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 (and the Spanish Inquisition, too!)

If the last 20 years have taught us anything, it is that the future will catch us by surprise, from the fall in oil prices, to the Ebola epidemic, to the earthquake and tsunami that knocked out a third of Japan’s electric generating capacity in 2011, 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 out tomorrow, 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.

Innovation & Technology: Where Humanity Meets – and Creates – the Future

The term “innovation” has become a motherhood term to which everyone pledges allegiance. Yet, ironically, most organizations avoid true innovation even as they pay lip service to it, because it is difficult, dangerous, and you have to be willing to fail. Yet, innovation is how organizations will survive into the future. Indeed, innovation allows organizations to create the future they want.

Business visionary Richard Worzel is a professional futurist, as well as a best-selling author and innovation facilitator. In this presentation, he shows how people and organizations can use innovation to adapt to, and adopt, emerging technologies. Among the topics he will cover are:

  • Where is technology headed, and how will it affect us? The broad range of technologies emerging include the biosciences, which will allow us to extend our life spans, perhaps dramatically; 3D printing, which will be as disruptive in the real world as the Internet has been in the virtual world; computers and robots, including computer intelligences, such as IBM’s Watson, and the newly emerging Fog computing. The implications for society, for communities, and for individuals will be wide ranging and profound.
  • How is – and should – society adapting to the changes ahead? Technology is changing the way we communicate and interact, and with whom. It is prolonging our lives, which may threaten our ability to cope, financially, with an aging population. And it is challenging us to find more creative, more productive – more innovative – work by automating most forms of routine work.
  • How can we overcome the problems and risks of innovation, and entrench it in our organizational culture? Here Richard will introduce the Opportunity Matrix, a tool to help people view their situation and environment afresh, and come up with dozens of incremental improvements that, collectively, can produce remarkable change. He will also leave conferees with a users guide to taking these techniques home to their own organizations, and allow them to create an innovation organization.

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 systematically and pragmatically 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, then 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.

After a Desired Future has been defined, we’ll 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 the present into 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 want to complete the work once they get back home. Richard will provide with them a handbook on the subject of scenario planning.

Workshop 2 – Inventing the Future: A Structured Approach to Innovation

By way of contrast, Inventing the Future 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. This is a structured form of brainstorming that helps participants produce dozens of new ideas for small improvements, and then select among them for 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. Meanwhile, 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.

Innovation, Cooperation, and Crowdsourcing: Three Tools for Tomorrow

No matter how courageous or excited we are, we always approach the future with some anxiety and trembling. We know that we will enter the future, either by embracing it, or being dragged into it. Therefore, it makes sense to face the future, and engage it constructively. Of the several techniques used by futurists to do this, three are particularly relevant to extension: Innovation, Cooperation, and Crowdsourcing.

Futurist Richard Worzel is a business visionary with a breadth of experience with organizations of all sizes and types. In this presentation, he will outline why organizations proclaim their dedication to innovation when they actually, secretly dislike and avoid it. Beyond this, he will outline a way to turn this sticking point into a lever, using it to accelerate innovation. Next, he will turn to why cooperation is a vital tool for moving an organization into the future, and discuss techniques for doing so. And finally, he will examine the strengths – and difficulties – of crowdsourcing, with an eye towards making the best use of it for your group or organization.

You’ll leave with a better understanding of what you can do to move your work, your peers, and your organization successfully into the future.

Not Good Enough: The Future of Business 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.

Leadership and Risk Management: The Future of Risk Management in Uncertain Markets

The events of the past few years have tested the abilities of corporate leaders to exercise strategic foresight, and adequately prepare for a world where greater uncertainties will be the norm. How, then, can leaders prepare for what’s to come?

Richard Worzel is a Chartered Financial Analyst, a strategic planner, and one of today’s leading futurist. 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.)
  • How do you assess risk, and how do you respond to it? Here again a futurist’s toolkit is different from that used by classic risk managers.
  • Perhaps the greatest risk to an organization is to lose the key people, especially at critical junctures. Yet, today’s society and culture encourages flitting from job to job, even as many talented people can’t find jobs. Why has this strange anomaly emerged, and what can corporate leaders do to increase the likelihood of recruiting and retaining the right people in their organizations?
  • What’s ahead for the American and global economies, and how will they affect the demand and supply? What are the outlooks for inflation and renewed recession? And what nasty surprises could yet be lurking, buried in the urgent, but less important events that dominate the headlines?
  • 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.

Leadership in a rapidly mutating marketplace is critical to organization success, yet risk management is often an after-thought in corporate planning, and often approached in a linear and simplistic fashion, when a more textured and broader approach is both more revealing, and produces more options and uncovers more opportunities.

To enable participants to further explore these aspects of risk management, Richard also supplies conferees with an electronic copy of the handbook he has developed for his consulting clients, Risk Management and Scenario Planning: How to Avoid Problems and Spot Opportunities. Corporate leaders will walk away both with a better understanding of what they are facing, and with new tools for improving the bottom line in the face of greater uncertainty.

Unboxed Thinking: Concepts for Innovation

Target audience: Senior executives, organizational planners, managers, sales & marketing executives and professionals

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 believe 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. With flabby creative muscles, they get flabby results when they try, which discourages further efforts at creativity.

There are specific techniques to aid innovating that can help those who are not practiced in innovating, and can help the already creative individual become even more so.

In this workshop, futurist and strategic planner Richard Worzel will introduce you to creative techniques tailored to the needs of organizations and businesses today, and show you how you can create new ideas, new products, and new results. These techniques will include scenario planning focused on product development, and developing an opportunity matrix to identify new needs and ideas.

You will leave this workshop not only with new ideas you can use immediately in your business, but with a toolbox of techniques that you can use over and over again. Included in the takeaways for both the full-day and the two-day sessions will be electronic versions of two handbooks on two completely different sets of innovation techniques for each participant.

Getting Greedy When Others Are Fearful: Linking Innovation, Sustainability, and Profits

Dark times are when the best players make the biggest gains. Everyone else is lying low, resources are hard to come by, and consumers are an endangered species. Richard Worzel, one of today’s leading futurists, sees real opportunities in today’s perilous markets, and this presentation offers retailers insights on:

  • Why getting into your customer’s head is now more necessary and more possible than ever before;
  • Why sustainability – today’s environmental issue – will not disappear the way scarcity of resources – the issue of the 70s – did following the previous oil price break in 1980-81, and therefore why working on sustainability now, even in hard times, is critical to future survival and success; and finally
  • Why innovation is not popular, and why you need to create a new culture of innovation, starting from the bottom up as well as the top down.

In addressing these issues, especially the issues of sustainability and innovation, Richard will provide two sets of tools. The first, called the Opportunity Matrix, offers a means of producing a steady stream of new ideas for incremental innovation. The second, the handbook on Risk Management and Scenario Planning that Richard developed for his consulting clients, is a take-away toolbox that can help you put yourself in your customers’ future mindspace in order to be there, waiting, when she arrives.

Creating an Innovation Organization: The Deliberate Act of Devising New Business (Workshop)

Innovation has become a corporate religion, in part because there is so much happening in so many areas that organizations must now innovate to survive. Yet our own natural biases often defeat innovation before it begins, resulting in organizations where people know how to look good, but don’t actually innovate.

In this workshop, futurist and strategic planner Richard Worzel identifies the forces that oppose innovation, provides strategies to create an environment that encourages it, and then offers specific techniques that will allow you to arrive at new ideas, new directions, and practical new products and services. These techniques will allow you to focus on the future needs and wants of your clients and their clients, to broaden your thinking beyond the confines of your present thinking, and to develop the outlines of a game plan to bring your ideas into commercial reality.

This workshop will provide you with take-aways you can use immediately in your business, as well as a tool kit of techniques that you can use over and over again. Innovation is a skill that can be learned – and this workshop teaches it explicitly.

Accountable Innovation: Creating an Innovative Organization that Maintains Accountability

Any organization that wants to entrench innovation as an important part of its culture accepts that innovators sometimes fail. But if you allow your people to try things and occasionally fail, how do you maintain accountability? What, in short, constitutes ‘responsible failure’ and how does it differ from any other kind of failure?

In this keynote presentation, futurist and strategic planner Richard Worzel talks about the keys to innovation, and how they can be successfully balanced against the needs for individual accountability and responsibility. This creative tension actually produces higher levels of innovation, rather than stifling creativity.