Welcome to our final newsletter of 2013. As is our usual practice, we will not be sending out greetings cards or gifts but will instead be making a donation of £1,000 (Approx US$1,600, 1,200 Euros, 102,000INR) to our preferred charity – Street Kids International http://uk.streetkids.org/

2013 has been a fascinating, exciting, unpredictable and eventful year for us and one in which we have seen the start of many potentially transformational developments across the globe. We hope 2013 has been a rewarding and positive year for you.

We would like to extend our best wishes for the holiday season and the new year to all of our clients, associates, partners, friends, suppliers, contacts and readers around the world. We look forward to continuing to share with you the developments, ideas and issues that are shaping our thinking about the future.

In this issue we highlight ten key conversations we think it is important to start or expand within your own organisations and report back on a recent trip to Pakistan and the excellent RE:Work Cities conference in London on December 13th.

Regards

Rohit Talwar

CEO

Fast Future

rohit@fastfuture.com
Tel +44 (0)7973 405145

Skype fastrohit

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1.  Looking for Speaking Opportunities in New York and Rio de Janeiro / Sao PaoloRohit will be visiting New York City regularly over the next few months for various speeches and events. He will be available for additional speeches and workshops on the following dates: January 6th – 10th, 29th – 31st, February 3rd – 7th, March 3rd and 4th. Rohit will also be in Rio de Janeiro from February 8th-15th observing the training of local trainers as part of his role supporting Street Kids International (SKI). While there he’d be happy to deliver presentations to local audiences with the proceeds going to SKI. During his trip Rohit will be delivering talks on the following:

  • Future law firm strategies and the impact of IT on the legal industry over the next decade
  • Global drivers of change for business and the accountancy profession
  • From muscle to magic – how smart firms create the future
  • Futureshock – a timeline of science and technology developments shaping the next 50 years
  • The future of travel, tourism, business events, airports and aviation

If you would like to discuss booking Rohit for a speech for your organization, please contact rohit@fastfuture.com

2.  10 Crucial Conversations for 2014

There have been a lot of fascinating predictions for 2014 circulating across the digiverse over the last couple of weeks and we will share a selection of those that most excite us in the new year. For our own input, we have highlighted below ten key strategic conversations that we think our clients and friends in business, government and the non-profit world should be starting in 2014 – if they haven’t done so already.

1. What are our plans B & C for alternative possible scenarios for the global and local economy?

economy

Economic volatility, uncertainty and rapid global and local shifts are likely to characterise the environment in the year ahead. Organisations of every size can   benefit from ‘rehearsing the future’, considering a range of different possible scenarios and developing alternative options for a range of possibilities rather   than banking on  hope as a strategy. Who has responsibility for defining   alternative  scenarios and plans?

 2. What are we doing to build a thinking, open and curious  culture? As old assumptions and business models are disrupted,  organisations  are beginning to learn the value of encouraging staff to be curious and aware of  changes in the world around them. They are also recognising that an open culture is essential if we are to encourage people to share information that could challenge current assumptions and strategies. Many are also beginning to recognise the value of clear and deep thinking about what best fits the purpose and ambitions of this organisation rather than simply following the herd. What leadership behaviours are required to reinforce our support for a thinking, open and curious culture?

3.  How can we develop tolerance of uncertainty as a core competence in leaders and managers?

wonder

In a world of constant and disruptive change, we increasingly have to act without perfect knowledge and prepare for a range of possibilities. For managers and leaders to act decisively and effectively, they have to believe they are supported and trusted to take risks and make intuitive decisions. How is uncertainty tolerant management being built into our business management approach and our leadership and management development programmes?

4.  Do we need an entity within the business that has a licence to think the unthinkable and generate new paradigms and possibilities? An increasing number of entities are recognising that their current ‘licence to operate’ is at threat because of changes happening around them. In response they are establishing units with a specific remit to think about and experiment with radically new concepts that could lead to total reinvention or dramatic course correction. What would the group’s remit be? Who should this entity report to? How can we encourage genuinely radical thinking and create a safe environment for thinking the unthinkable?

5.  What is our stance on crypto (digital) currencies such as Bitcoin and Litecoin?

bitcoinCryptographically secure digital currencies are becoming more  popular as an untraceable mechanism for procuring goods and  services. Because each currency has a limited total supply that is  outside the control of any government or banking authority,  their popularity is also increasing as a speculative asset. Governments and  business alike are being challenged to think about how they should respond. Should we accept them? Should  we look to trade in them? What are the legal and accounting  implications? Could these lead to a rise in illegal trade and  growth of the informal economy?

6. What is our organisational policy on human enhancement? Rapid scientific advances are already yielding the potential for us to enhance human’s cognitive and physical capabilities. For example a variety of drugs intended for use by those with sleep disorders and attention deficit disorder are being used ‘off label’ to enhance concentration and focus for students and people working in a variety of environments. In the longer term smart drugs, genetic modification and body part replacement offer the potential to bring about radical changes in human capability. With workers already experimenting with some of these augmentation approaches, organisations have to be clear on their policies. Who is looking at the issue in the organisation? Would we ever consider making such treatments available for our employees? How would we react if we knew employees were augmenting themselves – legally or illegally?

7. How should our strategy for end user technology evolve? 

headtechEnd use technology is evolving rapidly and moving from an organisational provision to a consumer choice. This is being facilitated by the evolution from desktop solutions 10-15 years ago through portable to truly mobile and now the emergence of wearable devices such as smart goggles and watches. This category is expected  to explode over the next three years. The advent of smartphones and tablets has seen end users wanting increasingly bring or at least choose their own devices.

The evolution will not end with wearable. The next phase will see a growth in devices that are embedded in the human body – a process that has already started with pacemakers and cochlear implants. Knowing this likely evolutionary path, organisations are already moving to a stance of saying staff should choose the devices they use from a pre-approved list with either the individual or the employer funding the purchase. What is our strategy on end user technology? Do we have a policy for bring your own device (BYOD) or choose your own device (CYOD)? Could we ever envisage ourselves implanting technology in our staff?

8. How will we deal with the impact of the informal (shadow) economy on our organisation? Despite the increasing shift to electronic transactions, most estimates suggest that the informal or ‘shadow’ economy is growing. Some suggest that around 60-65% of all the global workforce have at best a distant relationship with the tax system.  This doesn’t include those involved in illegal activities such as narcotics, counterfeit goods and people trafficking. Legitimate organisations are increasingly finding themselves coming up against the informal economy – particularly in emerging nations. Do we have a due diligence process for vetting tax compliance of all new suppliers? What is our policy for procuring goods and services in heavily cash based economies?

9. What is our stance on automation, robotics and artificial intelligence and the impact on the workforce?

cyborg2

Technology is penetrating literally every sector and profession. For example, work traditionally done by lawyers is being undertaken by artificial  intelligence  (AI) programs. AI is also being used to mark the essay  submissions for students enrolled in open online courses for Harvard and  MIT. The prices of industrial and domestic robots is falling dramatically –  with firms such as the Chinese  smartphone assembler Foxconn announcing  that it was installing 1 million robots  across its production lines. As organisations seek to compete in an ever-more cost  focused environment,  the pressure and incentive to automate is increasing. In  rapidly industrialising nations the concern is that they automating rather than educating. In developed and developing nations alike the question arises as to where the jobs will come from to replace those being eliminated by  automation. Do organisations have any social or moral responsibility to maintain a certain level of employment?  If everyone is automating and new jobs are not being created at the same rate, where will the money come from for people to buy goods and services?

10. How can we help staff take responsibility for and prioritise lifelong learning? Automation is replacing the roles of professional, skilled and unskilled workers alike. Life expectancy is rising – suggesting that our working life spans will need to increase and potentially encompass multiple careers. In an increasingly tough competitive and employment environment, individuals will need to take greater responsibility for ensuring they have the skills to help them stand out from the crowd. A major shift is required in attitudes towards lifelong learning to ensure that individuals are encouraged and incentivised to learn how to learn and keep enhancing and adding to their skills. What are we doing to encourage staff to focus on lifelong learning? Should governments offer tax incentives to firms and individuals that invest in lifelong learning on the basis that they are reducing future potential social burdens on the state?    

3. Pakistan – People, Passion and Futures

My colleague Dr Jose Cordeiro and I were invited to give the keynote speeches and lead the post-conference workshops for the 15th Annual Convention of the Management Association of Pakistan (MAP) in Karachi on December 4th and 5th. The theme of the event was Managing the Future. As we had both spoken in Pakistan previously, we had some sense of what to expect – but our expectations were blown out of the water by the response we received. The audience of business leaders in Karachi was a very well educated, deep thinking, very insightful and intellectually demanding community.

The audience were fascinated to hear the view that we and others shared about our emerging world and how Pakistan’s business community could overcome a number of challenges to realise their potential. The event was characterised by passionate engagement, powerful and provocative questions, great humour, warmth and wonderful hospitality. Those we met are only too well aware of the image of Pakistan outside the country and they feel a deep sense of frustration that they do not have more opportunities to provide a different window to the world. Personally I was taken by how many people showed a desire to make a difference not just for their own live and their firms but to make a genuine contribution to creating a positive future for Pakistan.

Both Jose and I had a fantastic time and thought that this was probably the most demanding – and as a result the most personally stimulating – event that we had done this year. A massive thank you to our fantastic hosts at Octara and MAP and to all of the delegates who made this such a memorable experience for us.

4.  RE.WORK Cities SUMMIT – London December 13th 2013

December 13th saw the second in the excellent series of RE.WORK Summits organised by Nikita Johnson. This summit focused on the future of cities and took place in the fabulously evocative Victorian setting of Tobacco Dock, located in East London. Below, Iva Lazarova highlights three of the talks delivered on the day that she feels offered the strongest and most positive messages of hope for the new year.

How could urban e-cycling make cities more sustainable in the future?

SmartBikesE-bikes are bicycles that have a small electric motor  powered by  a rechargeable battery that propels the machine and the rider. The ‘Smart e-Bikes’ project explores opportunities to integrate  e-bikes with mobile media to widen the appeal of cycling in the UK. Frauke Behrendt, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Brighton, outlined four scenarios for the  future of urban  mobility – 1) regional warlordism; 2) perpetual motion where  technology solves future  challenges; 3) local sustainability and 4) digital networks. Frauke’s presentation  explored the role of  e- bikes in the digital network scenario.

As part of the ‘Smart e-Bikes’ project, the research team in  Brighton developed the ‘Smart e-bike Monitoring System’ (SEMS) which is running on a fleet of 35 e-bikes  in Brighton. SEMS is an  open source platform for the acquisition of usage data from electric bicycles that can monitor location and other custom sensor input in real time. The data is available both to riders and to researchers for analysis.

Frauke highlighted that e-bikes emit less pollution, take up less space and are quieter than cars. E-bikes could help reduce obesity rates by encouraging people to integrate more exercise in their everyday routine. The research suggests that the use of e-bikes can save time, money and increase health benefits.  The researchers in Brighton are currently looking at integrating more sensors into e-bikes to so that they meet the needs of urban mobility in the future. Should we all think beyond electric cars and embrace e-bikes?

More information about the ‘Smart e-Bikes’ project is available here: http://www.smart-ebikes.com/?page_id=14

How to Prototype Better Cities with Smart Citizens?

changify

Priya Prakash, the founder of Design for Social Change, introduced Changify – an innovative initiative launched in London. Changify is a mobile crowdpowered platform that brings together businesses, councils and residents. Changify aims to initiate and build support for local community change projects directly from users’ mobile phones. It also seeks backing from brands, local authorities and other supporters.

Changify creates a closed loop system – from spotting solutions to creating sustainable businesses – where everyone involved can benefit either by supporting the local community, founding an innovative business or simply by helping fix local problems. So why not take advantage of this opportunity and make a positive impact on your local neighbourhood? If you are a Londoner and notice a problem in your neighbourhood, you can share photos of the local issue on Twitter and tweet ideas proposing how to solve it, using the hashtag #Changify. Or you can email your proposed solution ideas to the Changify team. If your idea is approved, you can make a video pitching the project to the public and potential backers.

You can learn more about Changify here: http://www.changify.org/

Is communication with objects already a reality?

We have heard that in the future, with the emergence of the internet of everything, people living in smart cities will be able to talk to their cars, fridges and even their rubbish bins. But is this future happening already? Sam Hill, Co-founder of PAN Studio introduced the idea of using the internet of things to create a ‘Playable City’ concept via the Hello Lamp Post project.

hellolamp

Launched in 2013, Hello Lamp is an experimental, city-wide  platform for play. It brings thousands of objects across the  city of Bristol to life – post boxes, lamp posts, bus stops and  parking meters.  This interactive system gives everyone in Bristol a tool to talk to each other through the city’s  physical infrastructure. People can talk with objects via  text messages by referencing the existing identifier codes  seen on the objects. The responses from the objects are provided by a range of smart software tools running in the background.

Sam says that the project aims to encourage people to share their observations, memories and opinions of city locations. It encourages people to look at the city with fresh eyes and  engage with systems which we usually take for granted.

Hello Lamp Post ran from July 2013 – September 2013. We are now looking forward to the PAN’s initiatives in the new year. http://hellolamppost.co.uk/

5. Rohit on the Road

In the next few months Rohit will be delivering speeches in Dubai, Edinburgh, Geneva, London and New York. If you would like to arrange a meeting with Rohit in one of these cities or are interested in arranging a presentation or workshop for your organisation, please contact rohit@fastfuture.com

Image sources:

1) http://etfdailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/economy.jpg

2) http://www.freeenterprise.com/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/media/00_ECON_shutterstock_65096827_Uncertainty_800px.jpg?itok=Ge_k5Ol9

3) http://www.fbnstatic.com/static/managed/img/fb2/news/bitcoin.jpg

4) http://www.onukonuk.com/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/brain-upload.jpg

5) http://www.futurehumanevolution.com/wp-content/uploads/cyborg2.jpg

6) http://www.brighton.ac.uk/news/2012/120306e-bike_trial.php

7) http://opengov.newschallenge.org/open/open-government/submission/changify-a-mobile-crowdintelligence-platform-to-report-vote-and-fund-citizen-powered-local-change/gallery/changify_logosmall_red.png/

8) http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/06/20/article-0-1A6A550C000005DC-687_634x480.jpg