How are you writing the story of tomorrow?

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By Francis Moran

One of my favourite personal-development aphorisms is the phrase, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” On Wednesday, at an event organised by TEC Canada, a peer-to-peer mentoring program for business leaders of which I’ve been a member for more than five years, noted author and thinker Dr. Chris Luebkeman took it one step further.

“Change is constant. The future is fiction. Participation is what shapes our world,” he told 175 CEOs and other business people gathered for the event. “If you’re not participating in writing the story of tomorrow, you’re going to live in a story that someone else wrote.”

While I believe that every period in history could claim that change was happening more swiftly and more dramatically for the people of its time than ever before, I wouldn’t disagree with Luebkeman that today we are faced with an array of heretofore unthinkable trends and events that put a premium on the requirement to think deeply about how we are going to manage and adapt.

In a post-911 world facing almost-unimaginable disruption if even a fraction of the anticipated consequences of global climate change become a reality, “we are going to experience a far-higher frequency of high-impact, low-probability events,” Luebkeman said. We are going to have to be a lot more nimble in our thinking. Unfortunately, as Luebkeman put it, in a world where the unthinkable happens everyday, “fragilities in business and thinking patterns are revealed.”

As part of the event, we were then encouraged to workshop our way through series of change drivers to select those that we thought were most critical for Ontario. Change drivers were categorised as social, technical, environmental, economic or political, with each table analysing a number of drivers in a single category. After a huge amount of discussion and a whittling exercise that saw each table of eight people choose first 10 and then five critical change drivers in their category, we all then voted to further reduce all those suggestions down to a top issue for the entire room in each of the five categories.

Our collective wisdom suggested that Ontario will be most challenged to adapt to population aging, energy infrastructure, alternative fuels, the U.S. economic situation and the U.S. political situation.

It was illuminating how much discussion it took, and what a broad range of issues surfaced at the table-level of analysis in a room that might be expected to be far more homogenous in its perspective. It was equally fascinating to hear Luebkeman share with us the top issues selected by other groups. A gathering of African business leaders, for example, were most concerned about governance and political equality issues, with corruption dominating a word cloud of their results. In Norway, it was environmental issues such as over-fishing and sustainability.

Let me share with you a few more of Luebkeman’s pearls:

  • The population bulge being experienced in almost every society on Earth has profound implications. Population profiles are inverting from “pyramid-shaped” with larger numbers of young people to “coffin-shaped” where disproportionate numbers of older people will have to be supported by fewer and fewer young people. By 2050, most western societies will have 13 dependents per wage earner compared to five dependents per wage earner today. “What will that mean for their standard of living” when a wage earner must spread a single dollar among 13 people rather than five?
  • In just 50 years, Korea has progressed from a peasant-agrarian society that was little more than a food-producing colony of Japan to one of the most advanced societies in the world. “What’s our long-term vision?” Luebkeman asked.
  • “(Canada’s) southern neighbour (is a) pseudo-democratic society where there are oligarchies of just a different sort than in Russia,” the U.S.-born Luebkeman said.

And he ended with a series of questions to which I’d love to hear your answers:

  • If you think education is important, how are you taking individual responsibility, especially for inter-generational knowledge transfer?
  • Do you know where your things are made? How many “makers” do you know?
  • What is your long view? What is your succession plan?
  • Who are you teaching? How are you levering your success?
  • How are you writing the story of tomorrow?

Image: MYOO


  • Byron

    January 20, 2012 2:55 pm

    Great insights Francis.

    So, how did South Korea go from agrarian to world beating tech nation? In the past decade, while SK has gone from bottom to top in all things tech and Internet, Canada has done the opposite?? What do we need to reverse this trend or are going back to being hewers of wood and drawers of water (and diggers of rocks and drillers of oil)?

    It is wonderful we have such a bounty of natural resources here in Canada, but is that all we want to be, resource extractors?

    If not, what is the plan???

  • Francis Moran

    January 20, 2012 3:13 pm

    I know this issue of Canada’s declining ranking in the broadband stakes is very close to your heart, Byron, so thank you for chiming in.

    Equally provocative and far-reaching for Canadians was your observation Wednesday that the next one-billion internet users, coming mainly from Asia and Africa, will be entirely different from the first billion currently using the ‘net. Not only will these new users be connecting almost exclusively using mobile devices, but the things they will want to do online will be utterly different.

    This will be a massive change driver for companies currently engaged in online ventures. Do they see this coming? And, if so, “what is the plan?”

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