Thursday, November 06, 2014

Meet Michael Rogers, Practical Futurist

Futurist-in-residence is certainly an unusual job description (they did not seem to have that major when I went to university). So which past predictions are you most proud of and what are the some that totally bombed?

My best and worst predictions are related. As soon as the commercial Internet came along in the early Nineties I said that it would be be the most effective advertising medium ever invented. That was right, although we’re still building it. What I got wrong was that I thought it would provide enough revenue to let newspapers and magazines deliver online content for free. I didn’t see that the ad revenue, while huge, would be distributed among literally million of sites—not to mention places like search engines and video games.

As we are moving to telecommuting and telepresence, which skills should HR and management folks acquire to attract, manage and keep the most talented millennials?

Both HR and management have to become more comfortable with managing millennials (and others) who want to work virtually—and perhaps the key element of that is understanding what work can be done virtually and what should be done in the real world. Real world work should be about collaboration and brainstorming in a relaxed and engaging environment. "Going into the office" should become an event.

I loved your story about a five year old and voice-activated lighting. Are there any areas where you already see younger employees ‘struggling to turn on the lights’?

Earlier this year I met a Fortune 500 company HR executive who is planning “remedial social skills” classes for some of the company’s new employees. She said that they are seeing some new hires, with skills the company needs, who seem to have gone through college without ever leaving their dorm rooms. (Which, of course, is just about entirely possible on our more wired college campuses.) One of the skills she planned to teach: "How to Start a Conversation." And, "How to Know a Conversation is Over."

A lot of business successes or failures are determined by how well or poorly business processes automation have been done. McDonalds, of course, is a grand example of that. Now, for younger generation McDonalds is a curse word when it comes to workplace, but even Google, Yahoo and Amazon seem suffer from a very McDonald like turnover rate (the average tenure is just over a year despite six figure salaries and all the perks). Can anything be done about that?

In terms of ideas for employee retention, the best phrase I’ve heard all year comes from LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who says that, obviously, we can’t promise lifetime employment anymore. (And even if we did, no Millennial would believe us.) So he coined the phrase “lifetime employability”, which is really about upgrading an employee’s skills and offering them new challenges—so they’re always confident that there is a career path for them, and ironically makes it more likely they’ll stick with you.

Our workplace is changing rapidly, and you among others have been forecasting and chronicling the change. So, what things do you think will NOT change no matter what in the next twenty years, and we as employees, managers and business owners just have to accept?

I think there will always be resistance to change—and it develops even within the most dynamic startup after a period of time. In some ways, resistance to change can be a good thing for an organization. I call it “the corporate immune system” and, like the human immune system, it can be a form of protection that attacks bad ideas. But, also like the human immune system, it can also malfunction and attack good ideas. More on this notion on the Practical Futurist blog:

Thank you!

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See also:

- How we improved our ROI for PR tenfold
- Want Innovation? Embrace Constructive Conflict, Says Innovation And Creativity Guru Jeff DeGraff
- What to Do When Your Team Isn't Working Together
- Gary Cokins - Automate everything, but not salary and incentives
- Bruce Tulgan - Employees Should Manage Their Bosses (And Here's How)
- Free Redmine Alternative


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