“What If We… Led From The Future?”

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Our guest today is Dr. Jay Gary, Educator, Futurist and Entrepreneur. He is Chair of the Association of Professional Futurists and one of America’s leading foresight educators. He is no stranger to business foresight. Throughout the ’90s, he worked as a “millennial consultant,” helping cities mark their passage into the 21st century. After that he worked for a decade teaching strategic foresight to graduate students. Dr. Jay is the author of over 33 publications including a 2017 co-authored piece on “Building Foresight Capacity” which documented APF’s “Foresight Competency Model”.

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Hello and welcome back to the Dr. Nilda Business Foresight Show. Today I have with me my co-host Rachel Calderon. Say hello Rachel.

Hello everyone! How are you?

I have Dr. Jay Garry. Say hello Dr. Jay.

Hello everyone!

I want to read your bio really quickly. Dr. Jay Gary is an educator, futurist and entrepreneur. He is Chair of the Association of Professional Futurists and one of America’s leading foresight educators. He is no stranger to business foresight. Throughout the ’90s, he worked as a “millennial consultant,” helping cities mark their passage into the 21st century. After that he worked for a decade teaching strategic foresight to graduate students. Dr. Jay is the author of over 33 publications including a 2017 co-authored piece on “Building Foresight Capacity” which documented APF’s “Foresight Competency Model” where to weave futurist views. I want to welcome Dr. Gary. He is not just the chair of the APF which I totally appreciate but he was my professor. If I know what I know I owe it to Dr. Gary. Thank you, Dr. Gary.

Thank you.

Thank you, Dr. Gary.

Thank you, Rachel. You ask how did I get to this point in my life where the future has been a kind of a guiding light? I’ve always been attracted to pull of the future. I was watching Star Trek Next Generation as I started my career. Imagination. Dreaming. Visually. There’s a pull of the future and there’s a push of the past. I always felt uncomfortable in the present. I’m open to the push of the pass, you know? Get out there and do something. But I’ve always been drawn to what could be and what should be not what is. From my experience, you mentioned Millennial Consulting, the big unpacking that is the year 2000 was a huge magnet to me and this is going back to ninety-four, ninety-two, ninety, the entire decade to me and the arrival of the 21st century. The promise of the third millennium spoke to me. I was the crazy let’s talk 2000 newsletters. I was involved in regional tourism and mega events toward 2000. So, my approach to that was, “the future enters into us in order to transform us long before it happens.” So, the future to me the promise of it and the peril can transform us to become more human. That’s been my passion and why I’ve had the star of 2000, the name of my book in the nineties was The Star of 2000: Our Journey Toward Hope. That’s why this magnet has had such a pull on me. The future is something that we act on every day. Get up and ready for it.

How do you explain foresight to a non-futurist that wants to understand futures because we have a very large audience that really wants to know more about this?

Foresight is just looking forward. We look backwards with memory. We look forward with anticipation. We look backward when we gather. We look back with tradition. We look forward in new years with anticipation, dreams and New Year’s resolutions. Foresights a part of looking back and looking forward. The key point of that is it’s not just hindsight or foresight but when you do them both together you get insight. Insight it means you can be different. You can enter a new day. You can live in terra incognita. You live in the unknown land which becomes Terra Nova. The new land that we’re to enter, inhabit and create a new world. Foresight is the future internalized for me. If those listening want to experience the pull of the future, they want to embrace that doorway to tomorrow then listen here and hang in for the Dr. Nilda Show. This is something that speaks to everybody teenagers, adults, kids and anybody in workplace.

I’m a person in business and of course I’m going to ask the question why is foresight important to business?

Foresight is important to business because the future is important to business. Every business has to engage, enact in its environment and it needs to change. Whether they’re delivering a value to their stakeholders or customers they could be citizens they need to pay attention and they do. Now even though 90% of managers give very little thought toward the next quarter beyond it but those in high-performing companies and those that set themselves apart do that. For example, think today about your Facebook, Amazon, Google, Twitter all these companies that put a premium on innovation. But the front end of their innovation is foresight. What possible changes might be on the horizon? How do we take hold of tomorrow? How do we enter that new land? What is the space we’re competing in? How do we position ourselves? They do it through a lot of different tools. Rachel, they do it through broad social intelligence. They might do it through environmental scanning you’ve talked a lot about scanning on this show. Issues management is more the public policy and not just crisis management long research management. Competitive intelligence. All these kinds of tools. If you’re a manager you need to be seeing what’s coming next. You need to broaden your conversations with senior management about change drivers. You need to be thinking about how I can create a new product line or refresh an old one? If you’re in a firm, Rachel, that’s employee foresight. One of our members of APF found, that did a longitudinal study recently Renee Robeck over in Europe, and he found that firms and employee foresight have 33% more probability of success. Their market capitalization that they’re building to grow wealth is four times greater than other companies. It’s very important and in business to keep your eye on the ball, on the horizon and beyond the horizon. What is beyond the horizon that might interrupt our horizon? How can we act disruptively?

As well as having a business those that are involved in different areas or disciplines within that business it’s also good to pull them in correct?

Oh yeah! Cross-functional conversations within companies. Intersectoral conversations. What’s the intersection of health, the technology and clothing today? It’s gangbusters. What’s the intersection of driverless cars, media entertainment and work? All these conversations are converging conversations and hybrid conversations for business today. It’s exciting times. The opportunities have never been greater for the Hispanic community and all communities today.

I want to go a little bit back to Rachel’s question and take that a step further. How important is it to have everyone in the company engage? I know the competency model really touches upon that. I know it’s so comprehensive so teaching foresight is great but taking a few steps back and teaching it by every discipline in a business and making making futures a team effort. Talk a little bit about that.

How can you confidently lead into the future? Well you have to raise your game. You have to be more competent. We in the association of professional futures we’ve been having this conversation for a while. The question is what do we have from the inside out that we can bring out that can change the outside in? It can disrupt their environments. Create a better future. We started thinking about competencies as a list of six clusters. Workplace competency so you are a good team player. Academic competency you have a specialty. A personal competency you have integrity. But we put in the center of the model foresight competency. Foresight links to innovation, design and other things. But for foresight we outlined six practices that we do special to our field. Dr. Nilda we were in class together we talked about strategic thinking. These are strategic thinking competencies but they start off like this. Framing. What is happening? Scanning. What’s changing? What are the impacts? Futuring. What might happen? What will likely happen? What might have been like forecasting and scenarios? Visioning. What’s the ideal? Designing. How do we prototype the future? Adapting. How do we create alternative realities that can do alternative strategies and new contexts? How are we going to react differently? So, there you got it. Framing, scanning, futuring, visioning, designing and adapting. These are sort of the six tool palettes of foresight professionals. Not all of us consider ourselves futurists in terms of the chicken dinner keynotes but all of us as foresight practitioners consider ourselves competent to the task. We may lean in a certain way in certain times in our career – visioning. Or might lean to the scanning and being the work of analysts. Other times we are a manager we have to design, adapt and lead. So, that’s our tool set. That’s how you can confidently lead into the future. Check out the foresight competency model it is at https://apf.org/

That should be something that should not just be in the leadership but that should be a team effort in the entire business is that accurate?

Yeah. We used to talk about strategic planning, right? We talk a lot more about adaptive that’s why we don’t use the term strategy as much because we’re just adaptive. Adaptive planning making it up as we go. Just in real-time learning. But that was kind of conversations about not only technical problems that we’re solving that’s one class of problem. There’s also an adaptive challenge to really move into the future and to create the future. You’re going to have to adapt. Adaptive challenges are beyond what we know. They take us into new ground in those hybrid spaces those niches that create new value for customers or citizens or communities. Yes, middle management looks at efficiency and senior management looks at effectiveness. Effectiveness affect its long-range of the future. That’s legal PR. But at the end of the day hierarchies have become networks and the entire role, not just business but communities, is to create value for their stakeholders and that requires us taking the future seriously not discounting it.

I remember hearing this throughout the class and hearing this for all my years that I have been in futuring. We talked a lot about leading from the future. Tell the audience what that means and how that applies?

Leading from the future not just the past means that you’re leaning forward and not leaning back. Now there’s a role for leaning back and reacting. I did a survey tool about ten years ago it was called foresight styles assessment. We found there were six styles proposed for it. We found four. But one of those styles was reacting with judgment or with wisdom. You react to the decision-support situation. But the other styles of framing or adapting those were more forward-leaning. Both past and future oriented people, both the numbers people quantitative and the qualitative let’s go for it have a place around the table with creating the future. But at the end of the day leading from the future means to lead from your dreams. Lead from your imagination. Lead from what can be and should be not just what is. To me that’s the most exciting part about a futures mindset. We’re not just talking today about being a professional futurist. Everybody could have a futures mindset because we get up in the day. We get up so our kids will have a better future. We want to instill with them the perseverance and the dedication to set goals and to reach them and to have the motivation to it. That’s all inculcating foresight in kids to create a better future.

What happens with a lot of adults is that they stop. They stop imagining. They just become creatures of habit and they’re very repetitive. It is partly the culture. We are taught at a certain age you need to stop imagining that’s not reality. That’s not real. But the people that have made the most notable changes in this world are the people that aren’t conforming. The people that have that imagination. That’s what fascinates me most is to have that vivid imagination and seeing things from a totally different perspective. Rachel and the team in the beginning they probably thought I was rather weird. I think they’re just adapting and I’m seeing them actually see things differently.

It’s like everything when you begin to use that part of your brain it just becomes like she was saying. At first, we kind of just conform and we’re going to accept the status quo. But when we begin to create or as me and the team are around Dr. Nilda and even them just them hearing us because they’re a little bit younger than us but we start to learn from them. They start to learn from us and it just becomes like this spin off. We go from this one simple idea that we put on a little pad and has evolved to something completely different.

Well when we speak about futuring as one of our six competencies what we’re speaking about is both convergent thinking; what if things continue the same, what would be forecast in two years or five years? We also think of divergent thinking and divergent means what else might happen? Let me give you this teaser what is the three most powerful words in the English language?

I can’t?

Let’s try this on for size Dr. Nilda and Rachel. What if we? Those are the three most powerful words that open up new doors, that bring us into new lands, that create a new tomorrow, and to help us take hold of tomorrow with others. I live and you live to ask that question with other people. There’s no reason to reach the peak in our career or reach the peak in our home life, family life, church life whatever it might be. But if we keep asking what if we would venture in a new way. Futuring is about venturing. It’s about an adventure and so you’re in the right space I tell you.

I know that a lot of the listeners are probably chiming in here now and they’re kind of being curious as to what we’re talking about. But I’m curious and I’m sure they’ll be curious as to what is it that futurists do? What do they talk about? Now I’m on this side. Now I’m understanding what futures is. What is it that you guys talk about especially with you being the chair of APF?

We talk about the A to the Z. But let me give you the ABCs right here. A we’ve talked about artificial intelligence. Not just artificial intelligence but really more importantly augmented reality augmented intelligence. The AI from together humans and machines and how does technology enhance human learning human performance. We talk about of course algorithms, automation, automation of work. How much work could be displaced over the next decade or two through automation? What new jobs might be created? So, that’s the A’s. I guess the other A’s I mentioned already is autonomous vehicles driverless cars. You don’t have to pick up your kids after school you sent your car to get them or your parents you drive them the doctor. What’s going to happen? What does that mean about roads? What’s that mean about traffic or stoplights? All those kinds of things we talk about. We talk about the

B’s. We were in Australia for our annual Global Gathering this year in November and we talked about Bitcoin. Have you heard of Bitcoin? And underneath it blockchain. The technology a distributed trust. Ever since 2008 the Great Recession of 2009 the lack of trust and institutions alternative communities of trust and what that might mean. So, it’s not just the technology of distributed ledgers of checking  something in an out securely away from public institutions of trust. But what does that do? What kind of opportunities open? What kind of problems might happen or crypto communities, right? And not just crypto currencies. So, ABC we talked about C. Complexity. You’ve probably heard of the term Vuca. It came in the mainstream in about 2008 when there’s the Great Recession. It speaks of volatility, uncertainty, the c ABC complexity and ambiguity. We live in a Vuca world. It’s a post normal world. So, eight years ago we’re talking about how is it a post American world in terms of financial collapse today we’re talking about this is a post heroic world. Futurists are like everyone we just talk like you would around your dinner table about things that matter to us. But then we say what if? How will our kids navigate that with degrees or what does that mean for me and the job? We think of this week but we think of one year three years five years sometimes even longer horizons twenty years thirty years. But yeah futurists are a lot of fun. They’re the most enlivened group and we are the leading association of futures worldwide. The most active and a foresight professional as well. You might not call yourself a futurist but if your foresight minded https://apf.org/ is the place to be.

I want to talk about mentors. Any of us that becomes whatever we all have mentors in our lives. I know you are one of my mentors. Who are some of your heroes? Who are some of your mentors?

That’s a good one. Of course, my father a member of the greatest generation that made the world safe for democracy. My mother was a saint who put up with him and enabled him and ennobled him through her service. We all have mentors at home. Then we have anti-mentors like you’re your brother that might sabotage you. I got a doctorate degree Dr. Nilda. he doesn’t call me doctor. (Silly joking.) Some American futurists, we have members in 40 different countries in APF but let’s talk about Americans. I’m going to bring this really home Walt Disney. When we wish upon a star that’s been a hero of mine and it shaped me early on. I was an unknown witness to American optimism growing up. Things have changed a lot but I was an unknown witness and I think it’s important to hold on to that even though it may not be trendy. I had privilege two years ago of leading a board meeting for a theological school of 40 50 people and I had a fellow an Imagineer APF member joined me to lead us in Imagineering for that institution looking at its future. Steve Jobs. I’m really simple. The iPod, the iPhone, digital transformation Steve saw. And he lived in service of others in this way he was disruptive. People in previous generations might have shaped our lives Steve has. But the one person I’ve been thinking about lately is a guy named Graham Molitor. You may have never heard of him. I don’t expect any of our listeners to have ever heard of him. Graham Molitor was the president of public policy forecasting. He was a mentor to me. I remember going to Houston in the year 2000 and I’ve entered a room and Graham Molitor was speaking on the next thousand years. I was awestruck. He’s talking about the big five like media, genetics, biotech, nanotech and the Space Age. He was talking about economic eras of the next thousand years but Graham was a real hero to me. I walked up at the end and I shook his hand and the world futurists society a photographer took a picture of us. I saw it three or four years later. I go wow that’s amazing. I shook a hand of a first-generation futurists. He wasn’t the Alvin Tofflers, the Margaret Meads, the Hazel Henderson’s or the other well-known people. But he worked day in and day out. He gave me his archives 400 professional studies for clients he did over a 20-year career. He had a theory of change like a s-curve theory of change and he developed into the Molitor model. Of course, he passed away this past summer so I’m thinking about him. I just did a tribute issue to him in the world futurists review. But that model you framed changed, you advance change, you resolve change over 30 to 70 years. 50 going back 20 going forward whatever. But Graham taught me you could have professional excellence in your work, you could be gracious, you could take the long view and you could look and see how changes might happen. I’m forever indebted to Graham Molitor. He’s the kind of people you meet in APF and the kind of people we give awards to excellence and leadership. We give student awards for good work. To start off we give future work awards each year for the books that publish. Graham Molitor is a mentor and a hero of mine. I can name so many other people. If we get off America on to Australia or England or whatever China because futurists are global. They’re everywhere. This morning I was on the phone with a top futurist yong-seok Choi from South Korea. Olympics coming, I wanted to check in and see how it was going. He’s an author of 20 books including one on the church by 2040. He does HR practices just a brilliant fella. There’s people hidden, unsung heroes, all over the world who are helping create a better future. And to help us understand our contestant future and how to anticipate and avoid those downcast futures or the muddling down futures. It’s a great day to be alive.

I know this has been around for years however, I think today it’s so much more vivid and so much more out there. I think they need to hear this. They need to wake up that imagination. They need to be asking that what-if question.

What if we did something different? What if we live for the day? What if this was our finest hour?

This is good but, what if this could be even better? I think that that will start sparking so many ideas and taking that to the next level. I think that’s what’s fascinating.

One of my other mentors taught me what is good, what is better, and what is best. He was an ethicist. We don’t need to settle for who we are today. We can be better tomorrow. I’m talking about our internal state. We can upgrade our software our iOS internal operating system we can reboot. We don’ have to wait.

And nobody’s in charge. How do we want this to look? How do we want our world to look? I think that’s the most fascinating part about futures for me. That I can actually design my future. Design what I want to be around and what I want changed because I know that if I want this change more than likely other people do too.

For years I lived in Colorado before moving here to Oklahoma. Nobody came to Colorado as a young person in the 1800’s to live the life their father had. They came to experience a new land. The experience that Terranova they came to so you start new companies. They came to enjoy the beautiful environment. So, you’re not stuck if you’re listening today we’re you’re here to help you get unstuck. Then to join those who are wanting to create a different world an alternative future an alternative reality the one you experienced.

We know that you are the chairman of Association of Professional Futurists can you tell me more about APF please?

Three letters https://apf.org/ you can learn everything about APF there. The Association has just turned 15. We had a quinceanera last year and doing so we learned we’re just still teenagers. But we’re 500 people plus organizational members individual members. We’re in all sectors health technology. We’re in public policy. Some of our members work for policy horizons which advises the Government of Canada the legislative branch. We’re from very eclectic a lot of some people were chief strategy officer CIOs. Some people are just starting out. They’re good. They’re emerging futurists they’re not senior. So, people of all different backgrounds. But one thing we have in common it’s not just what if we but we use this phrase. We work the future. We work the future. We make it work for us. We allow it to work us over so we better serve. Work is service. We might serve the coming generations in a way that it ennobles and lifts up life and creates more of a civilization of peace, love and justice. So, that’s our aim. It’s a member supported organization. You can join as a student member. You can join as an associate member because you may not be seeing yourself as a foresight professional. But if you’re a professional who works the future in your organization, you’ve given speeches about tomorrow, you’ve taken a certificate course or something like that. If you meet two of our seven criteria we will admit you as a full member for two hundred dollars a year at a US price. That’s an amazing dice. The best value in ventures community. If you want to be with others who are doing the stuff and doing the work then join https://apf.org/ go there and just send us an email contact@apf.otg.  Say put me on your contact list and we’ll get back to you and hopefully get you enlisted in a membership track. A career development track. We have an APF Academy starting this year. We have as I mentioned a global gathering in Pittsburgh this year. Pittsburgh was one of those Amazon cities they were one of the cities. They were one of the citifies that were applying to be an Amazon extension office. Pittsburgh has come back. I graduated from high school in Pittsburgh and it was a Steel City has been. Pittsburgh is back they reimagined and reinvented and rebooted that city so we’re going to Pittsburgh to learn what they’ve done and that’s going to be an amazing gathering. It’s going to be small. We keep them small under 100 so look for our notices coming out. But the dates are October 4th to the 6th in Pittsburgh. Registration will open up within 30 days at https://apf.org/.

What I love about the APF is that it’s not just an organization because there’s a lot of organizations and you become a member of but you’re not actually active. But one thing that TD Jakes said a few years back is your circle should always be bigger than you and doing more than you. Just being around futurist. Just talking about the future. Just bringing this to light and seeing things and questioning things. Trying to make things better and using the imagination. Just be around that type of person where you don’t feel like an anomaly I think that’s worth the price. That’s the beauty of the APF. APF has been very monumental in helping me. You have a futures festival every year. 12 hours straight and one specialist after the other. So, the beauty is people coming from all different backgrounds and doing different things in finance, real estate, in every area that you could possibly imagine there’s a futurist. That’s fascinating but being around that I think is what helps to make you better. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing you’re going to be better. I think this is also great for students even high school students. What career are you going to go into? What’s the future of that career? Where is that going to be 5 10 15 years? Because the idea is when you go to schools you have to pay for that and you’re going to be in this career for some time. So, where is that going to be? This is the reason why I have really taken to this crusade of outreach and taking the future to everyone because this is not only applicable to futurists this is applicable to everyone who plans to be here for the next 25 30 40 years.

One thing I learned that the futures is the land for everyone. I started off a Springs 2000 Commission for my city that the mayor asked us to do. We got the declaration and we opened the century chest, letters are written to us from 1900, and then we wrote letters to 2100 as all city stakeholders. It was about four or five owners that met for a year and we did a lot of special events that was my business back then in terms of theming a millennial consultant. I learned that you don’t have to settle. You can live in a 200-year present. My grandparents and my grandkids. I can really make it better living in hindsight foresight and insight. The kind of insight today we’ve gotten I trust it’s been helpful. I’m looking forward to interacting on Facebook now as we’ve done already and as we can continue to do on the show here. But I sure appreciate what you’ve brought.

Dr. Gary I want to thank you so much for being here today and taking time from your busy schedule. I know you do a lot and you’re always traveling so I really appreciate this. I’m very grateful for what you brought to the audience and helping them. Again, I always say if I could just open your mind a jar a little bit I know it’ll keep opening the more you hear. I want to thank you for being here. I want to thank Rachel for being my co-host and we look forward to next week. We will have another futurist and another perspective on futuring. Thank you so much everyone for being here and I will see you the audience next week bye.



Interview With Dr. Jay Gary: Chair of the Board of ASSOCIATION OF PROFESSIONAL FUTURISTS

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