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New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World

Futurist Bob Johansen, who was President of the Institute For The Future from 1996 to 2004says “we are in a time of accelerating disruptive change.”

Check out this great one hour video where Bob spoke to an audience two months ago at Pacific School of Religion about “External Future Forces,” to help them prepare future leaders. Here are some highlights:

We live in a VUCA world that offers both threat and opportunity:


Volatile               Vision

Uncertain           Understanding

Complex             Clarity

Ambiguity           Agility

Bob highlighted findings from the second edition of his book Leaders Make The Future: Ten New Leadership Skills For an Uncertain World published in May, 2012.

  1. Maker Instincts
  2. Clarity
  3. Dilemma Flipping
  4. Immersive Learning Ability
  5. Bio-empathy
  6. Constructive Depolarizing
  7. Quiet Transparency
  8. Rapid Prototyping
  9. Smart-Mob Organizing
  10. Commons Creating
  • The purpose of forecasting is to provoke, not to predict.
  • Listening for the future is hard work. Leaders have to listen through the noise in a VUCA world:
  • You want to be simple, but not simplistic.
  • The future is already here, it is just unevenly distributed.
  • It sometimes takes 30 years for things to be an “overnight success.”
  • We need an “Innovation Lab” to answer questions such as: What is the church of the future?
  • The global rich-poor gap is getting bigger, faster.
  • Leaders need great clarity about where we are going, but great flexibility getting there.
  • The leader of the future is digitally based – blending digital with the physical world.
  • The Episcopal Church used a three step process: Foresight, Insight, Action. 
    • Foresight is preparing your mind. 
    • Insight is discerning and those discerning questions are really dilemas.
    • Action – Faith lives between Insight and Action!
  • Smart mob organizing (using social media and face to face) is the wave of the future. Today’s social media is now rather trivial. It’s a great time to get into it – but don’t try to catch up, leapfrog! Go for tomorrow’s Facebook and Twitter.
  • Fail Often; Fail Early; Fail Cheaply.
  • Leaders of faith will thrive in the space between judging too soon (the classic mistake of the problem solver and the fundamentalist) and deciding too late (those who are passive.)
  • Augmented Reality is our future in the upcoming decade. Cloud-served supercomputing will have no computer, no mouse and be operated all by gesture. Your only choice is what filter.
  • Old fashioned notions of consumers; marketing; and advertising are all obsolete. The user in the future is going to filter those out.
  • The Episcopal Church created a virtual labyrinth for San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood – a virtual overlay using geo-coding and tagging (about 93 pervasive tags.)
  • We will have blended realities – continuous filtering.
  • Media will be blended in with our bodies and our lifestyles.
  • We are moving from today’s internet to tomorrows cloud.
  • If you are older than 16 you are off unless you are on. If you are younger than 16 you are on unless you are off.
  • Digital natives are going to leapfrog with the kids and military training techniques.
  • Create a story of the future that provokes insight into the future.

Bob also spoke about his earlier book Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present – look for what you have in common, not what you are polarized about. The Book of Provocation, written for the Episcopal Church, is a product of IFTF and CEEP. Bob said “Faith will live in the space between judging too soon and deciding too late.” The Book of Provocation highlights 15 sources of provocation for the Episcopal Church from the custom ten year forecast map. For each provocation the author suggests dilemmas that are likely to be raised for Episcopal churches if this forecast comes to pass, as well as discerning questions for church members to consider. You are encouraged to generate your own discerning questions – based on your reactions to this forecast for the next decade.

Sources of provocation:

  1. The Vuca World
  2. Extreme Climate Variability
  3. The Rich / Poor Gap
  4. Personal Empowerment
  5. Grassroots Economics
  6. Smart Networking
  7. Polarizing Extremes
  8. High-Impact Religions
  9. Health Insecurity
  10. Body Hacking
  11. Boomers Reinvent Aging
  12. Digital Youth
  13. Urban Wilderness
  14. Digital Physical Blend
  15. Dilemmas of Difference

The concluding focus of Bob’s presentation to Pacific School of Religion this summer was on three elements of the above.

Three Big Future Forces:

1. The next big economic driver will be the “global well-being economy” (meaning and faith will be core to well-being). This is more than sick care. We are not very good at wellness health and well-being. This coming decade will be led by biology, physical, social, community, and spiritual well-being. Neuro science and happiness will be understood better. The next decade the brain gets practical – i.e. Last spring when the new food pyramid was introduced, Dan Siegle developed The Healthy Mind Platter: Sleep Time; Physical Time; Focus Time; Time in; Down Time; Play Time and Connecting Time and The Logic of Giving and Reciprocity:  The happiest people are those who give; the happiest of the happiest are those who forgive. The least happy are those who carry a grudge. Kelly Traver – Healthiest You.

2. Digital natives (16 years of age and less in 2012) will create new practices of engagement through gaming (theological education will need reverse-mentoring from the digital natives and create intense immersive learing ability).

  • A generation is now about 6 years if you are 25 or less…AND SHRINKING.
  • Only those 16 ore less in 2012 are true “digital natives” – but the younger you are, the stronger the effect.
  • By 2021, anyone who is 25 or less – rich or poor will be a digital native!
  • This is a disruption in the pattern. The mind of the digital native will work differently (e.g. “continuous partial attention”) … but we don’t yet know just how differently.
  • Unless the rich/poor gap improves by 2021, a LARGE number of digital natives will be: Very frustrated; able to see the very rich; and very connected!
  • Games: “obstacles that we volunteer to overcome” Jane McGonigal – Reality is Broken –  engagement at the moment of the epic win. The opposite of play isn’t work – it’s depression.
  • Fun is not the enemy of work – this is what an immersive learning experience is.
  • Church youth groups today should be structured around digital natives teaching adults about gaming – reverse mentoring.

3. Reciprocity-Based Innovation (amplified by the cloud) will change the nature of economic and social engagement. Reciprocity will be the currency of theological education and faith communities.

  • The currency of the internet is transactions; the currency of the cloud will be reciprocity – giving things away in the trust (faith) you will get more back.
  • The failed rollout strategy for the Kinect became an example of involuntary reciprocity-based innovation.

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