidance through awareness about what is likely to happen. He makes no qualms about the fact that he is not Omnipotent.
The process of predicting the future is to collect as much accurate and untainted information as possible and to appropriately perform trend analysis against the raw data. This is no small feat, but one that is made much easier when you are willing to expand your awareness outside of your existing silos. This is a fundamental tenet of Enterprise 2.0 in that the knowledge and collaboration that is accessible outside of your organization is exponentially larger than what is accessible within its established barriers. It is with this mindset and global interactions that Warren performs “trends blending” to unbias conventional wisdom from future predictions. The foundation of demographics based on you acting at 50 the way your father acted at 50 is fundamentally wrong. As Warren outlines, ” this is not our parents future.” The growing up experience of a child born in 1948 vs. 1968 vs. 1988 is fundamentally different.
Warren states that in this day and age, more people from more backgrounds in more locations are doing more stuff than in the history of human kind. However, instead of fostering this creativity, the modern media is focusing exclusively on the negatives of our modern existence (e.g. Global Conflict, Nuclear Terrorism, Health Reform, Global Warming, Retirement Bankruptcy). It is easy to forget that humans, let alone teens, may not have the context to deal with the amount of content their developing brain now has ready access to. As such, there is a lot of angst being leveled at this emerging society as opposed to letting them spread their wings in this new Renaissance.
When you consider the large scale growth of countries such as India and China (Did You Know Shift Happens?), the sheer number of 20-30 year olds rival anything since the Baby Boomer generation. The youth, who successfully embrace their new environment, will be those who solve these global dilemmas and earn the rewards that go with the innovation. It is thus terrifying to think that we are not accurately preparing our future leaders for the world that they will either lead or simply follow. Warren thus recommends that we actively spend the time talking to our future leaders about modern headlines to provide them with a sense of context, horizon, and perspective. That way as Warren puts it, when the teen fairy brings back their brains at the age of 23-24, they will be prepared to tackle these opportunities with zeal and not fear. Until then, the conversation will go something like this.
Son: Everything is different now. You can’t understand. When you were my age you didn’t have the Internet.
Dad: No, we did not. We invented the Internet. Let me share some insight. This is why my hair is gray.
Warren states that a recession “takes from the timid and the scared and gives to the creative and the bold.” In 12 to 18 months, the picking order will be quite different from when we entered this economic downturn during the largest collaborative upturn of our society. As the majority keep their nose to the grindstone and put in 110% in a culture of mounting stress, it is the 15% who choose to reconfigure and realign themselves who will likely lead the pack.
This is a fundamental belief of mine, which I have actively embraced since my unfortunate unemployment this January. While my past peers are falling behind with their daily chores and mounting discontent, I have taken the opportunity to home school myself during this economic downturn. Not only did I acquire my PMP certification, but I have made huge inroads into understanding the impact of the Social Web and Web 2.0, the opportunities of Enterprise 2.0, and the pressing need for context via the Semantic Web within Web 3.0. While Warrens professes that “success is more about courage than capability”, I would add that understanding of your environment and its opportunities ensures you are not blindly leaping due in part to large gonads.
An Organization’s Personality
Warren outlines that the personality of the organization is quickly becoming its brand. Every organization and every engaged employee has a unique and marketable personality. The easiest way to define the true personality of an organization is to listen to how they talk about their suppliers and clientele. Sadly numerous organizations have been hammering the personality out of their organization.
I still remember to this day being chastised heavily for forgetting to remove my stud earring on a Monday morning back when I was working for EDS in 1992. It was bad enough that I had to crew cut my hair for the job while I still had hair to cut. While I understand the rational, to this day, I fail to understand how EDS opted to put a passionate proponent of PC-based development in an office full of green screen technophobes. By the time, my 3 year contract with EDS was over, there were numerous organizations itching to take on the opportunities that EDS failed to envision and they gladly recruited my services as a GroupWare innovator.
The demise of EDS and subsequent acquisition by HP tells the tale of what happens when you fail to engage your clients at a personal level or your staff’s innovative perspectives. A corporation must match the personality of its target audience yet everyone is unique in their own way. My departing words of wisdom at the time was that if your client is a GM factory worker who drinks a beer at lunch, you are not going to be accepted into the fold if you are the only person at the table not having a drink. Seek to engage your customer at a personal level and you will understand their personal needs and thus your untapped opportunities.
This is all mostly due to the old mindset that you must be as bland as possible to market to wide audience. The days of large to large engagement doesn’t work the same way anymore. There is an emergence of accessible fringe markets and tailorable marketing and commercialization algorithms to meet their demands. An organization is now capable of attracting a large following of liked minded clientele from the emerging global market space with the same ease as a local market.
We are re-entering an era of old where “your reputation rules and your character counts.” Everyone is now a free agent and as such are demanding that our leadership do the same. The old defined professions based on professional expertise and access to networks are being challenged. This is especially true in a world and time where everyone can talk about anything to anyone at anytime. We live in a world where expert content is globally accessible and networks are socially integrated into our modern environments.
Per Warren, in today’s market, you no longer own your brand. The marketplace owns it. You cannot control it, but you can participate in it. Your ability to monitor and successfully engage in organizational dialogue will become the battlefield that will define the true organizational personality and thus its sustainability. In this modern day of viral content dissemination, by the time the conversation has started it is almost too late to remedy the situation. How an organization fosters their culture will define their position in the future. Whether the actions and support mechanisms are in place for this cultural shift will outline its successful transition. Whether the corporate personality understood inside is as evident outside will be the testament of an organization’s personality.
Recently, I posted an entry on the Canada’s Wonderland Facebook Fan page about my displeasure with past Halloween Haunts due to overcrowding and poor organizational oversight (notice the lack of a link to their site ;-). This was quickly replied to by a few fellow fans who were also dissatisfied with the evolution of this normally great evening. The social moderator of the fan page opted to simply delete these posts as opposed to addressing the concerns of the social web fans that they were specifically targeting. I addressed my displeasure on the fan page with the means of dealing with discontent. Afterward, I was able to engage in a twitter dialogue with @TO_CANADA on the subject. Both of us were absolutely amazed by the lack of awareness of Canada’s Wonderland’s use of Social Web tools. We both agreed that the social web requires an equivalent cultural mindset when wielding its double edge sword. Canada’s Wonderland was in essence one twitter post away from having this social web faux-pas distributed to 28,000 followers in the Toronto region.
To fully understand the hazards corporations face in this modern time, I bring you the story of Dave Carroll and United Airlines.
United Breaks Guitars
Sons of Maxwell’s Dave Carroll song United Breaks Guitars not only tells the tale of how United Airlines botched their handling of not only his $3500 guitar. But, also how they botched the handling of his claim with the company. The YouTube release of United Breaks Guitars surpassed 3 Million views in a mere 10 days. The viral outburst prompted a very public battle between Dave Carroll voicing the support of the disgruntled community and United Airlines voicing their bewilderment of the sudden awareness to the power of social media.
Full Story: http://www.davecarrollmusic.com/story… – In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didnt deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say no to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world.