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
Sunday, May 04, 2003  

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

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

"Customer-intimate organizations also use their clients to stay at the edge of new thinking. Studying these companies provides a giant learning laboratory. Like consulting firms, they practice a form of Robin Hood egalitarianism: Rob from clients rich in insights and give to the poor. Every customer-intimate company has developed techniques for sharing among account teams the general insights on best practices gained in working with a particular client. This institutionalization of knowledge is a key to their competitive edge."

M. Treacy & F. Wiersema, The Discipline of Market Leaders

Journal of 2020 Foresight: Academics may be a misnomer, right?

Trailblazer: Well, in the sense that the only image you conjure up is a university, then, yes.

J2020F: How does the Academic cluster differ from the previous three -- Agents, Athlete, and Associate?

TB: Like the Agent, Academics remain independent. They don't identify with a team or an organization as their primary affiliation. So they differ from Athletes and Associates in that respect.

J2020F: How about on the speed and mastery dimensions?

TB: Unlike Agents and Athletes, Academics favor slow, methodological mastery in much the same way as Associates.

J2020F: Speaking of Associates, in our last conversation you said Academics like to construct highly automated transaction systems, common and shared data bases, and tightly integrated applications in mature Associate-dominated organizations. Why is that?

TB: Well, information technology professionals constitute one type of an Academic profile. But, in general, Academics contribute to organizations when their size and complexity warrant best practice and benchmarked solutions.

J2020F: So Academics won't sell an untested, disruptively innovative solution to an Associate organization?

TB: Absolutely not.

J2020F: An Academic's identity is bound up in its profession. They prefer to distance themselves to remain objective and follow a well-articulated and tested methodology, right?

TB: Yes. These are the keepers of the left-brain, literate view of the world. In terms of reacting to change, they see the danger and risk instead of the opportunity and thrill.

J2020F: Compared to the "new science" of the Agents, Academics react more slowly. So, you'd describe them as being more thoughtful, more analytical in their response?

TB: Sure, like the Associates they subscribe to the tried and true old rules, but unlike the Associates, they remain organizationally independent through their professional affiliations.

J2020F: Unlike Agent visionaries who see the future with their eyes closed, is it fair to say Academics side with the pragmatists and believe it when it has been thoroughly researched -- based on the evidence?

TB: An Academic studies what works and what doesn't to generalize new rules to broader applications and to achieve excellence. The same is true if they work in a staff position in a corporation.

J2020F: Academics are the knowledge workers of the future, then?

TB: They are the knowledge workers of the present, I'd say.

J2020F: Why?

TB: They have a vested interest in their prevailing paradigm. They're slow to entertain a newer school of thought. Since they are successful by solving problems in a more sophisticated, masterful way by using the prevailing paradigm, they hang on to their old methods longer than they should.

J2020F: We briefly mentioned the technology-driven speed to human mastery dimension. You said earlier the two main forces the team began their implications wheel with were:

Upgrading their expertise within a professional community; and

Mastery takes time, while the expertise developed over time must be marketable.

TB: Yes. Originally the HR executive team consisted of consultants and corporate executives with a professor from a local university. Three recently completed their doctorate degrees, so they directly experienced the Academic quadrant as students.

J2020F: So, upgrading a marketable expertise relates to their own return on education investment.

TB: Yes. And, the "Absent-Minded Professor / Out-to-Sea and Treading Water" initial label reflected both an extreme Academic (ACADEMIC-Academic) description and their feelings of isolation from their higher learning institution.

J2020F: By that you mean, what?

TB: A partial empty nest syndrome. A partial overspecialized syndrome. Not everyone you run into in your daily life can appreciate the expertise you've accumulated.

J2020F: And, because this is the continuing education and professional certification quadrant, finding someone else who understands you and sparks your professional thinking back in your local community is next to impossible.

TB: One of my colleagues bemoans the lack of intellectual "hits" within her community of friends.

J2020F: So the paradox is, to stay current in your field, you must become more specialized. And the more specialized you become the wider is the gap between your intellectual world and the every day world.

TB: You get those "intellectual hits" at conferences, in professional associations, reading publications, enrolling in continuing education offerings and new certifications.

J2020F: You said some members of the expedition team led departments in corporations?

TB: Within the Academic talent cluster, they represent ACADEMIC-Associates. The remaining members represented ACADEMIC-Athletes -- those in a professional practice.

J2020F: So, they didn't feel as isolated or as adrift at sea?

TB: And they didn't fit the absent-minded description either.

J2020F: Earlier, in the discussion of an organization's lifecycle, you mentioned value propositions. What is the Academic value proposition?

TB: They share operational excellence with Associates, but also champion customer intimacy.

J2020F: What do you mean?

TB: Both the ACADEMIC-Athletes and ACADEMIC-Associates -- those affiliated with a professional practice or employed in a corporation as a staff department -- specialize in the application of their embodied knowledge.

J2020F: So, the Athlete's emerging knowledge has become classified, categorized, tested and benchmarked -- or embodied in an Academic's system solution?

TB: That's right. Whereas the product leader value proposition is the best product, and the operational excellence proposition is the best total cost, the customer intimate proposition is the best total solution.

J2020F: So Academics use their accumulated wisdom to solve complex problems, but not just with a product or an off-the-shelf service?

TB: They cultivate longer-term relationships with their clients and customers, rather than provide a one-time transaction. So they don't sell their services to a broad market. Rather, they satisfy unique needs that specific customers have.

J2020F: So, what are they selling?

TB: The best solution -- all the support a specific client needs to achieve optimum results from whatever product or service makes the most sense.

J2020F: So, instead of selling a product, they are selling successful execution?

TB: That's it. We'll go into the value proposition in more detail later, but the professional services Academics offer relate to the unique needs known only to them, by virtue of their intimate knowledge of the client.

J2020F: And, the embodied knowledge becomes proprietary to the client?

TB: Yes, the customer intimate value proposition provides a learning laboratory for the Academics -- which is why they practically invented knowledge management. They don't have anything tangible to sell like a product.

J2020F: So their clients pay them to develop client-specific knowledge that they then use to develop their own partners and colleagues and, then offer to other clients.

TB: Kind of a Robin Hood approach to professional development, but in a win-win way!

J2020F: So, we're done. We've described four future life work scenarios and just now the last of the four future work life scenarios.

TB: Actually, to be accurate we've completed six of eight steps, remember? The last two steps are to rehearse the future by playing out the original decision across each of the scenarios, and then to select relevant signposts or indicators to monitor.

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Copyright ©2002 - 2006 Aarnaes Howard Associates. All rights reserved worldwide.

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