Preparing Yourself and Your Organization for the Future!

drone by fellowdesigns on

drone by fellowdesigns on

Staying competitive in this time of rapidly changing technology is starting to look more challenging every year. Driverless cars, rapid-fire communications, drones, laser scanning, virtual and augmented reality, 3D visualizations – all just a spattering of the onslaught of technological advances our field has seen implemented over the last few years. And if we are to believe Moore's Law, this rapid growth in technology is not stopping anytime soon. Instead it is increasing exponentially and will continue to do so until we get to the point where technology will advance along a vertical projection. Do you have a plan for this future? What are you doing for yourself or your business to prepare? What can you do?

I may not have many answers myself, but I recently heard a presentation from someone who might and thought I would share some of his insights. Meet David Zach, a person who has been officially trained in the future and holds a "master’s degree in Futures Research from the University of Houston." He was one of the keynote speakers at a one-day conference hosted last week by the Southeastern Wisconsin Chapter Association for Talent Development. He started out his talk by asking something I'd never before considered: "who is your role model on how you enter the future?"

For me this seems to be a very unusual question, and I'm very interested in hearing who people might choose so please share your ideas in the comments if you get a chance. For me, you might think I would have picked someone who is the very personification of future readiness. But instead I realized the person who motivates me most to learn, embrace,and implement technological change is someone I know who was close-minded and not at all prepared – ME! Well, me at about age 20 when a colleague interrupted me from hand-drafting a mylar plan sheet with ink and a Leroy set to show me a plan sheet drawn with the use of CAD. Did I say cool – can't wait!? No, I said, that looks horrible – that will never replace plans drawn by hand – there's no comparison. I think that was probably the least intelligent thing I have ever said in my life, and because I was obviously so wrong, the experience taught me a great lesson and motivated me to never be that close-minded again.

Leroy Lettering Set

But back to Zach's talk…the surprising overall message I got from it was the secret in being prepared for the future is not really found in technology or in the need to understand the specifics of it at all. Instead Zach stressed the importance of connections, learning, and the past. He said, "in a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future." He explained how this is tied to how we research topics. If you need to know something do you Google it, go straight to the answer, take what you find, and go on your way? Or are you the type who researches the topic, reads the sidebars, goes off on tangents, then comes back to the main point before moving on? In the end, Zach said how we research topics becomes critical to our ability to encourage creative thinking and understanding. He said, "without diverse experiences you don't have enough dots to connect." So it is the person who collects as much information he can find that at first glance might not seem directly related who can later make those connections and fill in the gaps to come up with innovative solutions. He compared the process to building a web of information from which you can collect ideas and insight.

Connecting the dots graphic

Zach also gave us seven specific suggestions we should start doing right away. While some might initially seem bad for our health, I think he might instead be encouraging us to observe behaviors related to these activities and the environments in which these things occur and consider how they might encourage growth and innovation:

1. Start smoking 

2. Start drinking 

3. Protect and direct attention (play with fads, work with trends, and live by principles)

4. Change and tradition

5. Elegance and Eloquence

6. Concierge mindset

7. Play

The other advice Zach left with us was a list of what we should read/watch to help prepare us for the future. I've left what I could collect from the talk below. (The links are tied to an Amazon Affiliate account for the Public Works Group. So if you buy through a direct link from our blog, you help support the site and have our eternal gratitude!!) And if you ever get a chance to hear Zach speak, I'd definitely take advantage of that opportunity. He was funny, inspirational, insightful, motivational, thought-provoking, and a really nice guy.



Planning the Future – No Avatars Allowed

A couple weeks ago, my friend and colleague, Martin Brown, sent me an invitation to join The Foresight Network – a network according to their site: "helps members listen, learn and to help each other anticipate change, explore next practice, find new opportunities to collaborate and to co-create the future." As anyone who has read my blog knows, I am very interested in using online tools such as these networks to meet others in my field or related industries. So I immediately accepted the invitation and uploaded the information that I have on all the other networks that I have joined.

Up to today, I had looked forward to my participation in this network. There appeared to be other government professionals and the chance to really discuss how we are moving forward in so many areas. This is the type of network I had been waiting for I thought. I had even met a woman from Australia who is planning a virtual event in Second Life that is more focused on my industry and very much looked forward to continuing a business relationship with her. However, today I received a message from the network's creator that the picture I used in my profile (which is of my Second Life avatar) was not acceptable to the other professionals, and I should instead use a real life photo.

Now, I have been visiting online forums, wikis, blogs, networks, etc, for quite some time as does my husband. They cover all topics and interests, and I have seen many different types of "avatars" or profile photos used by people. Not once have I ever heard that someone was told they had to use a real life photo. And the fact that someone who is trying to cultivate an online community that is focused on discussing and shaping the future is telling its members they have to use a real photo in order to be considered professional brings up many points for discussion.

First I want to point out that I completely understand the need to keep people from using photos that they would not show their mother, or using photos that are in direct opposition to the focus of the group (such as using a pro gun image on a gun control site). In my case, both of these issues did not apply.

So, one of the points is, how long are we going to insist on judging people based on how they physically look? I would have thought that the proliferation of online sites and discrimination suits was helping us move beyond that. I think this is a benefit of virtual worlds – everyone is judged only on their mind and their work. Not based on age, color, male/female, size, etc. Some people have said, well how do you really know they are who they say they are? I want to always ask, how do you know someone you just met on the street is who they say they are? They could be lying just as someone online could be lying. If I meet someone at an event, I don't ask to see their ID or call their employer to make sure they work there. I take their word. Why would we do otherwise online?

And anyway, in both cases, most people can be checked out through a quick search on Google. If you Google me, it appears there are two Pam Broviak people – one in Illinois (me) and one in Minnesota. If you are reading about a Pam Broviak who bowls and works in IT in Minnesota, that is not me. If you read about someone who is a registered professional engineer (which can be verified on the State of Illinois Web site) and who has written some articles, one of which was published in a book, and works at a city, that is me. All of this can be found online.

What I hesitate to put online is a real photo, although there are a few if you know specifically where to look. And here is a little story to tell you why: Last year we had some issues with our city Web site which eventually led me to a conversation with someone who made a very cryptic remark. He said something like, "I sure hope you don't have any photos of yourself or your family on the Internet." Then he went on to explain why and what people do with them. That was enough to make me more cautious about displaying myself all over the place for anyone to stumble across. And anyway, I spend all my time taking photos of my family and construction sites – this leaves little time to try to get my own photo taken. It is so much easier to use a representative picture.

The next point I wonder about is do you need to use a real life photo to be considered professional? Obviously for me, I don't care what anyone uses as long as it is something they would show their mother – I try to judge people based on their work and efforts. However, it would be interesting to see the opinions of others.

There are many other discussion points that could come of this, but what amazed me most of all was that this group was advertising that its focus was on shaping the future; unfortunately the outcome of this was that I felt that my vision of the future would not be acceptable to or even considered by them so I ended up leaving the network. And anyway, I can always talk to Martin in Second Life.