What futurists (or “futurologists”) do is to help people plan and prepare for the future, as opposed to offer predictions about the future. This can involve looking at future trends, notably about new technologies and technology trends, and a lot more besides.
If you’re looking for a conference speaker, a keynote speaker, or a workshop presenter or facilitator on this topic, the examples below represent some of the keynote speeches or workshop presentations I’ve given as a futurist speaker in the past. But each presentation is created specifically to suit your needs. If you don’t see a presentation about the future that would work for your conference, by all means contact me, and we’ll see if we can create one specifically for you.
Hunting Black Swans: How to Expect the Unexpected
If the last 20 years have taught us anything, it is that the future will catch us by surprise, from the Ebola epidemic, to the earthquake and tsunami that knocked out a third of Japan’s electric generating capacity, to the financial panic and Great Recession of 2008, to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Such events are popularly called ‘Black Swans’, meaning an event that was not expected, but which carries dramatic consequences when it occurs. Yet, it is possible to expect the unexpected.
Richard Worzel is today’s leading futurist, and in this workshop helps you anticipate the shape of tomorrow’s world, identify the forces at work that are carving it out, and then focus specifically on identifying things that might happen that you’re not currently thinking about. The futurist techniques he introduces can be used over and over, and constitute not just the subject matter for a day’s exercises or a weekend retreat, but a new way of thinking and preparing for tomorrow’s world, with all of its surprises.
How to Think About the Future
The biggest problem most people have in thinking about the future is that it is too big, too broad, and too poorly defined. It’s like drinking the ocean; there’s just too much to take in. As a result, we tend to oversimplify how we think and plan for the future. Indeed, we talk about The Future as if there is just one future that’s possible. Moreover, the future is inherently unpredictable, which means that whatever we predict will be wrong to at least some degree.
In this pair of complementary workshops, we will approach the question of how to think practically about the future without being able to predict it. This will include introducing the concepts of scenario planning, the Desired Future, Backcasting, and environmental scanning as tools that can help you break the future into smaller, more manageable parts, and lead you to the creation of specific plans for a range of possible tomorrows.
Participants will walk away with a broader understanding of how to cope with the future, as well as a handbook they can take away that will help them put these concepts to work for themselves
Workshop 1 – Scenario Planning: A Strategic Approach to Preparing for the Future
This is a top-down approach to preparing for the future, where participants learn how to created structured alternative futures that are relevant to their businesses that then allow them to prepare contingency plans for the uncertainties ahead.
Once these futures and plans have been created, they can then move to the creation of a Desired Future, which is the future that they really want to have happen, as opposed to the random future that would otherwise emerge.
Once a Desired Future has been defined, we will move into Backcasting, which is a way of walking backwards from the Desired Future to the present that creates a step-by-step plan to move from today to the future they want to create.
This workshop covers a lot of ground, and while we can introduce the concepts, and start all of the processes involved, participants will have to complete the work once they are back home. They will take with them a handbook on the subject of scenario planning.
Workshop 2 – Inventing the Future: A Structured Approach to Innovation
This is a bottom-up, grass-roots approach to the future, where participants focus down to the intimate aspects of daily routine as a way of coming up with fresh ideas on how to improve their businesses. Participants learn how to use a structured form of brainstorming that aims to produce dozens of new ideas for small improvements, and then helps them select the most interesting, attractive, and rewarding of these ideas for further development.
By focusing down in this way, participants can learn how to create a recurring, continuous stream of new ideas. And by producing a steady flow of small improvements, participants can overcome the two greatest barriers to innovation: fear of failure, and lack of good ideas. At the same time, this process will occasionally turn up a radical new idea that can lead to a quantum leap forward, or into a completely new area of business.
Not Good Enough: The Future of Big Data & Analytics
It’s tempting to face a screen-full of real-time business statistics, complete with graphs, dials, and summaries, and believe that you’ve got a handle on what’s happening with your data stream. And it’s true that without good analytics, contemporary businesses, most notably those that work in cyberspace, retail sales, and credit risk, couldn’t function effectively against sophisticated competition without analytics. Yet, as Richard Worzel, today’s leading futurist, points out, all of this reflects today’s marketplace, not tomorrow’s. In this overview of the future of business analytics, he discusses:
- Why statistical analysis will be relegated to a poor relation among analytical tools;
- How astonishing advances in technology are changing both what can be done, and how it can be done most effectively;
- How new tools are emerging that will produce a fundamental change in the interaction between the human looking at a screen, and the analysis going on behind it;
- The Achilles’ heel of analytics, and suggestions on how to deal with it effectively; and
- The critical element that does now, and probably always will, determine how business analytics can be used most effectively.
The field is changing with astonishing rapidity, yet knowing how it will change is not clear. To help participants deal with these unknowns, Richard will leave conferees with a toolkit designed to capture the uncertainties ahead, and turn them to your advantage.
Unboxed Thinking: Tools for Market Innovation
Changes are happening so fast, and the consequences of being left behind are so extreme, that companies believe – correctly – that thinking outside the box is the only way to thrive. Yet most people harbor the sneaking suspicion that creativity is only open to the creative few, an artistic elite. The reality is that everyone is creative to a greater or lesser extent, but few ever learn how to exercise their creativity, and fewer still practice it on a regular basis. This becomes a self-perpetuating reality: we’re not innovative because we don’t innovate, and we don’t innovate because we don’t believe we can. That doesn’t have to be the case: you can create an innovation organization by focusing on the specifics of your clients and your market.
Innovating tailored to your specific market is a two-step process. First, your group looks into the future from your clients’ point of view, and identifies what issues, problems, and possibilities they have ahead of them. Next, you look at how your clients’ needs are changing – and hence, how you can prepare your products or services to be of maximum attractiveness to them once they arrive at this future. In effect, the purpose is to place yourself in your clients’ future path, and so that you can be there, waiting for them, when they arrive. Once you’ve reached this stage in your thinking, you work backwards from the future you want to the present day, and in the process create a map of how to get from where you are, to where you want to be. In the process, you anticipate the market, your clients, your competitors, and how you can manage the future for your own advantage.
By unboxing your thinking, you step outside the everyday, and initiate a process of innovation that you can then perpetuate, giving a creative push to your innovation organization.
Scenario Planning & Product Innovation
Product innovation is a two-step process. First, your group will look into the future from your clients’ point of view, and identify what issues, problems, and possibilities they have ahead of them. Next, you will look at how your clients’ needs will change – and hence, how you can prepare your products or services to be of maximum attractiveness to them once they arrive at this future.
In effect, the purpose is to place yourself in your clients’ future path, and be waiting for them with what they will need when they arrive.
Strategic Selling & Your Desired Future: How Much Money Do You Want to Earn?
This workshop will help you learn how to plan according to what your customers are thinking, with tools that can assist in not only spotting new opportunities, but gaining momentum to secure ‘customers for life.’
These tools help you first identify major goals and objectives that will kindle excitement in you and your organization, and then help you break those major goals down into concrete steps that can take you from where you are, to where you truly want to be.
This is strategic selling that uses sales today as a lever into even greater sales tomorrow. ‘These tools enable you to achieve the future you really want,’ says Richard. ‘You’ll have to work hard to get there, but it will be more than worth it.’
The workshop is comprised of three parts: an overview of the future challenges and opportunities you and your clients will face; the presentation and exploration of The Desired Future, and Backcasting planning tools, and an electronic handbook that you can take back to your organization to help you put these tools into practice.
‘These tools work in conjunction with your existing sales efforts, but can change your business and your life,’ says Richard. ‘All you have to do is use them.’
How Risk Management Affects Health Care: The Future of Risk Management in an Uncertain World
The events of the past few years have tested the abilities of risk managers to exercise strategic foresight, and adequately prepare for a world where greater uncertainties will be the norm. How, then, can risk managers prepare for what’s to come, especially in a fast-changing field like health care? Richard Worzel is a Chartered Financial Analyst, a strategic planner, and one of today’s leading futurists. In this presentation, he will explore some of the critical challenges ahead, and offer suggestions on how to cope. In particular, he will deal with:
- A futurist’s view of risk management is much broader than that of the traditional risk management literature, because it includes a broader range of potential risks. Accordingly, what are the three principal kinds of risks, and how do organizations classically respond to them? (Hint: not as well as they should.)
- What’s ahead for the North American and world economies? What are the outlooks for inflation and renewed recession? And what nasty surprises could yet be lurking, buried in the urgent, but less important details of the recent panic?
- How is demographics changing society, health care, and government funding? What should hospitals prepare for? And what are the gradually developing risks that are largely being overlooked?
- Technology offers risks both positive and negative, yet risk managers often overlook the importance of positive risks. And technology will wreak twice as many changes on organizations and society over the next 10 years than over the past 10. Such changes include better understanding of the genome, nutrition, the rapid change in the pharmaceutical industry, and the rising expectations of patients and their families.
In addition to exploring these topics, Richard also supplies conferees, free of charge, an electronic copy of the handbook he developed for his consulting clients, Risk Management and Scenario Planning: How to Avoid Problems and Spot Opportunities. Risk managers will walk away both with a better understanding of what they are facing, and with new tools for improving future results.
Now What? The Threats and Possibilities of the Next 10 Years
While we have all experienced a measure of future shock over the past decade, to borrow a phrase, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! The changes ahead will make the past 10 years look tame, and that’s both good and bad. Richard Worzel is a strategic planner, a Chartered Financial Analyst, and one of today’s leading futurists. In this survey of the next decade, he explores:
- How the domestic economy will fare, how it will be affected by the global economy, and what are the potential pitfalls and possibilities ahead;
- The outlook for oil and energy prices, as well as the potential for renewed inflation;
- What’s coming from technology, including smarter, dramatically more powerful computers, and more sophisticated software that will change the way industries operate, from railroads to pharmaceuticals to retailing, and everything in between;
- How social trends and attitudes will change, and how they will interact with shifting demographics, leading to both new ways of thinking, and new tools, such as those arising out of social media.
Coping with change driven by these and other major forces in our economy will be a major issue for corporate leaders, and any one of them could become a stumbling block – or a stepping stone – to a corporation that wants to lead its industry into the next decade. Richard will close by offering a range of planning and action tools that can not only help cope with the uncertainties to come, but to actively harness them to your advantage.
How to Avoid Predicting the Future (While Still Preparing for It!) – Workshop
Most organizations that embark on a strategic planning process wind up with a sense of unease. In order to plan for the future, they must predict what will happen, either explicitly or implicitly, even though they know there is a strong possibility that their predictions will be wrong. If that happens, they also recognize their carefully laid plans may be less useful than they had hoped.
To overcome this uncertainty, major organizations oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell, car manufacturers like Ford, the U.S. military, and others engage in a more constructive process that is less dependent on luck and guesswork. Instead of making implicit assumptions about the future and then crossing their fingers and hoping they are right, planners make a range of detailed and explicit assumptions about what might happen, and then prepare contingency plans to deal with these eventualities.
This process is called scenario planning, and leads to an entirely new mindset about future possibilities, more detailed and robust plans, and greater certainty about preparing for an uncertain future.
Richard Worzel, futurist, strategic planner, and best-selling author has helped organizations of all sizes, from small, elite research groups to multinational corporations, learn the techniques and processes of scenario planning, and apply it to their strategic planning. He custom designs workshops on this and related topics for each organization to suit their needs and the time available.
As Richard tells planners: ‘It’s not a question of whether the future will catch you by surprise – it certainly will. Instead, it’s a question of how quickly you recover from such surprises, and how well you respond to them.’ This strategic planning workshop provides a structured way of capturing uncertainty, and harnessing it to your organization’s advantage while providing an immediately practical framework that you can use over and over again.