As a futurist, you can be fascinating at a cocktail party. Instead of dropping names, you drop facts and figures: We are expected to live well intoour 100s; the average age for young adults to marry in America is 30; the single male head of household is the fastest growing demographic group; and the University of Minnesota was able to grow an eyeball on a tadpole that eventually may help the sightless see.
This is not just science fiction; this is our future. It is also intriguing and fun. My path to the future came about quite serendipitously. In celebration of our company’s 25th anniversary, we hosted an event for our clients featuring renowned futurists, Edie Weiner and Arnold Brown, as the keynote speakers. The event was a rousing success, but beyond that, I found that the ‘‘future’’ bug had bitten me. I have been in the field of human resources for thirty years—in the corporate world, as a consultant, and as a public speaker. Immediately following our event, I began to add the title ‘‘futurist’’ to my resume. There are two reasons why. One, it is very heady and interesting stuff. Two, it is extremely useful in business.
A futurist’s job is to collect research, evaluate the findings, and spot recurring themes that indicate a trend. These trends provide thought- provoking insights that can guide businesses toward smarter decisions. As we struggle with the here and now, the most powerful tool at our disposal can be strategic thinking about the future. I have found the combination of futurist and HR professional to be particularly relevant. Over and over again, in my research and interviews as well as in daily business dealings, I keep hearing that ‘‘our people are our most important asset and will be even more so in the future.’’ This is more than a well-worn cliché. It is becoming a basic truth: As we move to a more service- and information-based society, the success of our companies depends on the success of our people.