The future is already here

“The future is already here — it is just not evenly distributed.” — William Gibson

The last couple of weeks have seen me presenting at a Business Transformation conference, hosting a virtual conversation on Transforming Human Resources and attending an Innovation Day. These events had me contemplating the enormity of the changes that are both coming and already here. As in William Gibson’s quote, much of what we talk about as the future, is already here, we are simply in a transition of making these changes more pervasive and embedded in our everyday.

The Transition: A Hybrid Model.

Although the title of the conference was Business Transformation — most companies were speaking of transitions. Platform transitions, digital upgrades, culture initiatives. Keeping what they have right now (hey it’s working isn’t it?) and adding a transition layer on top.

Much like what has happened with the evolution of cars, these transitions are creating hybrid organisational models. With the day-to-day operations continuing as before and layers of innovation happening in overlaying or even seperate hubs.

From all the stories shared, it was clear that change is part of every mandate. But rather than radical transformations and leaving the “old” behind, most were grappling with having to straddle both. They could see electric and autonomous (or responsive and self-organising) were the direction of the future, but the infrastructure was just not there yet.

Every single presenter mentioned people. Amongst the messages to “find your why”, “listen to your people” and “communicate” it was clear — If you want to change or transform anything, simply introducing technology or running a clever marketing campaign was not enough to shift anything.

The lingo was all there. Be agile. Start with MVP’s. Be Design-centric. Customer-Centric. Employee-Centric. People-Centric. Allow failure. Know when to pivot.

One of my favourite stories was from one of the local banks talking about pivoting. She described it as “not so much pivoting, as smashing into a brick wall and having to turn around. Multiple times.”. I think we could all relate to that definition of a pivot.

We hear so much from the world of start-ups and disruptors, where starting from scratch is a real possibility. Listening to these transition stories and hybrid models felt like being in the long tail of innovation.

The Transformation: A Focus Shift

With every company going through some form of change and Human Resources often being the department assigned with managing “people” and “culture”, our Connectle Con on Transforming Human Resources, curated by Perry Timms, touched on many relevant questions.

What role does Human Resources play in these transformations? Are they the innovators or the enablers? How can elements of play or facilitation enable change?

Nathan Donaldson spoke of “building safe to fail cultures” and not the “fail safe environments we had in the past”. Rather than putting procedures and policies in place for everything that could go wrong, we should provide an environment where employees were free to collaborate and explore.

Gaylin Jee spoke of incremental vs radical innovation. We focus and celebrate radical innovation — yet we need environments where incremental and continuous innovation is enabled.

Richard Westney stressed the importance of bringing things back to their simplest forms.

Perry summarised this into a manifesto for those helping transform the world of work:

Be…. curious experimenters, connecting storytellers, enablers of the new, self aware, small gain creators, generous sharers, scaffolding creators, purpose maximizers and values aligners.

Some of the highlights are in the short video below and the full replay is available in the network.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” — Dan Millman

True transformation begins when we shift the focus. Where we are not just keeping up with customer and employee needs — but where we are anticipating, creating and innovating.

The Future: Get Connected.

The Innovation Day at Generator, Auckland focused heavily on AI/VR applications. I was able to experience what it was like to be in one room in Auckland, and use technology to control an operating room and equipment in another. We heard from a company that was “humanising” virtual agents with a Virtual Nervous System.

It is clear that technology and change is now part of every aspect of our lives. The way we work, the way we learn, the way we trade and the way we live will all be affected. But it is not up to a small group of people in the innovation/change team to determine this future — or even a small group of developers in Silicon Valley. We can’t sit back and ignore what is coming, but we can be part of the change and accepting how it is embedded.

Everyone is talking about transformation, but transformation is not necessarily just technology itself, it is our relationship with it and how we integrate it into our lives. As change and disruption become more pervasive and embedded in our everyday, we realise that the future is already here. We just need to connect with it.