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Just listening to Richard Watson of  – the Futurologist who wrote Future Files.

First of all, I like a bloke who will make up words to suit the occasion (see some of them below). Secondly who will poke fun about his own profession and thirdly who, when asked what is the future of industrial relations answered authentically “I have no idea on that one.”

He had a few other interesting things to say:

  • “No one can predict individual events. What a futurologist does is look at broad trends.”
  • “The future is already here it is just unevenly distributed (there are people in Japan who are writing whole books on a mobile phone interface)”
  • “Generation Y will be back in charge in twelve months after this blip is over”
  • “Generation I are connected, networked and collaborative – (they have been doing their homework online together – what is cheating anyway or copyright for that matter? – and they do not read linearly or spell.)
  • “The planet will be back on the agenda later this year – saving the planet is also saving money.”

There are four key trends coming from the mixture of Social Activism versus Social Passivism and Market Pessimism versus Market Optimism.

  1. Enough (reduced importance on possession increased importance on shared experiences)
  2. Moreism (consumerism has gone mad accumulation of material goods eg Dubai)
  3. Personal fortress (ultimate privacy)
  4. Smart Planet (science and technology will solve the problems of the world.

Richard then put his talent to work to look at the key trends for the HR community.

  • Globalisation
  1. Growth outsourcing
  2. Relocating people everywhere
  3. Re-localisation
  4. 1 billion new customers competitors and collaborators – as China moves into the mainstream of not just producers but consumers.
  • Demographics
  1. Aging workforce
  2. Declining birth rates
  3. Skills Shortage
  4. Rising singles
  5. Generation Y impact
  6. Generation I impact
  7. Asian immigration (and reverse migration)
  8. Retirement age much later if at all
  • Technology
  1. Pace change rising
  2. Increasing automation
  3. Smart machines
  4. IT enabling distance working
  5. Growth of virtual worlds
  6. Rise in robotics (smart ones – with no empathy)
  7. Impact of genetics
  8. Web.3.0
  • Environment
  1. Demand for natural resources is rising – people far more aware of the sustainability issue
  2. Procurement taking on strategic significance – buy local
  3. Tightening regulations
  4. Rising transparency

Someone once said that we would have an easier life with all these labor-saving machines that we now have… However Richards view of the future of work – doesn’t look that easy to me:

  1. Faster
  2. More global
  3. More polarised
  4. More promiscuity (people will job hop more)
  5. More stressful
  6. More specialist
  7. More machines
  8. More part-time
  9. More local
  10. More collaborative
  11. More transparent
  12. More human
  13. More ethical
  14. More feminine (less command and control)
  15. More mobile
  16. More creative

A few other interesting ideas:

  • Innovation is driven by diversity
  • Flexibility for employees is essential for the future of engaged staff
  • Retirement ie ending work is a notion that will cease, people, will be in some sort of paid work longer
  • Physical spaces will become more important for people to go as the virtual world takes over. (Libraries are a safe neutral space)
  • Thinking spaces are very important.

To finish off Richard presented his Extinction Chart of what he thinks could end as we know it in the next 50 years. Of course, letter writing was on the list – so was Paris Hilton – spelling and coins. I attach his chart to download FYI

The whole point of the session was to get us thinking – and that it did.


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