Who’s Afraid of the Future with John Hagel

with John Hagel III

Who’s Afraid of the Future?

with John Hagel III

TF guests John Hagel GTA BW glow style 500x500

In episode 15 of The Futurists  we learn from John Hagel, one of the prophets of digital transformation. For more than 30 years John has been guiding global organizations through the process of digital reinvention as a practice leader at McKinsey and Deloitte. Today he is focused on the emotional resistance to change and how to surmount it. His new book is The Journey Beyond Fear and web site is www.johnhagel.com.  Follow @JohnHagel

when you look into the future you see a threat or an opportunity

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This week on the futurists the fear of the future when you look into the future do you see primarily a threat or an opportunity and i think more and more of us are seeing the future it’s very threatening and uh that beats the fear i don’t want to go there it’s too scary when there’s a surfer surfing out paddling out to ride the next big wave that surfer is afraid they know that people have not just fallen off their board people have died writing those ways yeah but they’re still paddling because they’re so excited about the opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done before

hey brett uh great to see you again welcome back back in the hosting okay yes yeah welcome back to everyone who’s listening to the futurist we’ve been enjoying having a series of discussions um now for several months brett king and i have been talking to people who are thinking about the future but not just thinking about it they’re forecasting planning envisioning and building the future that they see this is a super interesting conversation for me to participate in because it’s an opportunity for me to reach out to people who’ve influenced me profoundly and this week we have an opportunity to do that with someone who’s made a massive influence on not just me but many many folks who were involved in the internet in the early days in the 1990s there were series of written books that were written by a partner at deloitte who was focused on network technology network community and network business in fact i have these books here right with me right now net gain net worth these were books that made a profound influence on me when i worked at sony pictures and so it’s a great big pleasure for me to welcome john hagel three john welcome to the show welcome to the futurist we’re super excited to have you here quick question you mentioned that i was a partner at deloitte when i wrote those books i was a partner at mckenzie and company thank you i don’t know if that that’s relevant but just wanted to throw that in oh just to clarify okay fair point fair point so you were at mckenzie at the time but still i mean those books had a big influence and i’m sure for you that was a big life-changing experience to write those books as well absolutely absolutely i think what a lot of people might not realize is that those books anticipated things that today we take for granted but at the time they were not so clear things like virtual communities uh you know with all the hoopla about the metaverse that’s happening right now you would think this is a new idea but in fact in the mid 90s that was a lively topic of the discussion i remember very well there wasn’t a lot of structured thinking at the time we were basically throwing a bunch of stuff up against the wall trying to figure out how it would work and books like yours were really really harmful in guiding us to understand the economics behind community yeah so john um when what years were you at deloitte then uh i joined deloitte in 2007 and i retired from deloitte in 2020 so so did you ever work with phil strauss do you know phil the name’s familiar but it’s uh he was yeah no he was the industry practice director for financial services but he sort of hired me when i was there and um but i left in 2000 end of 2000 i left deloitte um i ran the e-business practice in hong kong i just wanted to see if we had some overlap but that’s that’s cool so one of the things that yeah that comes up when you’re a management consultant um is there’s a little bit of diplomacy involved in that business because you’re coming in as an outsider uh you’re there to do an assessment i remember very clearly when the folks from mckinsey would come into the companies that i worked with and there was an element of fear because you didn’t really know what was a foot um you know here come a bunch of guys in suits sometimes there was women in suits but anyway they were always wearing suits conducting these long long interviews and you’re sort of thinking to yourself where is this going and it does feel a little bit like crosstalk examination um you know they’re management consultants so you know they’re there to fix a problem you just don’t know exactly what problem they’re going to fix so john your recent book your most recent book that was published last year during the pandemic is called the journey beyond fear such a good title so this is like a shift of focus for you now where you’re actually talking about more the psychology of change as opposed to management consulting and change management tell us a little bit about your book yeah well i like to say that most of my business career was in business strategy and i was taught to believe that strategy is everything if you have the right strategy you win and over the years i’ve come to believe that actually uh psychology is much more important we don’t understand the emotions that are shaping our choices and actions but that strategy is just gonna sit on a shelf somewhere and so um that was part of what led me to write the book the other thing and i started writing the book five years ago i was traveling around the world as part of my work and everywhere i went the dominant emotion that i was encountering was fear at the highest levels of organizations at the lowest levels out in the communities um and i was just struck but on the one hand i think it’s very understandable i think there are reasons for fear i also believe it’s a very limiting emotion and so the focus of the book is how do we first of all acknowledge the fear because many of us don’t even want to acknowledge that we’re afraid but more importantly how do we move beyond the fear and cultivate emotions that will help us have more impact that’s meaningful to us and so and when you talk about fear in the book you’re not just talking about generalized fear or anxiety or something you’re talking about something very specific which is um a performance requirement that people expect you know that digital technology presents executives with this challenge that not everybody feels like they can measure up to and it’s about performance well i would say the way i characterize the fear that i’m focused on in the book it’s the fear of the future when you look into the future do you see primarily a threat or an opportunity and i think more and more of us are seeing the future it’s very threatening and uh that beats the fear i don’t want to go there it’s too scary yeah and so just i think but i think that that element of human behavior can you really be a good futurist you know or forecaster without understanding human behavior i think that’s really central to the way we we describe the future impacting humanity we’re often describing um you know we talk about the rate of change you know technology adoption diffusion we talk about um you know adoption rates um all of this in some way is is behavioral in nature but at the heart of it as you say is as technology is having more of an impact as it’s speeding up and the uncertainty associated with change comes up fear is is a very clear emotion that that people people have expressed but looking at historical paradigms is this just human nature because you know wouldn’t wasn’t the church fearful of of the printing press wasn’t um you know uh weren’t uh you know horse and buggy drivers fearful of of the automobile you know i mean isn’t it doesn’t change where it impacts you personally create that sort of displacement fear the relevance fear yeah i i certainly don’t want to suggest we’ve never had fear in the world before today sorry no there’s been fear throughout the world um throughout history at different points in time i mean you highlighted things like the automobile okay when the automobile came in people certain people were afraid other people were actually pretty excited about it but certain people were afraid and what’s happening today the way i described the reason fear is understandable today is first of all the um the pace of change is accelerating at an unknown rate that we things we thought we could count on are no longer there but the other thing is intensifying mounting performance pressure we are under the global competition is intensifying and it’s not just for companies it’s for individuals i’m increasingly confronted with the question from workers is when is my job going to be taken by the robot when am i going to lose my job there’s a lot of fear at the personal level not just at the corporate level and then that weren’t enough because of all the connectivity we’ve created around the world globally small events in a far away place in the world cascade into extreme disruptive events and leave us scrambling here i mentioned pandemic so the many things are coming together that are making fear intensifying fear on a global basis and what’s the impact on a company so uh when an organization is confronted with the need to change and the reaction is fear it’s fear at the group level it’s fear at the leadership level and then individual workers also experience their own you know anxiety about their careers what’s the impact on the company’s ability to execute uh it significantly hampers the ability i one piece of advice i have i’ve worked with leaders of large organizations around the world one piece of advice i have is never ever underestimate the power of the immune system and the antibodies that are going to mobilize at the slightest indication of the required

and these are not bad people these are not people that are have bad intentions they want to do the right thing but they’re driven by fear and the right thing is to hold on to what you have

risk management meetings of large companies and the whole meeting is about okay what’s the risk if we do this what’s the risk if we do that what’s the risk if we do that never once have i had a meeting where there’s a discussion about what’s the risk of not doing anything what’s the risk of just continuing to do what we what we’re doing our paralysis that sets in you know we can say it’s uh the fear triggers a paralysis in the organization and probably on the individual level as well what’s interesting about that to me though is historically if you think back you know from an evolutionary standpoint where does fear come from as an emotion fear is a motivator right so fear when you imagine you know earlier thousands of generations ago people on a savannah uh who’d see some animals coming over the horizon and if they looked like they were predators there’d be a fear impulse there but that fear impulse would be fight or flight it would cause you to trigger uh some kind of motion or some kind of action what’s interesting today in this technological world is that we’re not on the savannah we’re stuck where we are and i feel like it paralyzes people john um you know that that uh immune system issue that exists within corporations um you know and also as you talk about the fear we have of of these technologies emerging um you know we for example we debate whether artificial intelligence is going to be good for humanity whether you know um humanity will survive the emergence of super intelligent ai and so forth right um and we spent a lot of um time arguing whether or not ai should happen when history teaches it’s it’s largely inevitable and change within these organizations is also largely inevitable like digitization you know i i work a lot in the banking space for example digitization in the banking industry is a foregone conclusion but the amount of effort that is expended by you know traditional companies in trying to defend their existing business model against this change is extraordinary when history teaches us that it’s it’s that companies that resist this change just don’t succeed so how did you typically communicate that in a business setting and you know what are the what organizations are successful at looking beyond that resistance as you say the risks and and seeing the opportunities uh more effectively what are the characteristics of those organizations no i think it’s hard to characterize i mean again we’re talking about psychology which is ultimately about individuals so the question is within the leadership group what are the individuals motivated by and how do we find people who are at least open to focusing on the opportunities the big inspiring opportunities out in the future and then how can we use that to inspire others to join us to address that and i’m a big uh proponent uh again i’m a bit contrarian most people when they talk about uh change today in organizations say it’s a top down big bang we need to change everything and by the way it’s a burning platform if we don’t change everything we’re all going to die so it’s beating the fear right versus focusing on an opportunity and saying no we’re not going to change the entire organization we’re going to find an edge to the existing organization that could be mobilized to target that opportunity and start to show results quickly so that we can overcome skepticism and fear of others we’re not asking everyone to change we’re just mobilizing to address a big opportunity and that starts the process i mean again i’m oversimplifying there’s a lot of complexity here but it’s the notion of finding the individuals who are open to that kind of opportunity and willing to take action around it so in your book journey beyond fear one of the things that you you focus on as the antidote to this fear problem this paralysis is this idea of passion what is the passion that gets you motivated so in other words if the fear is not going to motivate you out of paralysis maybe your passions will and you use passion in a really specific sense you’re referring to the passion linked to the spirit of discovery or exploration talk a little bit about exploration yeah again this is based on on research that i’ve been doing for decades so it’s not just me sitting there thinking it’s um i was looking i was seeing a we were in a world of mounting performance pressure so i said let’s look at environments where there is sustained extreme performance improvement and what can we learn from those environments and we looked at a broad diversity of environments not just business environments but things like extreme sports online war games where do we see sustained extreme performance improvement and the common element across all those environments despite their diversity was a very specific form of passion and i’m cautious here because passion is a word that’s used very loosely everybody talks about it but we all have different meanings attached to it this is a very specific form of passion that emerged from the research and it has three components to it one is people who have this passion are excited by and driven by having more and more impact in a specific domain they are driven by that secondly they’re excited by challenges in fact they seek out the challenges if they’re not being challenged they seek them out and then the third element of the passion of the explorer is these people when confronted with a challenge their first reaction is how can i connect with other people who will help me get to a better answer faster so they’re extremely well connected and build a lot of trust because they’re willing to say i don’t know i need help will you help me and so that i think drives significant action and learning um and i think we all we all have that within us which is the question of finding it drawing it out and cultivating it and i should say too i don’t believe that means we’re going to eliminate fear i mean the example i use is big wave surfers when there’s a surfer surfing out paddling out to ride the next big wave that surfer is afraid they know that people have not just fallen off their board people have died writing those ways yeah but they’re still paddling because they’re so excited about the opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done before now when you talk about reaching out to people who share the passion sometimes those people are outside of the organization right so sometimes you might find yourself in a situation where you’re working a company where it’s kind of uninspiring uh they kind of like approach everything as if you can just do next year what you did last year and we all know now that’s not likely to be a recipe for success but it can be pretty frustrating if you’re stuck in an organization like that talk to me a little bit about networks about people networking and networking with like-minded people outside of the organization to drive change well let me start before we get to networks with another concept that again comes from research which i’ve done which is that the people who have this kind of passion come together into small groups typically anywhere between 3 to 15 people no more than 15 people because the goal is to form deep trust-based relationships with each other and then to support each other and share our excitement about what we’re trying to do but also challenge each other constantly challenging each other how can we get even more impact what do we need to do so the core unit at least for me of this journey beyond fear is these small i call them impact fruits that will reinforce each other’s passion and help each other to learn faster and have more impact and they’re not just discussion groups again i want to clarify because a lot in the business world we talk about teams and you know gatherings where we sit and talk and then we go out and do our actions as our job is no these people are driven to have more action and so um they’re constantly driven on that level and i think that then it’s a question of how do we scale that i mean if it’s a small group at most 15 people it’s how do we connect them into broader networks where they can learn from each other and share their experiences and excitement so john um you know i think one of the challenges here is this fairly short termism that we have in the systems at least in place we have you know we for us we’re thinking about next month’s um you know bills um you know we’re thinking about our bonus maybe uh at the end of the year either companies are dealing with you know what’s happening this quarter potentially what’s happening next year in terms of revenue pipelines you know government we’re talking about the next election cycle in a couple of years we tend to be fairly short-term focused but but you talk in one of your recent blogs you talked about this zoom in and zoom out strategy the effort to anticipate what’s going to happen in the future because i i feel like a lot of resistance to change is that very short-term ism that we have like climate change wouldn’t exist if humanity was focused on what the species was going to be like in 30 to 50 years because um you know we would be saying we can’t you know let this happen because the costs of that to the system and in terms of human lives will just be um too significant so let’s act on it now but we that’s not what we’ve done so how do we change that part of human nature you know tell us about that anticipation element yeah i think again this is a natural consequence of fear i mean if you talk to psychologists about fear people who are afraid shrink their time horizons they only focus on the present because that’s challenging enough i can’t afford to look ahead and anticipate the future and i think again one of the elements in this journey beyond fear is recognizing that the future is going to shape our actions today and if we’re driven by threat then we’re going to you know just short-term uh perspective we need to look ahead and see opportunities that will drive us to anticipate what’s out there and what we could accomplish if we all came together is this a problem that we’re just going to fix with a post-scarcity society you know you’re fairly optimistic about the future in terms of what technology will do for us um but you know does does the post-care city society this does universal basic income for example is that going to remove uh fear because once people don’t have to worry about putting food on the table does it give them the freedom to be more evolutionary in their thinking as an example or does it just mean that landlords are going to raise the rent on everybody right

yeah i i just worry that things like universal basic income breed complacency and my view is that the key is to create excitement and a sense of urgency about addressing opportunities in the future the opportunities are endless every time we grab onto an opportunity there’s another one that’s emerging in the future and so i think that again it’s cultivating those emotions where we’re excited about the opportunities that are ahead of us and that we’ve got to come together to uh to achieve them john let me push back on that a little bit uh so um i know that you are a big believer in exponential technology and expanding and exponentially increasing opportunity and you’ve written about that and you and part of your book part of the message of your book is to get people to focus on that opportunity yeah but if you look around at society and i don’t just mean in the united states it seems to me all over the world many people are not experiencing exponential increasing opportunity many people are feeling like they’re on the brink of desperation and what they’re experiencing is growing any equality uh lack of access uh opportunities that seem to be reserved for some patients who have connections then we’re hit with all the present stuff exactly inflation’s shortages uh you know companies are cutting back some companies are cutting 18 of their workforce and so forth rising prices you can start to see the picture there that’s a pretty bleak picture i’m painting how do you respond to that how do you maintain your faith in exponentially increasing opportunity in the face of that well first of all i i would urge people not just to look at today look for the past several decades at key trends around things like hunger poverty any dimension you want to look at there has been exponential improvement in all of those globally not just in a specific city or country globally but we get so focused on looking at the examples of things that are still struggling and i don’t want to diminish those at all there are a lot of people a lot of communities in the world that are still desperately struggling but if you look at the long-term trend there is reason for optimism and the key is to focus on what are the opportunities ahead to bring more and more of those marginalized people into prosperous economies yeah that’s actually a very good point if you zoom out big enough to the global scale you can see that over the past 20 years 30 years literally billions of people have been moved out of poverty into some kind of middle class depending on what part of the world they’re in um that’s a significant achievement that is certainly worth bearing in mind now that might not help you pay the bills this month it might not help you to deal with your child’s tuition but in the big scheme of things life trust is pretty positive yeah yeah okay i think it’s probably time for us to head out to break you are listening to the futurists uh with myself rob tercek and my co-host brett king today we’re talking to john hagel iii who is well respected and well regarded as one of the original strategic planners one of the folks who for 40 years has been at the very forefront of helping companies grapple with the prospect of change so far he’s been talking to us about fear the paralysis of fear and the psychology of change we’re going to take a break now when we come back from the break we’ll get a little bit more into some of the proactive things that companies are doing and some of the optimism of the future hanging in there tight we’ll be right back after this

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hey how you’re listening to the futurists again i’m rob chersek your host along with my co-host brett king and today we’re talking to john hagel and john’s been a respected figure in the landscape of change for decades first at mckinsey and then later at deloitte where he was a partner he’s the author of a number of books most recently the author the journey beyond fear we talked a lot about that now in the second half we’re going to focus on things that are a little bit more optimistic and john i want to talk to you a little bit about action taking action as a management consultant you’ve had many many years where you’ve been in the process of evaluating organizations and giving them action plans and recommendations and so forth but as we all know one of the curses of being a consultant is that you deliver that big report at the end of the project and it gets put on a shelf where it collects dust how do you get people to take action wow um well first of all i’ll emphasize the reason i focus on action is that i i believe in a rapidly changing world we need to uh learn at a faster and faster rate and learning in the form of creating new knowledge not just sharing existing knowledge and the only way we can really create new knowledge is through action if we just sit there with ideas until and unless we act on them and see what results are achieved and learn from those results we’re never going to learn as rapidly as we need to so that’s my focus and to your question about how to get focus on that that’s one of the reasons i’m a strong proponent of as mentioned earlier an approach to strategy that i call zoom out zoom in which at one level encourages the leadership to look ahead several decades not just five years but 10 to 20 years and then to focus on what action can we take in the next six months not a 20-year plan but what action in the next six months and only two or three initiatives not 20 what are the two or three that would have the greatest impact in accelerating our movement moving then they don’t yeah yeah and helping us to learn both about the opportunity and about what actions are going to be required to address that opportunity so to me that’s the the drive to for action here and you’ve got advice on this topic that goes beyond business managers and executives leaders executive leaders and so on you actually have advice for pundits and authors as well one of the things i noticed on your blog and john’s got an excellent blog if you haven’t looked at it we recommend you to check it out um one of the things calm slash blog yes you wrote a blog post called return on attention i thought this was really quite interesting because as everyone knows the adage is we’re in an attention economy the scarcest commodity is attention etc etc and and your point is that uh how people are gathering information is less and less from deep dives into things like books amusing since all three of us are book writers uh you know we’re all authors of books like sorry that’s not the preferred mode of delivery today it’s a it’s a three-minute clip on tick tock that’s where most people are getting their information so your point is that information is shrinking into bite-sized nuggets and um and while that’s gratifying for people because it feels fast then they can consume it easily and so forth uh one of the things that happens is that that actually reduces people’s ability to do anything with it because they’re not really getting an action plan they’re just getting an idea or a nugget as i said and so your prescription in your blog post on return on attention is that um experts pundits and futurists like the people listening to this show have to get in the habit of not just saying here’s some information here’s a strategy here’s an idea you got to go one step beyond that and say and here’s what to do about it here’s the action step that you must take tell us a little more about that about that idea where you know the people who are providing the advice are now also going to be in the action business yeah well again it goes back to the broader theme of we’re in a world of mounting performance pressure for all of us and that all of us have an increasing need to have more impact in whatever area is meaningful to us and that requires action it’s not just reading or seeing a tick tock thing about a really inspiring idea it’s what action should i take will i take what results am i looking for again it’s not just action it’s the impact ultimately that’s the key question is what impact can you achieve what action do you need to take to get to that impact and then learning as you go in terms of did i achieve the impact i was going to i thought i was going to achieve if not how can i modify my action of all of my action so to me that’s that’s a key driver to uh the value that people increasingly are going to see from ideas if they cannot act on it and get impact from it john you know we’ve heard elon musk recently talk about the fact that he he feels like his businesses are philanthropic in nature because we’re going to be dealing with big issues that humanity is um you know having to face uh or or very aspirational in terms of uh you know the future of humanity um and also we see clearly that um the the concerns around the environment and climate and so forth are pushing this concept of more sustainability like the esg initiatives we see in corporations so do you think that the nature of business itself as our techno technical capabilities improve will become more aspirational more forward-looking by nature of those sort of two things coming together the technical ability of the human race and the philosophical need for businesses to be doing good do you think that’s the path we’re on or is it a yin and yang yeah a complex question i think that the um

businesses today are locked into a very traditional way of operating which is what i call scalable efficiency the whole focus for success is doing things faster and cheaper that’s it there is little if anything that’s very true on the value that is being received by the stakeholders and so i think that the question again ultimately is how do we get people to see the opportunity to me it’s in business as well as in our personal lives it’s all about looking ahead and starting to focus on the big opportunities that can inspire and motivate us to change otherwise we’re just going to stay locked into responding to whatever is happening at the moment to go faster cheaper a really good illustration of that is the global supply chain shock that we’ve all been living with uh the consequences of it for the last two years uh here we’ve got a system that’s highly complex and it’s been optimized for efficiency so to your point about scalable efficiency i would say the global supply chain is probably the exhibit a to illustrate you know scalable efficiency every step by the way they’ve been stripping out costs pushing down costs pushing problems to some other partner in the supply chain and so forth and there’s always more cost cost to squeeze out um but the consequence of that is what you lose is resilience and you lose the ability of rapid adaptation to changing circumstances so uh it’s great to have a highly complex and highly scalable and very efficient system like our supply chain when everything is running smoothly but then as soon as you run into a hitch or a problem and the pandemic was a significant problem because it caused that system to wind down there was no there was no mechanism for winding down all the activity in supply chain takes quite a while to spin that whole thing back up so that illustrated that we actually by optimizing for efficiency we build in a weakness in our system and the weakness what we sacrificed is resilience and the ability to respond in a flexible way so i just want to be a bit of a contrarian to you resilience a couple of times i’m an opponent of resilience tell me about that because when i talk to leaders about resilience and ask them what they mean by that they mean it’s the ability to bounce back to where we were i want to go back to where we were that’s resilience versus how do we learn from the events unexpected events we’re encountering and grow and adapt more and more impact evolve and adapt to achieve even more impact over time correct that’s missing from the mindset certainly that’s a good point yeah so resilience is about a reset and you can’t reset it’s changed for good in a changing world but when you talk about accelerated learning in a way that sounds like it’s almost a oppositional to scalable efficiency um to some extent if you’re learning you’re trying things just yesterday we spoke to another futurist uh john smart and he has a whole piece that he written we didn’t get into this in the blog in our in our podcast but he’s written about this quite a lot which is about if you’re envisioning possibilities if you’re starting to you know expand the cone of possibility you’re trying to imagine different outcomes he said you’re also going to expand the number of failures by definition because you’re going to be trying new things and not all of them are going to work so the more you expand opportunity and the more you expand possibility the more you increase failure it’s it’s a direct consequence of of opening that aperture now what we were talking about fear i don’t really want to go back to fear of the topic here but it seems to me that one thing people are fearful of more than anything in business is fear of failure nothing paralyzes an executive like fear of failure and so when you bring a new plan or bring a new idea or you want to launch a new product everybody’s trying to de-risk that proposition and sure they’ve got a safe thing that they guarantee is going to work but there is no guarantee you might fail failure is part of the creative process so tell me about accelerated learning as a kind of oppositional force to this emphasis on scalable efficiency and then where does fear of failure fit into that yeah again i draw the contrast between scalable efficiency and scalable learning and to me um this the paradox’s scalable efficiency is actually becoming less and less efficient because we’re in a rapidly changing world and the way to achieve scalable efficiency was to tightly specify every task and ensure that it’s done in the same way every time that’s less and less efficient scalable learning is the notion that the world is rapidly changing everyone in the organization is being confronted with unexpected situations not just in the research labs not just in the innovation centers but everywhere and that we need to create an environment and an organization that will help these people to learn faster through action together so how do we create that environment and i’ll just quickly give you one example that i think is interesting is a company created experimentation platforms for everyone in their organization again not just the research labs but customer call center operators maintenance people they created experimentation platforms and invited them to come in and try out new approaches but they could do it in a more risk controlled way this was not threatening to bring down the company the risk was going to be managed on the platform so it sent a powerful message to everyone in the organization we need everyone to experiment not just again research people everyone and we’re going to manage the risk for you we’re going to help manage the risk when i was doing game development we used to have to build in a failure cycle for the same reason we said gee if you don’t plan on a failure cycle you’re going to run into the failures like you’re just not going to have a plan for it it’s going to occur because by definition you’re building something no one’s ever done before and a game you really only find out if it’s any good when people start playing it so you need sort of a working version of it you try to get to the first playable version as soon as you can um and then you find out what the problems are and hopefully you’ve baked in enough time in your production schedule so that you can correct those problems before you have to push out uh to the re-release and now i think a lot of companies fail to do that they they don’t want to think about failure and so they just eliminate that from the calendar but it’s a big mistake if you’re launching something new because there will be a failure cycle it’s just the question is whether or not you’re prepared for it or whether you’ve banked enough time for it now john when people are listening to what you have to say i think people i want to be really clear here for the takeaway for the audience that are listening to this because some folks might say okay he’s talking about learning he’s talking about training employees uh that’s the job for our hr department uh so we can just say to the hr department well we were just listening it’s an interesting podcast with john hagel and he’s a really smart guy and he says all we need to do to solve this problem is to increase the amount of employee training so let’s just put together one more training program and let our hr department do that it’s systems adaptation though right it’s it’s systemic learning it’s organizational learning it’s it’s it’s economy level learning it’s broader than that right john let me just clarify i’m not talking about training programs because that learning is the form of sharing existing knowledge you’re listening to somebody who already has the knowledge and you’re trying to acquire the knowledge you’re sharing existing knowledge in a rapidly changing world existing knowledge is becoming obsolete at an accelerating yeah less and less valuable so if all you focus on is do that you’re going to be diminishing your performance the key is learning in the form of creating new knowledge through action together that does not occur in a training room or a classroom that occurs in the workspace with other workers who are confronting unexpected situations and learning on how to act to get more impact and hopefully excited about that opportunity that’s the key again to cultivating this passion yeah you know i’m a a bit of a spacex fan right you know and elon’s approach there in terms of the way they think about production it it sort of it seems to me like the perfect example of what john’s talking about as an organization that is prepared to do a ton of experimentation the core mission in terms of what they’re trying to accomplish hasn’t necessarily changed but how they’re going to get there has changed fairly significantly over the last 20 years that spacex has been around but their ability to absorb or or as you know experiment and and learn as organization seems um spectacularly absolutely like they failed three times in a row with the big rocket launch and like you know the most public and humiliating way possible and elon walked out of the control room and talked to employees and said hey for my part i’m not done and i will not stop you know you kind of challenge them to stick with it and they got it right then the next one it’s a really inspiring story you’re absolutely right now john let’s talk a little bit about the the changing nature of the firm because when you talk about knowledge and employees sharing knowledge i take your point i understand this isn’t like we’re looking for the hr department to run a training program that question was a little bit of a softball for you but i got the answer i was looking for but i want to build on that i want to expand it out a little bit so um you know back in the 90s when we first met at the time companies were trying to unlock knowledge that was employed inside of employees heads and the way to do that was with an intranet or some sort of knowledge network you know so we were trying to solicit employees to like post your knowledge and sharing your knowledge because in different departments there’s lots of different pockets of knowledge we’ll all be better off if we have that pooled somewhere that’s what a knowledge network was supposed to be but it’s all inside the company okay now fast forward today it’s 30 years later and today you have an enormous number of uh systems outside of companies you know i’m thinking about like github as a repository for open source projects or the rise of dows these decentralized autonomous organizations cloud-based services yeah new ways to organize communities and incentivize communities to share but these communities aren’t necessarily under anyone’s control they’re not part of the company they’re not employees on the payroll so talk to me a little bit about that john like when you work with companies today do you orient them inward or do you encourage them to build networks outside of the company no one of my most uh favorite quotes um and i’m going to blank on the name of the guy he was a silicon valley entrepreneur but he made the observation one day he said no matter how many smart people you have within your organization just remember one thing there are a lot more smart people outside your organization and so if you’re really focused on scalable learning and just focused on helping the people within your organization to learn faster you’re never going to learn as rapidly as those that systematically reach out and build relationships and by the way they have to be deep trust-based relationships because otherwise the third parties are not going to take risks and and have the risk of failure so it’s got to be long-term deep trust-based relationships with a growing number of third parties and inspiring them with really inspiring opportunities and questions so that they can focus the learning on things that really are going to matter and so i think that’s the missing element here i think that’s one of the reasons why live events and conferences are continue to be so popular you know for decades people have been saying oh you know the live conference business is going to get vaporized it’s going to turn into software it’ll be available online and while there’s a proliferation of online repositories for information what brett and i both noticed just in the last two months is kind of you know now that america’s decided that the pandemic is over i don’t know if that’s true or not but we seem to have decided as a group that we’re going back to conferences and suddenly the airports are full people are flying around the country you know there were a ton of people at consensus last week the big event in texas uh so so it seems to me that um in companies one acceptable way for executives to build and foster relationships with people outside of their company is to do it in person at a trade show or at a conference that that’s like a kind of like an acceptable expense that you can do um but what keeps history of us employed but i don’t even know if that’s the most effective means of transmitting information i always question that in a live event it’s like well how much of the takeaway value here that’s that’s why we write books as well man you know but um so john um at this part of the show you know as we start to to wrap up um we we like to really get into the futurist um you know mindset and so take us 20 30 years out even beyond if you like what is it about the future that really inspires you that excites you that gives you that anticipation um you know what what about the future do you think is really going to change humanity for the better wow uh there are a lot of things that make me optimistic i’ll just focus on two one was briefly mentioned which was this notion of exponentially expanding opportunity we can create far more value with far less resource far more quickly than would have been imaginable a decade or two ago huge opportunity to have much greater impact more specific on technology i um one of my key passions is the notion of longevity and the ability of technology to help all of us not only live longer but be far more healthy in our lives and to the point where i believe we will be able to basically become immortal the body will change yeah we’ll have new organs installed but man we’re just going to keep on going because the technology how do you there so so you know assuming that we get the ability to extend human life materially so um you know uh you know obviously you’ve talked about this uh as have we all at some point ray kurzweil talks a lot about it and so forth there’s there’s aubry de grey working on this and and various people here’s another one we’re going to have to have on too by the way rob um but um

how do you think longevity is going to change human nature in in respect to the future because when you can live to 150 years old um you know as an example the the concept that you know you have to be out of school by you know age 20 something you know with your graduate qualification well you could keep learning until you’re 50 if if you’re going to live to 150. and so how’s that how’s longevity going to change the nature of human society do you think i think it changes everything i mean first of all you mentioned schools i believe schools are going to go away the whole notion that we’re going to go for a period of time get certification certification that we acquired knowledge that is now obsolete okay good deal and i think again the notion is that as we live longer as we see the opportunity to live longer we’re going to be more motivated to look into the future and be driven to achieve more impact because we are going to live longer it’s not just that we’re going to be gone and somebody else’s opportunity that makes sense yeah that’s all right we’re gonna have to live with our decisions a lot longer yeah that’s it’s an interesting point yeah um who do you follow to learn about the future and who do who do you respect as futurists or forecasters um you know that that have inspired you wow uh you know there are so many in different in contexts and environments but uh you mentioned ray kurzweil he’s certainly been an inspiration for me and uh uh uh peter diamandis is another one are you a sci-fi guy uh yes uh an interesting observation there is i was sci-fi when i was a child and at that time when i was a child sci-fi was all about utopian futures right incredible futures yeah what are we doing now with sci-fi it’s all about dystopian futures how terrible the world’s going to be ahead yeah okay good way to feed them we need to we definitely need to get back to those utopian viewpoints um you know i i someone was making a point about this i i’ve mentioned it before on the show but that part of this may be um that stories have been more written towards movies and tv more recently and that our technical ability um was fairly limited in creating these very utopian um futures so we tended to it’s easy to show blown up buildings and you know radiate a radiated world you know from a tv production perspective um but you know now that that’s uh those technical abilities are changing you know you do have these amazing series like um uh you know we’ve seen foundation um you know as a guest based on isaac asimov’s uh writing um you know they’re in production for um uh snow crash i understand which could be called dystopian future right in in some ways right um and then you’ve got um you know the likes of um um oh what is it altered carbon and things like that you know they wouldn’t have been or even the the way the dune movie was remade the technical abilities of us to create those stories is definitely improving but uh i think it’s not generational i mean remember you know our narratives the stories we tell are always kind of a reflection of our own psychological process and where we’re at and look the baby boom generation is great at demolishing institutions seems to be what we’re here to do we’re not that great at building new institutions and i’ll say it even further it’s easy to be a disrupter disrupting is not hard it’s not hard to throw a brick through a play-class window it’s very hard to build a plate glass window to manufacture a flat sheet of glass that takes a great deal of skill and some foresight and some thought our generation hasn’t really demonstrated a great ability to build institutions so it’s no surprise to me that the stories we tell ourselves are about busted futures maybe it’s the job for another generation to come in and clean up the mess that we’re leaving behind what a bleak note john i don’t want to end on that bleak note but i do want to understand that john hagel has been a leader at the very forefront of organizational development and thinking about the future he’s been doing this for 40 years now he’s focused on the psychology of change with his new book the journey beyond fear but he’s written a number of other books including some that i’m very proud to have on myself net gain net worth and a number of others you can find at his work on the web at john hagel.com he’s got a great blog there we post very lively thoughtful and easy to read pieces so let’s share we’ll give you a good insight to what he’s thinking you can also find him on twitter at jay hegel you can find him on linkedin and there’s a huge archive of his writing uh at edgeperspectives.typepad.com that’s from the institute of the edge where john spent a number of years as a partner deloitte john thank you so very much for joining us and sharing your insight this has been a great pleasure for me and brett fantastic brett i’m going to toss it over to you wrap us up for the day no thanks thanks john we we really appreciate you coming along and joining the futurist that’s it for another week of the futurist podcast this episode was produced by our us-based production team including producer elizabeth severance audio engineer kevin hersham and with support from our social media team from carlo navarro and sylvie johnson if you liked this episode of the futurists um make sure to tweet it out post it on your favorite social media network or leave us a five star review on itunes google podcasts facebook wherever it is you listen to the show those actions of course help other people find out podcasts in terms that helps us build an audience that can be supported by sponsorship so we can continue to do what we love to do every week which is getting behind the microphone talking about the future but that’s it for this week and rob and i will see you in the future well that’s it for the futurists this week if you like the show we sure hope you did please subscribe and share it with people in your community and don’t forget to leave us a five star review that really helps other people find the show and you can ping us anytime on instagram and twitter at futurist podcast for the folks that you’d like to see on the show or the questions you’d like us to ask thanks for joining and as always we’ll see you in the future