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Future Shock Forum: 2018 Insights

Nina Martire
November 29, 2018

Future Shock Forum 2018 Insights

On October 15-16, 2018 Toffler Associates hosted its 2018 Future Shock ForumSM in the beautiful city of Chicago, where we convened an eclectic and energized group of leaders from business, public service, and academia to explore and debate the shocks we are facing and their implications for organizations. These Future Shocks™ disrupt, disorient, and shape the future of business and society. From bio-digital convergence and geopolitical powershifts to infrastructure adaptation and societal collisions, these shifts are creating immense uncertainty and opportunity for today’s leaders.


Everyone who joined us for Future Shock Forum 2018 shared diverse questions and perspectives. The nearly 100 leaders faced the probable disruptions with a willingness to embrace change and proactively prepare their organizations. From the opening Spotlight Conversation between Toffler Associates CEO, Deb Westphal, and 2018 Toffler Associates Award in Excellence Awardee, change maker Beth Comstock, the topics of creativity and imagination set the stage for the event. Both leaders emphasized the need to explore the imagination gap and the critical strategies necessary to employ creative, transformational leadership amidst an uncertain, dynamic future operating environment. That viewpoint carried into the second day and the discussion around the risks and opportunities that change and disruption may create and the creativity and enthusiasm needed to tackle each. The event ended with a resolute feeling to face the future with resilience and positivity.


Future Shock Forum Themes and Takeaways


Overarching Themes: What you Need to Prepare for Now


Future-Focused Leadership

Technology is exploding, and the pace of innovation is accelerating. We’re living in a technology-driven age where millions of sensors are deployed to extract data and fuel knowledge-based decision making across the enterprise. People are getting lost in the midst of data and tools. With the proliferation of sensor technology and data, organizational needs are colored by the ‘noise’ in the operating environment. We are so focused on having the best data or analytics, that we are only making short-term decisions. While we wait for the “right” or “best” data to make longer-term, strategic decisions, we are losing momentum and miss opportunities that we once addressed when we relied less on technology and more on the innate power of humans. Leadership today requires a more evergreen approach that embraces risk, seeks to understand long-term problems, and explores the distant and unseen opportunities regardless of the potential sacrifices of short-term results.


Techno-Human Conundrum

As technology continues to embed itself in our lives at a break-neck pace, companies are ignoring people, valuing the algorithm over the human. However, across the various waves of technological advancement, the human and their behavior has been (and will be) the only constant. The conundrum lies in the juxtaposition of a changing technology landscape and transforming human behavior. There is friction between old and new values and operating systems and this manifests in how we consume, govern, and conduct business. The change in desires, preferences, and perceived needs has affected the operating environment and how it traditionally provided service(s) to us. As we adopt technology and gain access to insights that were once unthinkable and unknown, individual and collective value systems start to evolve. We work alongside machines, but people are still the workforce and are the innovators. Technology is shaped by us - the human.


Human-Centric Leadership

The relationship between evolving human behavior and the pace of technological innovation creates disruptions. Movements like the gig economy, artificial intelligence, purpose-driven organizations, robotics, and rise of experience are already impacting our organizations, because they are impacting you, your workforce, and your customers. We cannot merely prepare for the disruptions that we already see. We have to get beyond reactive decision making and seek to understand what is driving human behavior. Understanding your people and the way technology impacts the way they live, work, and buy must be at the center of your leadership approach.


This blog is a portion of the Future Shock Forum 2018 Insights report. To view the report in its entirety, click below.


View Executive Insights


Nina Martire

Nina Martire

Nina Martire is a Senior Associate who advises on strategy development, business planning and change management. She is focused particularly on the nexus of transformational change and strategic foresight, guiding leaders in commercial and government sectors to a better understanding of and an ability to plan for the future of their organizations. Nina holds an MBA from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and has a deep background in corporate and commercial finance.

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