Reports from the Knowledge Labs about our recent findings, research topics, and interviews with lifestyle leaders who are creating their own futures.

How to stimulate your own powers of foresight. Consider the following thought provokers. Ask yourself, in these categories what are the brand new trends and forces? Which are the ones growing in importance? Which current forces are loosing their steam? Which have peaked or are reversing themselves? Which are the "wildcards" about to disrupt us in the future? POLITICAL AND TECHNICAL thought for food: Electronics, Materials, Energy, Fossil, Nuclear, Alternative, Other, Manufacturing (techniques), Agriculture, Machinery and Equipment, Distribution, Transportation (Urban, Mass, Personal, Surface, Sea, Subsurface, Space), Communication (Printed, Spoken, Interactive, Media), Computers (Information, Knowledge, Storage & Retrieval, Design, Network Resources), Post-Cold War, Third World, Conflict (Local, Regional, Global), Arms Limitation, Undeclared Wars, Terrorism, Nuclear Proliferation, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Governments (More/Less Power and Larger or Smaller Scale), Taxes, Isms: Nationalism, Regionalism, Protectionism, Populism, Cartels, Multinational Corporations, Balance of Trade, Third Party Payments, Regulations (OSHA, etc.) Environmental Impact, U.S. Prestige Abroad. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC Food for thought: Labor Movements, Unemployment / Employment Cycles, Recession, Employment Patterns, Work Hours / Schedules, Fringe Benefits, Management Approaches, Accounting Policies, Productivity, Energy Costs, Balance of Payments, Inflation, Taxes, Rates of Real Growth, Distribution of Wealth, Capital Availability and Costs, Reliability of Forecasts, Raw Materials, Availability and Costs, Global versus National Economy, Market versus Planned Economies, Generations: Y, X, Boomers, Elderly, Urban vs. Rural Lifestyles, Affluent vs. Poor, Neighborhoods and Communities, Planned or Organic Growth. Got Knowledge?

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The Journal of 2020 Foresight
Wednesday, April 16, 2003  

The Future for Individuals and Organizations Entering a New Life Stage

Chapter Two: The Ridge

By Steve Howard, CKO
The Knowledge Labs

Table of Contents
Chapter One: Basecamp
Chapter Two: The Ridge
Chapter Three: The Outpost
Chapter Four: The Tribal Territories

"Even the big, solid companies, the pillars of the society we live in, seem to hold out for not much longer than an average of 40 years. And that 40-year figure, short though it seems, represents the life expectancy of companies of a considerable size. These companies have already survived their first 10 years, a period of high corporate "infant mortality." In some countries, 40 percent of all newly created companies last less than 10 years. The average life expectancy of all firms, regardless of size, measured in Japan and much of Europe, is only 12.5 years. I know of no reason to believe that the situation in the United States is materially better."

Arie De Geus, "The Living Company: Habits for Survival in a Turbulent Business Environment."

Journal of 2020 Foresight: Let's turn to another set of scenarios. While we've been discussing four scenarios for individuals and their lifework options, let's look at those issues from the viewpoint of an employer and the development of talent -- worklife options.

Trailblazer: Right. Not everyone will chose to work for themselves, especially in times of high turmoil.

J2020F: As is the case in our own lives, we know no organization is immune from the forces that are transforming our world. Every organization can and must evolve. In this new era, that means we must involve more ideas and more ideas at all levels in strategy, innovation and value creation.

TB: I agree. For organizations to grow, they must think and act at the pace of accelerating change. The next five years will determine which companies die and which survive.

J2020F: We also know that organizations grow through life stages, and what works in one stage doesn't necessarily work in another -- especially during extreme business cycles.

TB: So, HR executives need to anticipate the demand for different sets of talent. During layoffs, they're the ones delivering the bad news and arranging outplacement services.

J2020F: But, with thousands of ideas already existing within organizations, and survival at stake for a community of like-minded people, doesn't that mean we are entering the golden age for human resources.

TB: Sure. Despite changing business cycles, the real challenge is to extract, organize and recognize great ideas for innovation. What is needed is system for stimulating, capturing, organizing, circulating, cultivating and deploying ideas. Innovation doesn?t happen by itself. It begins and ends with people -- human resources. But, how to do that in the future wasn?t clear to this expedition.

J2020F: You've described the multi-step process that helped them. You use script writing or story telling to flesh out four possible futures.

TB: Yes, in the last few conversations we summarized four plot lines for mid-career boomers at a career and lifestyle crossroads. Now, we will use the same approach, but turn our attention to organizations at a crossroads.

J2020F: In 1999 the expedition of human resources executives sorted uncertain forces along talent development dimensions for their organizations.

TB: Again, with this expedition Lost Explorer shared his "scenario implications wheel" to get the scenario writing started on their four Talent Scenarios:

"Me go-go Fast Scenario"

"Running Together Scenario"

"Welcome Back Kotter / Learning Together Scenario" and

"Absent Minded Professor / Out to Sea and Treading Water Scenario"

J2020F: You also promised after you describe these next four scenarios, when we look at all 8 scenarios, two sides of the same coin come together.

TB: Yes, as a matter of fit. From the individual perspective, you want to find out as much as you can about the culture and advancement opportunities at a prospective employer or organizational client.

And from the HR perspective the fit assessment depends upon what?s missing from their current capabilities, how long it takes to develop their internal talent pool to make up the gap, and how many of their surplus talent they can afford or let go.

J2020F: Let?s talk about some of those forces the HR executives identified as highly uncertain and yet highly significant to future success and failure.

TB: Starting from the inside out, they clustered their concerns into the following focus questions. What is the future organization's point of view about talent? Will they "appreciate or depreciate" their "knowledge base"?

How will employees of the future view their relationships with organizations? Where and when (if at all) will development take place? How do you go about converting talent into corporate assets?

J2020F: And, if I remember correctly, some of the practitioners delivered their expertise in a stand-up classroom setting. So, their own personal career concern, was what?

TB: Will the human resource development profession, as it is currently practiced, become obsolete in the near, medium, or long term future?

J2020F: Earlier, you told us the horizontal x-axis stretched between two opposites. Between "Technology-driven Speed" and "Mastery." The vertical y-axis spanned the distance between "Independent Identity" on the top and "Organizational Affiliation" on the bottom.

TB: Yes, they changed the names, and began validating an assessment instrument that addresses their talent management and career development issues.

J2020F: They changed the names?

TB: Right, at a midpoint in the scenario development process the story lines exerted newer themes. We'll explore each in more detail, but the four newer names are:

Agents: Me go-go Fast

Athletes: Running Together

Associates: Welcome Back Kotter / Learning Together

Academics: Absent Minded Professor / Out to Sea and Treading Water

J2020F: So, in response to all of the turmoil and pressures organizations face over their lifespan, one or more of these talent clusters contribute more to the growth of their organization?

TB: Yes, and as we will see the HR expedition developed scenarios for each talent cluster that clarified how each cluster can represent a particular type of organization, as well. But first they stacked and sorted the deck into winning hands.

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