Preparing for the 15-year future

The answers to the questions you ask yourself will determine the direction you take your organization

We are transiting a moment of massive uncertainty. The ambiguous road ahead requires making a prediction about predictions. I predict that in 15 years, 85% of the predictions, forecasts and trends set forth by the academics, analysts, futurists and economists (maybe not the economists — their accuracy is increasingly suspect) will influence much of what happens day to day in business.

For IT executives, accelerating change will require them to constantly ask themselves, “What is the right problem to be working on today?” If the answer is not what they were working on yesterday, so be it; they must adjust and move on.

To best answer that recurring question and assure that energies and resources are focused appropriately, they need to answer some subordinate questions.

With whom should I be talking?

One of the most important lessons my mother took from her years working in the intelligence community is this: Your network will keep you safe. Moving forward, IT executives need to cultivate powerful personal and professional networks.

I recently asked the 60 or so C-level executives attending a workshop hosted by the college of engineering at Ohio State University: “If your CEO came to you and said, ‘I would like to talk to three provocative voices regarding the future of work,’ whom would you point them toward?” The responses were illuminating.

Seventy-five percent would suggest the digital pioneers and chieftains, people such as Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. That landslide of opinion supports the notion that the best way to know the future is to be the future.

Some other responses
Human resource thought leaders 9%
Futurists (research methodology disclaimer: The workshop was facilitated by a futurist) 8%
The young (meaning the next generation of workers), the U.S. president, successful CEOs (of digitally transforming organizations) and ahead-of-the-curve CIOs 4%

(Note: Not one mention of an economist.)

Whom are you talking to with an eye toward validating that the things you are working on are the things you should be working on?

What should I be doing next?

The CISO at a critical-infrastructure company remembers a conversation she had with the newly appointed (and quite young) CISO at a name-brand multinational.

With high energy and great enthusiasm, the younger CISO was listing the many things on his to-do list. The older CISO counseled that since one could not do all those things simultaneously, it was probably best to determine which actions needed to happen first. With an infinitely long to-do list, sequencing matters.

Are you comfortable with the mechanism whereby you decide how to prioritize or sequence what you are working on?

Where/when are the inflection points?

In determining where to focus work effort, one needs to have a general map of when major technology transitions and disruptions are likely to occur.

While interviewing Jeff Immelt, longtime CEO at GE, Jim Cramer talked about a time when robots would be doing all the work (the Robocalypse, that moment when all human work will be replaced by automation). Immelt opined that extreme automation, if it occurs at all, lies 30-plus years in the future. He said he is going to focus his current investments on worker productivity — making sure GE employees have the tools they need to be as productive as possible. “We are going to make our workers smarter. And then we will see where we go after that.”

What do you believe can happen?

I have been a futurist covering the IT space for a long time. The front end of the IT ecosystem (e.g., startups, venture capitalists, trade shows) is no stranger to hyperbole. Press releases, marketing pitches and keynote addresses tend toward the extreme and superlative. There is a generation of executives in the workplace today who essentially achieved their career success because they did not believe what the vendors told them.

We are transitioning to a world where success will be based on believing that great things can be accomplished with the tools at hand. We are no longer living in a world where the future never comes.

NASA-JPL is probably one of the most exciting places to work on this planet. Six thousand scientists, engineers and staff engage in planet-saving, planet-knowing and galaxy-understanding projects. Their charismatic chief technology and innovation officer, Tomas Soderstrom, believes that the key causality driving our revolutionary times is the widespread belief on the part of ever-increasing segments of the modern workforce that amazing things “can be done — quickly and at so little cost. That is really the revolution.”

Do you believe great things can happen?

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Thornton May

Computerworld (US)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?